Brazilian racer helps snail get up to speed in 'Turbo'

When DreamWorks Animation needed to get up to speed with the high-octane world of motor-racing -- from the perspective of a turbo-charged snail -- it turned to Brazilian auto champion Tony Kanaan.

"Turbo" takes the animated studio -- which was behind "Madagascar" (2005) and "Kung-Fu Panda" (2008) -- back to the animal world, after "Rise of the Guardians" (2012) and this year's "The Croods."

Out this week in the United States, the movie tells the story of Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a garden snail who dreams of becoming a motor-racing star, making him something of an outcast in his slow-moving world.

In a freak accident, he falls from a freeway bridge and is sucked into a car's super-charger, where his DNA mixes with nitrous oxide to make him the fastest snail that ever lived.

Helped by Mexican truck driver Tito (Michael Pena) and a cast of other unlikely supporters, he manages to get signed up for the race of his dreams, the prestigious Indianapolis 500, pitting him against the world's best drivers.

That's where Kanaan -- who won this year's Indianapolis 500 in May, with the fastest winning speed in race history -- came in.

"I just gave some ... details of the race car, the race track, the speed, stuff like that. They wanted to simulate exactly the same," he told AFP ahead of the film's release Wednesday.

"It was a very nice experience. To have a movie for kids that talks about this history of Indy 500, I think it's awesome. It's something that I had never done before, I'm very excited about that," he added.

The iconic race has always fascinated children, he said. "Kids love cars, and they are our future fans. People that had no clue of what it was, now they definitely will. A movie lasts forever.

"So I really think it's gonna be a cool movie. I just don't wanna get beat by a snail in the next Indy 500."

The 38-year-old added: "Me and my wife, we go a lot to the movies. Actually, that's the only thing we do apart from racing. Apart from horror movies and thrillers I like everything."

Surprisingly for someone who risks his life every time he goes to work, he says horror movies scare him. "I don't sleep at night. I get afraid," he said, adding that in a car "at least I'm in control of the scary things that I do."

Kanaan added that his experience on "Turbo" had whetted his appetite for the movie industry.

Asked if he would like to be an actor, he said: "I'd love to. A couple weeks ago, I met Vin Diesel in Hollywood and ... he was joking around and saying 'You're gonna be a part of Fast and Furious 7.'

"Maybe that will happen. I would love to. I don't wanna be a movie star but you know, to be part of a movie would be pretty cool."

Kanaan collected $2.35 million from a total purse of more than $12 million for winning the 97th Indianapolis 500 with the fastest winning speed in race history.

He completed 200 laps around the 2.5-mile (4 kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in 2 hours 40 minutes 3.4181 seconds, at 187.433 miles (301.644 kilometers) per hour, breaking the old mark of 185.981 miles per hour set by Dutchman Arie Luyendyk in 1990.

It took Kanaan 12 career starts to finally win at Indy, matching the record for the longest drought for an eventual Indy 500 winner established when Sam Hanks won in 1957 in his 12th attempt.


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