The Racing Capital
of the World
July 17, 2013 | By Bruce Martin
The combination of DreamWorks and the Indianapolis 500 in the 3D Animated Film “TURBO” may be a dream matchup for the IZOD IndyCar Series and the “World’s Greatest Race.”
TURBO premiered on Wednesday, July 17 at theaters everywhere and is already a popular hit for filmgoers of all ages. It has been prominently promoted, including sponsoring the “Pitch Tracker” of FOX’s telecast of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Tuesday, July 16 at CitiField in New York as well as commercials throughout the FOX telecast.
The film features the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in such a dramatic way that INDYCAR couldn’t have bought such tremendous publicity.
Kids will enjoy the storyline of a snail named Turbo and his dreams of competing in the Indianapolis 500. Adults will love the inside humor and the incredible re-creation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the new Dallara chassis that is so realistic the viewer feels as if they are at the Indy 500.
Now that it is in theaters everywhere, “TURBO” is exposing the Indy 500 and the sport of IndyCar racing to a vast new audience that may one day become fans of the sport.
“’TURBO’ is where it’s at,” said Josef Newgarden, who at 22 is the youngest driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series. “I’m all for these type of films. I’m excited. Are you kidding me? IndyCar and snails – that is what I want to see tonight.
“This is an incredible opportunity. This type of movie is what kids love. They make these movies these days with a ton of adult humor in it. It’s fun for all age groups. It’s geared toward kids, but I think any age can enjoy a movie like this. It really should reach out to a younger audience. When you relate something like IndyCar to something fun and make it a cool story like a snail being an underdog and never able to be fast and then realize his dream and that he is quick, I think that is a great story – a great moral story – for kids.
“They have done an incredible job making the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCars look realistic, so I think there is a great opportunity to get a younger audience involved.
“These are the type of stories we love especially in IndyCar. As an IndyCar driver in the series, we welcome drivers from all over the world. We accept any type of story – you always have a shot to prove yourself. That relates to the story where nobody gives the snail a shot, but he comes out pretty well in the end, so I think it relates perfectly.”
The world premiere of the film was last week in New York. The Canadian premiere was in Toronto on July 11 – the night before the IZOD IndyCar Series hit the track for the Honda Indy Toronto 2 in T.O.
Toronto is also the hometown of the man who made this film a reality, director David Soren.
“It’s been a long road getting to this point,” Soren said. “I’m very, very proud of the movie. People will be pleasantly surprised when I see it. It’s great to be in my hometown of Toronto with IndyCar and everyone getting to see it. I have two kids, a 6-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. My son is obsessed with all things fast, zooming his little race cars around the living room, and my front yard has a snail problem. So I was able to combine those two elements into a character that is a snail obsessed with speed.”
Soren was able to put together an incredible list of actors, including the film’s star, Ryan Reynolds, who is the voice of Turbo. Other big-names include Paul Giamatti, as Turbo’s snail brother, Chet; Michael Pena as Tito, Snoop Dog, Maya Rudolph, Michelle Rodriguez, Samuel L. Jackson and Luis Guzman.
Bill Hader of “Saturday Night Live” plays the role of five-time Indianapolis 500 winner French-Canadian driver Guy Gagne.
“It was as simple of making a wish list of who would be perfect for a part,” Soren said of putting together his impressive list of talent. “Some of them were actors I had in mind when I was writing the script. The beautiful thing is when you work for a studio like DreamWorks is you put out the offers, and they have heard of the studio. They trust the movies, and they said yes.”
Vital to the realism of the racing scenes was the addition of Dario Franchitti as technical advisor to Soren. Franchitti is a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion.
“It was great,” Soren said of Franchitti’s role. “We have a snail that can go 220 miles an hour at the center of our story. It was pretty important for the rest of the story to be more grounded than that. Dario was the perfect guy to come in and teach us about the ins and outs of racing, the look, the feel, to capture the feeling of the sport properly.”
Franchitti is proud of his contribution to “TURBO” and recalled how it all came together.
“The first thing I heard was DreamWorks and we were going to do an animated film about a snail racing in the Indianapolis 500, and my guard immediately went up,” Franchitti said. “But when I heard DreamWorks was doing it, I went ‘Ah.’ I’m a huge fan of all that DreamWorks has done in the past. The more I got involved in it, they were really interested in making the racing scenes realistic and building a framework of realism. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you see the details they went into and then added a 230 mile-per-hour snail into it for the fantasy part of it. They worked really hard, which they didn’t have to do, to make the racing scenes realistic.”
Working with Soren was a unique experience for the driver that is used to keeping fast company at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. But when it comes to filmmaking – especially animation – Franchitti discovered it’s a slow process.
“The whole team was like working with my Target Team in IndyCar,” Franchitti said. “They wanted details all the time. Why this and why that? We had the most bizarre conversations. In our second meeting, we watched the 2011 Indianapolis 500, that crazy last lap with JR Hildebrand and Dan Wheldon winning the race. They wanted to know what marbles were, so I explained them to what marbles were. They wanted to know what marbles looked like because with a 2-inch high snail a marble is a pretty big thing. So I tried to explain it and didn’t do a very good job.
“I said the best thing is call the guys at Firestone and ask them to send you some marbles. So a bucket of a marbles arrives from Firestone. What was the turbulence like underneath an IndyCar because if Turbo passed somebody underneath, what will it be like? What are 2 to 3 Gs like on your face? What will that be like for a snail?
“It was bizarre, and it was brilliant, and it was a lot of fun.”
Pena not only plays the lead “human” role in the film; he was also the man who waved the green flag to start the 97th Indianapolis 500 on May 26.
“I have to be honest; I didn’t know too much about it,” Pena said of auto racing before his chance to wave the flag at Indy this year. “I was learning more and more. That is the great thing about being an actor – you get to experience things you normally wouldn’t get. I have to say anybody who ever asks me about Indy, I’m telling them they have to go. It has to be on your bucket list.
“As the starter, you wave the flag when they go around the fourth time. They come around the first time at 60 miles an hour, and that is normal speed, actually what the speed limit is in Los Angeles. They come around the second time at 120, the third time at 180, and then when the race starts they are coming down the straightaway at 230 or 240 miles per hour.
“I can’t believe a machine can go that fast on the ground.”
Nearly as unbelievable, though, is how well DreamWorks is able to put an actor’s voice into an animated film and the entire process that it takes to make this happen in 3D.
“I do the voice months and sometimes years before,” Pena said. “It took three years to make this film happen. You go into a booth or studio and see a black and white image of you, and once they lock it down is when they start working on the animation and fit the animation to your voice. I think that is pretty cool.
“It’s pretty tough because usually you have one of the other actors you are doing the scene with rehearse, but here you can’t really be in the same room because you have to record it perfectly. It’s just you and the director, and you get all of your stuff and then pretty soon the other actor comes in and does their lines. It’s so good with editing and timing – they have it down to a science. DreamWorks is great with animated movies. I have a 4-year-old kid, and we watch so many of these kinds of movies.
“I wanted to be in one so that I could be considered a rock star to my kid.”
After seeing the movie in his hometown of Toronto, IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport was very entertained and thrilled to see a movie about his sport.
“I think this is going to be great for IndyCar,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s a well-done production, and everything that David and the team have put together looks awesome. It’s geared to the right demographic, and hopefully we can get some good, young IndyCar fans out of this. I’m excited about the whole thing.
“Quite realistic, right? It is a ridiculous story to think a snail wants to race the Indy 500, but with David’s imagination, he made it come together. It’s very exciting.”
Team Penske driver Will Power has a role in the film midway through the movie when Turbo arrives at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with intentions of competing in the race. Although Power’s role is short, viewers should listen for him in his role as an “Australian sports anchor.”
“I loved it,” Power said. “It is very good. Very well put together. It’s funny. They did a very good job portraying the Indianapolis 500 in the race. The cars look exactly right, and the Speedway looks exactly as it does when you come under the tunnel. My teammate, Helio Castroneves, is a real character, but he’s not in the movie. I don’t understand. I’m in the movie but not Helio. I have literally three words in the film. I’m a big star now, I’m probably going to give up racing and move to Hollywood.
“I think it really will bring a new generation of fans to appreciate IndyCar and want to watch IndyCar. It’s very good.”
Castroneves understands the important of bringing new fans into the IndyCar racing. When he won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2007, he saw an influx of fans that saw him as a dancer attend IndyCar races the next season. Some of them became IndyCar fans for the long term.
“I believe there are still a lot of people from ‘Dancing with the Stars’ connected with racing because of my win in 2007,” Castroneves said. “Hopefully with the movie it will be even more. The movie will be a huge success. It will great.
“They should understand it’s perfect timing for them marketing-wise to take advantage of this amazing movie. Not only DreamWorks is promoting this movie, but it is promoting the Indy 500. The Indy 500 is there and the main reason. Hopefully we are able to bring younger fans into the series. They need to invest and focus because five years from now, the kids that see this movie want to be race car drivers and follow the same steps as Turbo.
“As for Will Power being in the movie, the Australian anchor is pretty cool. When he told me, I thought it would be great because he is a little creature.”
At its core, “TURBO” is a family film. And there are plenty of growing families in the IndyCar Series paddock, as Ed Carpenter and his wife, Heather, brought along their three small children to the premiere.
“It’s really cool,” Carpenter said. “With three kids, we have seen all the commercials, and we are really excited about ‘TURBO’ to have an IndyCar movie based on the Indianapolis 500 is really cool. I’m really excited about it, and my kids are, too. I hope we see a big impact from it and we see some new fans to IndyCar racing based on this movie. It’s a great movie and a great story.”
Scott Dixon and his wife, Emma, brought young daughters Poppy and Tilly to the Toronto premiere. Scott and Emma were just as excited as the kids to see the film.
“I think it’s big,” Dixon said. “Based on IndyCar racing and the Indy 500, it’s a demographic we need to produce the next IndyCar fans. It’s going to be huge for the sport, and hopefully we can capture everything we need out of it. More importantly, myself and the kids are excited to see it.”
There is plenty of entertainment even for the drivers who aren’t married because the storyline and the incredible 3D animation draw the viewer into the storyline.
“DreamWorks animation always does a great job with their movies,” said Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi driver Charlie Kimball. “To have a movie built around the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and how special it is. All of us at IndyCar know how special it is. To share that with the kids and get the excitement of a dream of a snail getting to race in the greatest spectacle in motorsports.
“The evolution of films is heading towards 3D. I remember seeing ‘Avatar’ in 3D, and everything looked so large.”
The current base of IndyCar fans is an older audience. The hopes are “TURBO” helps create interest in a younger fan base that came become engaged with the incredible sport of IndyCar.
“It’s definitely important to get a younger fan base and keep building our fan base,” Kimball said. “To be able to bring them in through ‘TURBO’ with humor that appeals to all ages and a great storyline. DreamWorks does a great job for the whole family.”
Kimball’s teammate agrees.
“It’s very, very important,” Franchitti said. “Trying to connect with kids nowadays and teenagers – the world has changed. With ‘TURBO’ coming out, it will be a way to connect directly with a whole new generation of Indianapolis 500 fans and IndyCar fans. ‘TURBO’ is going to have a big part of that.
“I know for a fact Scott Dixon brought his two girls, Tilly and Poppy, with his wife, Emma. It’s a film that kids of all ages will enjoy and adults will enjoy, too. It’s so well written, and adults will be rolling in the aisles over some of them. It was a lot of fun to do, and I’m very proud of the finished product.”
IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 already gained at least one new fan.
“I would love if they had me back to the Indianapolis 500 -- I want to go every year,” Pena said. “After I went to Indy, I wanted to go to the race in Texas, but I was working. I got hooked. I show my friends the video of it, and it is unbelievable.
“I met four or five of the drivers, and we are Twitter friends now. My handle is @realmichaelpenna. I can’t believe it is hot out there and hot on the track so they are sweating like crazy, and when I see them go as fast as they do, I don’t know how they control their nerves. Imagine going 240 miles an hour with nerves. They must be made up differently than most people because that is a dangerous sport, and they make it look easy.
“I think this will create new fans and I hope so because I was really impressed when I was at Indy and how much fun it is. The beginning is electrifying, and you see how much technique is in the middle of the race, and the final 20 laps are like a chess match. It’s really exciting, and I hope we got it right. The racing is very exciting, and I’ve been watching a lot of racing myself.”
INDYCAR is hopeful “TURBO” resonates with the audience and the younger fans are able to become interested in IndyCar racing.