“It started as a lark,” he says. “There was a competition and I turned in the idea the night before the deadline. The Fast and the Furious with snails. That was it. It happened that it won the competition and Dreamworks bought the idea. Then it went nowhere for a long time.”
While Soren worked on other projects like Chicken Run, Shrek, Shark Tale and directed a trio of TV specials based on the Madgascar film franchise the idea of an aspirational snail with dreams of speed stayed with him.
“My six year old boy, from birth, came with a love of cars and racing and all things fast,” he says. “I was not a car nut or a race fan growing up but it really got me thinking about the character in different terms and that freed me up to realize that a snail really is kind of a perfect underdog. Nobody expects anything of them, they’re lives are filled with obstacles; nobody really knows what they do, other than being gross and pesky.”
The next step was character design, no mean feat when your stars are ninety percent shell.
“In the beginning the fact that all those things that you usually rely on, like arms and legs and eyebrows [were missing meant that] we had to get more creative about how to do it. I did drawings early on of these snails with arms and it was creepy. It was just a matter of coming up with other viable ways for them to emote and move around.”
Taking his kids to animated movies also gave him a real sense of what he wanted and more importantly, didn’t want, in Turbo.
“I find myself growing impatient with animated movies that are just a bunch of gags,” he says. “I feel like I am just going to amuse or baby sit my kid. And yet by the same virtue I think it is pointless to make an animated movie that doesn’t have some appeal to children. It has made me want to see all sides of it a bit more and find the heart, find the human story in there. That universal thing that any audience member can connect with but not lose the kids either, because they’re important.”