Spies in Disguise: a futuristic animated car hits the streets

James Bond, Michael Knight, Batman — famous film stars need supercars. And that’s also true for the main character in the new animated film from Blue Sky Studios, “Spies in Disguise.” Audi created a virtual, futuristic car just for the film: the Audi RSQ e-tron.

12/19/2019 Reading Time: 3 min

It’s a wild chase through Washington: a helicopter is close on the tails of agent Lance Sterling and scientist Walter Beckett. Driving at high-speed between high-rises, collapsed bridges, and subway tunnels puts Beckett in a panic. But Sterling stays cool. He relies on his futuristic car: the Audi RSQ e-tron.

The elegant dark blue sports car with a glowing Audi logo sees the heroes safely through all their adventures in the animated film. The animated car is equipped with loads of extra features:

  • With functions on demand, Lance books an add-on drive on the go.
  • The fully autonomous driving mode lets them concentrate on their pursuers.
  • A folding steering wheel gives Lance more legroom in autonomous driving mode.
  • The hologram tachometer is the design highlight in the animated car.
  • Laser light provides optimum visibility even in the most difficult situations.
  • Steerable front and rear axles give the car maximum flexibility.
And, on top of that, the Audi RSQ e-tron is powered by an electric motor — the most modern type of drive currently available.
The interior of the futuristic RSQ e-tron car.
The cockpit in the virtual Audi RSQ e-tron.

Wanted: one animated car for a film debut

The Audi RSQ e-tron is the first virtual car by Audi to be featured in an animated film. It was created by a team of five Audi designers, including Jan Poliak, an exterior designer. The design was inspired by race cars and airplanes, among other things.

The Audi RSQ e-tron resembles a race car.
Race cars and recreational aircraft provided inspiration for the animated car.
The animated car in the design program.

he details of the animated car can be seen on the computer.

The cooperation with Blue Sky Studios was a unique project for the team from Audi. “It is always exciting to see how other designers view our work,” says Jan Poliak. And the animated film is the perfect environment to see how the future of Audi might look.


Audi Designer Jan Poliak

Jan Poliak designed the Audi RSQ e-tron with his colleagues.

Uniting the Audi design quality with Blue Sky Studios’ requirements was a challenge for the designers. They weren’t familiar with the script and didn’t know exactly what would happen in the animated film. Initially, the film studio only sent images for reference to Audi. But despite these difficulties, Jan Poliak now says, with a smile on his face: “It was one of the best projects that you could get as a designer.”

How the Audi RSQ e-tron was created

The laws of physics — and safety concerns — play no role whatsoever for a virtual car. That gives the designers a great deal of freedom in the design, despite the aesthetic specifications from the film studio. The animated futuristic car was created in about six months. The development of a real car, on the other hand, takes three to four years.

Design sketches for the control elements in the Audi RSQ e-tron.
A gear stick like a joystick and a folding steering wheel: even the controls in the virtual car is futuristic.

Audi developed a total of three different concepts for “Spies in Disguise.” The film company made its final decision in collaboration with the Audi designers. The specialists at the animation studio created the virtual car’s special spy equipment.


Futuristic test environment for the virtual car

To optimize the RSQ e-tron, the designers stepped into another world: they used virtual reality to test the design of the autonomous car. To that end, Audi has special rooms, devices — and a special department. The designers also used a giant 3D screen to design the vehicle.

Although the wheels of the autonomous spy car will never touch the streets of the real world, development didn’t take place entirely on the computer. A physical model made of plastic or clay is the best way for the designers to check the proportions and quality of the design. “After all, we live in a physical world,” explains Jan Poliak.

By the way: the Audi RSQ e-tron even wins over Walter Beckett after the first wild ride. After the big chase scene, Lance Sterling asks him what he wants to do on his lunch break. Walter’s answer: to get behind the wheel of the Audi RSQ e-tron himself.

How does product placement at Audi work?

The company’s cars have already been featured in many blockbuster movies and series: “I, Robot”, “Avengers: Endgame”, and “Dark”, to name a few. Audi has also won several different awards for product placement: in 2019 for "Spider-Man: Far From Home“, two Clio Entertainment Awards, and the German PropKo award in the “Cinema” category.

Audi has also designed other virtual vehicles. Until now, these have been used in video games like "Gran Turismo Sport". The RSQ e-tron is the first virtual car by Audi to be featured in an animated film. For the project, Blue Sky Studios got in direct contact with the person at Audi who is responsible for product placement in movies. In addition, Audi itself is currently scouting the market for promising movie scripts.


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