March 13, 2012  |   By Dave Lewandowski - INDYCAR.COM

DreamWorks gets 'Turbo' charged for Indy

Dario Franchitti’s eyes widen as he talks about marbles. Not the aggies and alleys of longtime popular games, but the tiny pieces of rubber worn off the Firestone Firehawk tires of IZOD IndyCar Series cars during races.

Of course, tiny is a relative term for Franchitti and the creative minds at DreamWorks Animation who are developing aspects of racing scenes through the eyes of a common garden snail for the animated feature film “Turbo,” which today was officially announced with a scheduled release of July 19, 2013.

Turbo is the story of a snail with an impossible dream: to win the Indianapolis 500 like his hero, five-time champion Guy Gagne. When one day imbued with amazing speed by a freak accident, he embarks on his quest.

Franchitti, a two-time winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” is a technical consultant on the project as DreamWorks Animation will replicate the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the speed and pageantry of the race that was first contested in 1911. He’s been peppered with questions regarding size and shape, such as the marbles that likely will appear to Turbo as enormous black rubber marshmallows, and how Turbo will navigate the speed, competition and danger on the 2.5-mile oval lest he be turned into escargot.

“Having worked with the guys at DreamWorks a couple of times and seen the enthusiasm for the project and the detail that they go into, I’m really excited to work for them,” said Franchitti, who begins his own quest March 25 of defending his IZOD IndyCar Series championship in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (12:30 p.m. ET on ABC). “I’m excited for the IZOD IndyCar Series to work with them.

“For me, I’m just really interested to see what this is going to do for INDYCAR, the IZOD IndyCar Series and for the ‘500’ as well. I think it’s going to open up a whole new audience, and I think it’s a really cool project.”

Ryan Reynolds will lead an all-star cast that includes Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg and Michelle Rodriguez among others. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg broached the movie’s plot of dreaming the impossible with INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard last year.

“The Indianapolis 500 is a one-of-a-kind live event that has fascinated people of all ages for many, many years and Turbo is a character whose biggest ambition is to add his name to its list of international champions,” Katzenberg said. “DreamWorks Animation’s alliance with the INDYCAR team represents an authentic tie-in between a real-life race and an imagined adventure that is certain to culminate in a thrilling ride for the whole family.”

It will be quite an adventure for Turbo – an underdog who achieves the impossible by refusing to let his limitations get in the way of his dreams. Turbo is animated, but the film is not a cartoon.

"We’re very honored to work with Jeffrey, his team and the incredible star power of the cast to bring the Indy 500 to the world in such a unique and engaging format,” Bernard said.  “We believe new and existing fans of all ages will be captivated by the animated depiction of Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as the wonderful characters that inhabit the universe of DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo.”

David Soren (“Merry Madagascar”) will direct the film and he is co-writing the script with Robert Siegel (“The Wrestler”) and Darren Lemke (“Shrek Forever After”). Lisa Stewart, who was the co-producer on another racing-themed feature film – 2005’s “Herbie Fully Loaded”-- is the producer.

“DreamWorks likes to make the distinction that they make movies that bring out the kid in the adults as opposed to making movies for kids,” said Sarah Nettinga, senior vice president of INDYCAR Entertainment. “That’s why Mom and Dad will enjoy this as much as their kids will.”

INDYCAR Entertainment, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based arm of the sanctioning body, also is working with the production team regarding accuracy of the racing scenes and the Speedway as well as public relations and marketing.

“We’ve given them some creative ideas, but they had a pretty developed script already when we met them because of the experience of the producer (Stewart) who already knew exactly the things we would ask,” Nettinga continued. “Last year was spent refining the script, working through the legal and introducing them to our sponsors who would be integrated into the movie as that part is authentic to the racetrack.

“It’s about duplicating the environment and making the racing as authentic as possible. The only cartoon element is the snail and his ability to race around us.”

INDYCAR Entertainment also is tapping into the home entertainment and sports video arenas by forming alliances with Circle King Networks, Inc., known for their work with the Full Throttle Video series and El Jefe Entertainment (producers of Jesse James video content), as well as CineSport Video Network.

Circle King Networks will reach millions of motorsports fans through traditional and non-traditional home video outlets, including at mass retail in automotive and convenience stores, and on digital formats. CineSport will produce and syndicate original, exclusive highlight videos and programming to more than 100 premium local/national media web sites.

INDYCAR Entertainment also has secured driver appearances as well as TV programming segments, such as Graham Rahal’s recent appearance on CBS’s “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials,” and Michael Andretti starring as a member of this season’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”