'Turbo' Stunt Sees Snails Race Up a Skyscraper

The same day as the animated film's premiere, 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation hosted a vertical race on the façade of a New York building—with eight-foot-tall snails.

By Anna Sekula July 17, 2013, 4:36 PM EDT

Photo: Courtesy of WCMG

A week ahead of the movie's July 17 theatrical release, 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation hit Midtown Manhattan with an oversize publicity stunt for Turbo that combined the comedy's racing action with the animated snail characters and Skee-Ball. But rather than host a version of the Indy 500 in the busy streets, the two studios exploited the city's plethora of tall buildings by putting mechanical snails in vertical race up a Rockefeller Center skyscraper.

Aired live on Today, the competition saw Turbo star Ryan Reynolds and the TV show's hosts Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales, and Willie Geist compete against each other, using Skee-Ball machines set up at street level to power their cartoon-like contraptions.

The promotion on July 9 was overseen by Len Iannelli, vice president of special events for 20th Century Fox, and Molly Martuza, head of special events for DreamWorks Animation, who tapped local event company WCMG to produce the public spectacle. Aside from the four and a half days for the build out, logistical challenges included creating large enough representations of the animated characters to be seen from the ground, fabricating racing machines that could be hooked up to an extensive rigging system on the roof of the building, and working with city authorities to ensure safety.

To integrate social media, the organizers encouraged fans to cheer for their favorite competitor, tweeting with the hashtags #TurboMatt, #TurboSavannah, #TurboRyan, #TurboNatalie, and #TurboWillie. Reynolds, who voices the eponymous character Turbo, won the race, narrowly beating Lauer, who was racing as the character voiced by Snoop Lion (better known as Snoop Dogg).

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