Snails are basically good for two things: destroying your garden or dipping into garlic butter.
Those old-fashioned notions are about to get run over this summer.
In Turbo, an animated adventure from DreamWorks that will pull into theaters on July 19, Ryan Reynolds is the voice of a slithery little critter named Theo whose greatest wish is to one day race in the Indianapolis 500. Through a freak accident, he becomes a speed demon, and suddenly his goal doesn't seem quite so out of reach.
Filmmaker David Soren hatched the idea for Turbo - Theo's nickname - by combining his then-toddler son's fascination with race cars with an ongoing infestation of snails on his suburban lawn.
"It had nothing to do with Cars," says Soren, referring to Pixar's 2006 racetrack-themed animated feature that focused on talking NASCAR vehicles. "It came purely out of wanting to do an underdog story and combining elements in my life, taking one of the slowest creatures on earth and having him dream of mind-melting speed."
Turbo, who is inspired by five-time French-Canadian Indy champ Guy Gagne (voice of Bill Hader) after watching his feats on a dusty old TV in a garage, doesn't pull off his stunt all by himself.
After being transported to a rundown Van Nuys, Calif., strip mall, where visitors bet on races featuring snails of the typical sluggish variety, our hero runs into a gang of street-smart gastropods: leader Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson), Smoove Move (Snoop Lion aka the rapper formerly known as Snoop Dogg), Burn (Maya Rudolph) and Skidmark (Ben Schwartz of TV's House of Lies). "They are tricked-out like a mini Fast & Furious with shells that take on iconic car-like shapes," Soren says.
Also lending a hand are a couple of human taco-truck drivers, siblings Tito (Michael Peña) and Angelo (Luis Guzmán). And who better to put a damper on Turbo's ambition than Paul Giamatti as his more down-to-earth brother, Chet.
Soren also called in reinforcements while developing his script. Not only did he collaborate with such noted writers as Robert D. Siegel (The Wrestler, former editor in chief of The Onion) and Darren Lemke (TV's Lost, Shrek Forever After), but he also recruited Dario Franchitti, the Scottish racing superstar and four-time IndyCar Series champ, as a technical consultant.
One of the key dilemmas that needed solving: How does Turbo avoid being squished on the track by cars that often go faster than 200 mph?
"That is a legitimate problem," Soren concedes. "What Turbo learns is there is a lot more to racing than just going fast."