Animation, movies among NASCAR projects
As NASCAR heads into its annual trip to Southern California this weekend, the spotlight shines on its Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing division, which has lined up at least a half-dozen new, unannounced projects.
This weekend’s NASCAR national series action is at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., about 50 miles from L.A., where NASCAR’s satellite office opened in 2000 to weave the brand into Hollywood and pop culture. The office is headed up by Zane Stoddard, vice president of entertainment marketing and content development.
Among the new ventures being developed are two separate original animation projects, one movie and one for TV; multiple shows with Discovery Channel; a digital series with BuzzFeed; and movie projects with the likes of sports media veteran Ed Goren and the Hallmark Channel.
“We are in a space that is different than some areas of our business in that we have to try to put a lot of irons in the fire in order to get a few things to hit,” Stoddard said.
Among the most notable new projects is animation as NASCAR works to expose the sport to younger and more diverse audiences. The sport’s biggest success thus far in the animation space is its work with Disney’s “Cars” franchise.
One of the new animation partnerships is a project with ShadowMachine, the award-winning animation studio that’s worked on shows like “Robot Chicken” on Cartoon Network and “BoJack Horseman” on Netflix. The project, which does not have a distribution deal, will be shot with the intention of having it distributed either on linear television or a streaming video-on-demand platform. The other animated project underway is with Burbank-based studio Legendary Entertainment, which has co-produced films with Warner Bros. including “Superman Returns” and “The Dark Night Rises” in recent years.
NASCAR declined to provide details on the content themes for either of the animated projects beyond saying that they “will have fun, non-driver characters, living both inside and outside the NASCAR world, with real NASCAR drivers voicing some characters.”
Movie projects include a drama that NASCAR has partnered on with Goren, who has 47 Emmy Awards to his credit. The film, which does not have a distribution deal, is set to look at the “Winged Warrior” era, a short stretch in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Chrysler built cars with high rear wings to compete with the dominant Fords.
NASCAR is working on a multi-film project with the Hallmark Channel. Stoddard said the content could turn into a NASCAR-centric series that would play out over the course of multiple movies. The timing of the movie releases has not been disclosed.
Also on the TV front, NASCAR is building on its relationship with Discovery, which is one of the top purveyors of automotive-related content on cable and has seen success with programming such as “Fast N’ Loud,” which is a show based around the crew of the famous Gas Monkey Garage finding run-down cars to restore. NASCAR and Discovery are co-producing “Twin Turbos,” which premiered late last month and centers on a young racer who is trying to make it to NASCAR and works on intricate car restorations with his father to raise funds. Team Penske driver Joey Logano is making regular appearances on the show, as he’s mentoring the young racer.
Beyond that show, NASCAR and Discovery have struck a deal to develop a show based on a track in Alaska that a few years ago became the only facility in the state to be sanctioned by NASCAR.
NASCAR also has partnered with producer Mark Burnett and MGM on a scripted series that it says is akin to “Friday Night Lights” set in stock car racing. That will go to market this spring.
Some of the L.A. group’s work has already played out this year. It hosted several celebrities at the Daytona 500, including actress Charlize Theron, and secured television roles for drivers. For example, driver Ryan Blaney plays an FBI agent in an upcoming episode of NBC’s “Taken,” had a voice role in Marvel’s “Spiderman” on Disney Channel and is co-hosting an episode of Nickelodeon’s “Crashletes” in April alongside fellow NASCAR driver Darrell Wallace Jr.
This week, the group is hosting another mixer event between drivers and decision makers in the entertainment industry. It will shoot Blaney’s “Glass Case of Emotion” podcast at its L.A. office, is tentatively scheduled to shoot a new BuzzFeed series with three to four drivers, and will host around a combined 200 celebrities and entertainment executives at the track during the weekend’s action.
“Los Angeles is a place where it’s real easy to be a [proverbial] tree falling in the forest in terms of events, so we wanted to be real surgical about it,” Stoddard said.