Skip to content

“Turbo” is IndyCar’s best chance to hit mainstream, new fans in a dozen years

Jul 16, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

TURBO

There’s one very important thing I’ll say up front about DreamWorks Animation’s latest animated film, “Turbo:” It’s not about “us.”

By “us,” I mean racing insiders, veterans and observers who are already hooked on IndyCar racing, or have followed the sport for generations, through any and all peaks and valleys, management turmoil and political unrest.

No, “Turbo” represents IndyCar’s best chance in the last dozen years to re-enter the mainstream consciousness, and attract new, particularly younger fans. It’s a rare chance that can’t be squandered, given the last film attempt trying to pump open-wheel racing out to a broader audience was “Driven.”

A dozen years later, the film starring an aging veteran (Sylvester Stallone) coming out of retirement to help develop a talented rookie (Kip Pardue, better known as the guy who played Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass in “Remember the Titans”) is still a running joke in racing circles.

It’s with that as a backdrop that I’ll say that DreamWorks has managed to make a movie about a snail entering the Indianapolis 500 – an unrealistic premise in anything other than an animated film – more realistic than “Driven.”

Of course, “Turbo” aims much higher than that. If the social media and marketing tagline at this year’s Indianapolis 500 was “Indy 500 or Bust,” “Turbo or Bust” might be an appropriate one for this film.

The visionary on the project is director, co-writer and story creator David Soren, a Toronto native who came home to see an advanced screening this past weekend ahead of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader.

Soren said ahead of the screening that the inspiration came from his children’s love of speed and his own snail infestation problem in his front yard. He was one of several who spoke to the Associated Press for a preview piece.

The idea was one of dozens he’d submitted to DreamWorks, and it got approved after years of trying.

Without giving anything plot-wise away, the concept behind the film is simple: your all-American dream of rags to riches, except in this case, it’s a snail (Theo, who becomes Turbo, voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who gains supernatural speed in a freak accident and escapes the drudgery of his home to attempt to race in the Indianapolis 500.

Objectively speaking, the film starts out great for the first half hour or so, with perhaps a slight lull in the middle, and a build to the climax at the finish. At barely 90 minutes, if that, it’s short enough to keep an attention span without dragging.

One of the things I was impressed with from the screening was the attention to detail. If you’ve ever been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, either as a fan or working, you’ll appreciate every little observation that has been perfectly adapted.

They’ve ensured it’s not some generic IndyCar in the film, but that it is the current Dallara DW12 in low-downforce speedway configuration. Plus the legendary/notorious “Yellow Shirts” appear, the Pagoda and the scoring tower are depicted accurately, and other elements along the way immediately strike a chord that DreamWorks “gets it.”

Dario Franchitti’s presence on the film as a technical consultant clearly helps the racing sequences. The super-imposing of a snail racing in-between 32 other cars shouldn’t have been as seamlessly integrated as it is, but it looks promising.

The thing I was most impressed with on Thursday night? The laughter. The actual engagement for the kids of drivers Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Carpenter, who were either rolling on the floor laughing or had their eyes so big because they were captivated.

Yes, these kids already have the internal workings of IndyCar at least somewhat tattoed on their brains. But if they’re anything close to a representative sample of how younger kids who have no idea or concept of IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 might react, that’s going to be a benefit for all parties.

My advice going into the film? If you’re currently involved with the series, remove yourself from the internal day-to-day workings of IndyCar and how race weekends tend to go. Sit back, relax, and appreciate the detail that’s on offer.

And if you’re not into IndyCar, or racing, it seriously has the potential to convert you. I walked out and heard a couple kids asking questions about IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, and that was all I needed to hear.

“Turbo” opens nationwide July 17. See the trailer above and see a list of other “Turbo” related stories we’ve done on MotorSportsTalk listed below.

Latest Posts
  1. IMSA: Action Express dominates Indy; Hawksworth wins on debut

    Jul 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    AxIMSWin Getty Images

    Action Express wins Indy; RSR, Viper and Ferrari the other TUDOR Championship class winners.

  2. Red Bull GRC enters heart of stock car country for season’s 5th event

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    GRCLogo

    After Tanner Foust emerged as the victor of a riotous final in New York, the beat goes on for Red Bull GRC this weekend with a trip to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

  3. NASCAR America: Jimmie Johnson easy pick for Brickyard

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT

    2014 brickyard 400 logo

    On Friday’s edition, the NASCAR America crew discussed the favorites for Sunday’s Brickyard 400. And not surprisingly, Jimmie Johnson is the easy pick — but there are a few other drivers who could contend.

  4. NASCAR America: Jimmie Johnson looking for fifth Brickyard win

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:26 PM EDT

    AAA 400 - Qualifying Getty Images

    On Friday’s edition of NASCAR America, Sam Hornish Jr. joined Leigh Diffey to discuss Jimmie Johnson’s quest for his fifth Brickyard 400 win. Hornish noted that Johnson’s first win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a positive turning point for his team.

  5. NASCAR America: Clint Bowyer talks keys to winning Chase

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:17 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) Getty Images

    On Friday’s NASCAR America, Clint Bowyer talked about handling Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s 21st annual Brickyard 400, as well as his teams’ improvement and his hopes of getting into and winning the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

  6. Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power go looking for fun, wind up with ‘Sex Tape’

    Jul 25, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT

    sex tape

    After a long day of testing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Penske Racing teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power went to see a movie Wednesday in Mansfield, Ohio. Check out Montoya’s hilarious tale about what they saw.

  7. Kurt Busch: No talks yet on a second Indy-Charlotte double

    Jul 25, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Kurt Busch AP

    “Every day I wake up and I’m like, ‘Yes, let’s do it again.’ Then there are thoughts of ‘I finished sixth, that’s pretty special.’ I don’t know if I could achieve that result again.” – Outlaw

  8. Brickyard owes Juan Pablo Montoya one, but will it pay off Sunday?

    Jul 25, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) AP

    INDIANAPOLIS – Juan Pablo Montoya has twice come close to winning the Brickyard 400, only to suffer maladies that kept him from kissing the finish line bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in celebration.

  9. Got questions about life? “Bartender Brad” Keselowski’s here to help (VIDEO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 3:31 PM EDT

    Aaron's 499 - Practice Getty Images

    The former Sprint Cup champion steps behind the counter and serves up cold ones…Of truth.

  10. Everyone worried about a Kenseth win — except Matt himself

    Jul 25, 2014, 2:58 PM EDT

    kenseth indy AP

    INDIANAPOLIS — Everyone seems to be concerned Matt Kenseth hasn’t won a race thus far in 2014 – everyone, that is, except Kenseth himself.

  11. Jimmie Johnson remembers early Brickyard struggles

    Jul 25, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT

    Geico 400 - Practice Getty Images

    The four-time Brickyard 400 champion says he had to go against his “natural tendencies” as a driver in order to become as successful as he has been at Indy.

  12. Hungarian GP Paddock Notebook – Friday

    Jul 25, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    All of the latest news and analysis from the paddock at the Hungaroring.

  13. Vettel: Red Bull may be closer to Mercedes this weekend

    Jul 25, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    Red Bull leading the race for the podium in Hungary, but Ricciardo still has some concerns.

  14. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 pm ET — Hornish on nuances of Indy, JJ and Bowyer, Indiana racing history

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    140725-NASCAR-AMERICA

    On Friday’s edition of NASCAR America, Leigh Diffey will again be joined in-studio by 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2014 Nationwide Series Iowa winner Sam Hornish Jr.

  15. Hamilton and Rosberg both struggling in Hungary

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    P1 and P2 in both practice sessions, but not 100% where they want to be.

  16. Ryan Newman says he’d add Wednesday night races to Sprint Cup calendar

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    Camping World RV Sales 301 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Defending Brickyard 400 winner would push for mid-week races if he were in charge of creating the Sprint Cup schedule.

  17. Matt Kenseth fastest in Friday’s Sprint Cup practice at Indy

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    (Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images) Getty Images

    INDIANAPOLIS – Matt Kenseth took the first step towards his first win of 2014 – and his first career win in the Brickyard 400 – recording the fastest speed in Friday’s sole Sprint Cup practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  18. Cause of Lewis Hamilton’s brake failure still unknown

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Germany F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Brembo and Mercedes release a joint statement concerning the incident during qualifying for the German Grand Prix.

  19. Button reverts back to Pink for Papa helmet in Hungary

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    Pink for Papa helmet returns in Hungary for what would have been John Button’s 71st birthday.

  20. Ty Dillon leads final practice at Indy for Nationwide

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

    Lilly Diabetes 250 - Practice Getty Images

    Nationwide Series rookie continues to show strong pace ahead of Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

More from NASCAR America

What makes Brickyard 400 unique?

Featured video

Inside the Hungarian GP
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. C. Edwards (628)
  2. J. Gordon (593)
  3. B. Scott (585)
  4. D. Hamlin (573)
  5. T. Bodine (571)