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AutoWeek floors it on “Cars” movie May 29, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Magazines, Movies.
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AutoWeek has a humongous special issue about Pixar's "Cars." In one of its stories, it says this:

AS YOU READ THIS ISSUE please understand you will not learn the plot twists and turns of Cars, the movie. You will read about the undulating way in which the film came to the big screen, about some of the characters behind the characters, and why it should be considered the best car movie ever.

And if you can’t take our word, see for your own skeptical self on June 9 when Cars opens in theaters around the country. As the critics say, you’ll laugh and you’ll cry. When was the last time that happened because of a car (other than with vintage Jaguar ownership)?

One of the AutoWeek stories focuses on five members of the Pixar crew who helped shape the look of the studio's latest upcoming movie, "Cars."

Two excerpts stand out. First, this one:

… Pixar’s in-house gearheads take great pride in having modeled each car character’s suspension geometries and road behavior after its real-world inspiration. Thus Ramone, the ’59 Chevy low-rider, has fully operational hydraulics. The Volkswagen bus, the hippie Fillmore, has swing axles, and moves like it. Luigi, a Fiat 500, bounces around in excitement on his spindly springs and skinny tires. Such antics would be completely wrong for stiff old Doc Hudson, the ’51 Hudson Hornet ex-racer whose voice is Paul Newman.

And this one:

“The background of the town is the Cadillac Range,” he pointed out, the obvious reference being the Cadillac Ranch, a row of half-buried cars in Texas. “The ’59 is in the center, the iconic Cadillac tailfin. The [aircraft contrails] are tire treads. Every little detail has got a little bit of automotive feel to it.(my emphasis)

Also, from the same issue, are:

A firsthand report on the “Cars” premiere May 29, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Movies.
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Michael Howe was assigned by Jim Hill Media to attend the premiere of the "Cars" movie at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Here is Howe's extensive report, along with plenty of photos.

Howe also interviewed many of the film's stars on the red carpet of the event, including this excerpt of a Q&A with Michael Wallis, a Route 66 consultant of the film and the voice of the Sheriff in "Cars."

Q: We've just got a little question, because we took a little road trip from Chicago this morning, and were wondering if you've ever heard of "The Chicken Basket?" (EDITOR'S NOTE: "The Chicken Basket" is one of the restaurants near the start of Route 66. Which starts in Chicago, IL)

A: Oh yes. Up in Willowbrook. I know it very well. I've devoured lots of chicken there. The Road is so great in the state of Illinois today. Out of all the states, I always point out that Illinois is leading the 8 Route 66 states in terms of restoration and preservation. Great signage, wonderful ride, yeah.

Q: You play the Sheriff in Radiator Springs. Was that John's (Lasseter's) idea, or did you kind of come up with the idea?

A: I was his consultant. And then I wrote the book about the making of the movie, "The Art of Cars," with my wife. But he said: "you've got to be a character voice in this film. We've got to capture you on film. And don't you think you'd make a great Sheriff?" And I said: "Sure, why not? What's the car?" "1949 Mercury." "Um, it's a done deal." Because it's one of my favorite cars. It's the same kind of car that James Dean had in "Rebel Without a Cause," you know? It's just a Classic. And people tell me that grille on that car looks a little bit like my moustache. Which just a few years ago was pitch black and suddenly it's turned chrome-colored. So I don't know.

Q: You have a very distinctive voice.

A: Yes, and wait til' you see my interaction with Mater. I think you'll get a kick out of that. Mater is one of my favorite characters, and he drives my "Cars" character crazy.

Q: I didn't know that.

A: Oh yes. He's sort of my little nemesis. I'm always after him. But these people that are represented in these cars are actual people from Route 66. And a lot of them are here tonight: Cooks, waitresses, people that I exposed Pixar to. And they took the personailty of these people and it comes out in these cars. That's why this film is so good. That's why it's accurate and true.

Happy days at Happy Wiener Festival May 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, Towns.
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The Bloomington Pantagraph has coverage of the first-ever Happy Wiener Festival in the Route 66 town of Atlanta, Ill., this weekend.

Ninety-year-old Paul Adams, a resident of the town, has made the same observation as I have about the town.

"There is a lot of energy in this small town," Adams said. "It's a great place to live, and it seems now that we have some young folks moving in we're getting everyone involved and starting new things, like the Happy Wiener Festival."

So what’s the economic impact of Route 66? May 28, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Road trips.
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Here's a story from the Bloomington Pantagraph about the allure of Route 66. Here's a side story about the number of foreign tourists the road draws.

These two paragraphs jumped out at me:

More than 300,000 tourists drive Route 66 through Illinois each year, according to the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project, based in Springfield. Precise figures on the economic impact are not available.

“It has an impact of millions of dollars,” said Patty Ambrose, executive director of the heritage project. “Route 66 is the No. 3 tourism draw in Illinois. Chicago is No. 1, and the (Abe) Lincoln sites are No. 2.”

I have doubts the number of travelers specifically traveling old Route 66 is that high. That averages to more than 800 people a day. During the height of tourism season in the early spring and summer, maybe. But not the whole year. Maybe the Heritage Project is also counting incidental traffic.

The city of Tulsa once cited a figure of 50,000 visitors a year on Route 66, which sounds a lot more realistic.

However, the "millions of dollars" of economic impact is easy to believe, because it doesn't take a lot of money per capita to hit the seven-figure mark. Just finding lodging for the night will be in the $40- to $80-a-night range. And folks who travel the old road love buying Route 66 souvenirs.

And after the "Cars" movie comes out, who knows? Maybe that 300,000 mark won't be so far-fetched after all.

Here’s one reason why “Cars” will succeed May 27, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies.
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The reason? Because "Cars" director John Lasseter "gets" Route 66 and its allure.

Here's an excerpt from a New York Times story that illustrates this:

As for the town of Radiator Springs, the quirky desert hamlet on Route 66, it provides a reminder of the less homogenized America Mr. Lasseter saw as a boy.

"For a lot of our vacations, my brother and sister and I would pile into the station wagon, and our parents would drive Route 66 from L.A.," he recalled. "When they started building the Interstate, my dad would drive it for parts of our journeys and say, 'Now we can really make time.' But the Interstate was so smooth, you'd lose track of where you were. When you drove Route 66, you really felt the land. You knew where it was hilly and where it was flat. On the Interstate it was all flat."

The melancholy images of the forgotten town balance the fast-paced racing scenes and broad comic sequences. Mr. Lasseter says his use of these moments was inspired by the films of Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese animation director.

"In every one," he said, "there are beautiful quiet scenes. The drive in our early films was to trim out all the 'dead spots,' because the executives were always saying: 'I'm going for popcorn.' 'You're losing me.' After a while I realized I wasn't going to lose the audience. The executives were used to seeing the movie, but the audience wouldn't be. They'd be with us in those moments."

Norwegians on Harleys visit Route 66 museum May 27, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, Road trips.
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The Pontiac (Ill.) Daily Leader reports:

Ten Norwegians on their way to Los Angeles aboard seven Harley-Davidson motorcycles visited Pontiac's Route 66 museum Thursday afternoon, getting a look at some Illinois aspects of the highway they will travel on their 10-day journey.

"Route 66 all the way," one of the members of the group – friends who share a liking of motorcycles and the famous road – told a reporter shortly after their arrival in Pontiac, their gleaming, rented-in-Chicago Harleys arranged in a neat line in the Main Street parking lot south of old city hall.

The rest of the story is here. 

The funny part is, it's not that big of a deal. When I'm out on the road, hardly a day goes by when I don't encounter a European tourist in a car or motorcycle seeking their kicks on Route 66. And there will be many more motorcycle tours before the summer ends.

Memories of Red’s Giant Hamburg May 27, 2006

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Restaurants.
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Sarah Overstreet of the Springfield News-Leader shares her memories of the now-defunct Red's Giant Hamburg, which was along old Route 66 in Springfield, Mo. Her writing paints a vivid picture of what the place was like in its heyday.

Julia Chaney, former co-owner fo the restaurant, died a little over a week ago. The other co-owner, Red Chaney, died in 1997.

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