Minorities in cartoons: “Turbo”

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Last updated on December 10th, 2021

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is “Turbo,” a DreamWorks movie released in 2013.


The film’s plot is about a snail named Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds in the movie and Reid Scott in the spinoff animated series) who’s obsessed with speed and auto racing, particularly the Indianapolis 500. This irritates his fellow garden snails, including his older, heavily cautious brother Chet (voiced by Paul Giamatti in the movie, Eric Bauza in the animated series).

Feeling dejected one day, Turbo wanders out near the freeway, where he’s accidentally sucked into the engine of a hot rod. In the spirit of bizarre superhero origin stories, the hot rod’s nitrous oxide somehow fuses with Turbo’s DNA, giving him superspeed, as well as a few car-like abilities (using his eyes like headlights, tuning into radio stations).

After a few antics back at his garden, Turbo and Chet get fired from their tomato-gathering job, and eventually end up captured by a human (Tito, the co-owner of “Dos Bros Tacos,” a taco restaurant in a run-down strip mall) to be entered in snail races. Discovering Turbo’s speed, Tito gets the idea of entering Turbo in the Indianapolis 500, where Turbo meets his racing idol.

Ultimately, Turbo becomes world famous for being, well, a super-fast snail, bringing prosperity to the strip mall and acceptance by Chet.

Other media

“Turbo” did fairly poorly at the box office, but that didn’t prevent a made-for-Netflix series from being made.

“Turbo FAST” features the continuing adventures of the cast of the film. The film’s snails (now outfitted with specialized shells that let them move as fast as Turbo does) have formed a racing team, the “Fast Action Stunt Team,” or FAST.

The team now participate in races both around the world and in/near their snail home town; Tito built a snail-sized city plus racing track as a place for the team and their fellow snails to live.

Also in the spirit of superhero stories (such as Flash foe Prof. Zoom, the Reverse-Flash), various other insects/creatures as fast as Turbo also appear. It’s usually to challenge him to a race, or to try to cause problems in their snail city or the strip mall. Later episodes put more emphasis on the characters’ wacky daily lives (over racing), or expanding upon their personal backstories.

The animated series seems to be fairly well received so far, and touted as an example of a decent, made-for-Netflix animated series.


The snail characters besides Turbo and Chet include:

  • Whiplash: the no-nonsense leader of the snail racing team, who becomes a mentor to Turbo in the film/animated series. Voiced by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie and John Eric Bentley in the animated series.
  • Skidmark: the movie doesn’t seem to delve much into his character, but the animated series shows he’s extremely adept at technology (building custom shells, etc.) and a paranoid conspiracy theorist. Voiced by Ben Schwartz in the movie and Amir Talai in the animated series.
  • Smoove Move: a smooth-talking, music-loving, laid-back snail. Voiced by rapper Snoop Dogg in the movie, and by Phil LaMarr in the animated series.
  • White Shadow: a large-sized, dopey but earnest snail. Voiced by Mike Bell in the movie and animated series.
  • Burn: the only female snail on the team, Burn has a “sassy” personality. She eventually starts dating Chet. Voiced by Maya Rudolph in the movie and Gray DeLisle in the animated series.

The human characters include:

  • Tito Lopez: the main human character of the film, and co-owner of Dos Bros. Tacos. Like Turbo, he aspires to greater things, to the consternation of his own more conservative brother. As a running gag, he thinks Chet’s a female snail, and Turbo’s girlfriend. Voiced by Michael Peña in the movie and by Amir Talai in the animated series.
  • Angelo Lopez: Tito’s brother, who’s initially skeptical of Tito’s plans. Voiced by Luis Guzmán.
  • Paz: an auto mechanic at the strip mall. Voiced by Michelle Rodriguez.
  • Bobby: a hobby shop owner at the strip mall, who also makes custom snail racing shells. Voiced by Richard Jenkins.
  • Kim-Ly: an elderly Asian woman who owns a nail salon at the strip mall. Voiced by Ken Jeong in both the movie and animated series.

Out of the human characters, so far only Tito and Kim-Ly have appeared in the animated series.

(Updated 11/21/16)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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