Rob LaDuca has a particular fondness for the classic Walt Disney characters: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the entire gang. A twenty-eight year veteran of Disney Television Animation, LaDuca has served a number of roles including storyboard designer, director and executive producer on programs including “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, “Aladdin” and “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” He’s received numerous awards for his efforts, including five Daytime Emmy nominations and one win, for 2004’s “Tutenstein.” A car enthusiast, LaDuca became intrigued by the idea of taking Mickey and the gang out on the road in some very hip vehicles that would allow them to see the world and learn some life lessons along the way. Thus began “Mickey and the Roadster Racers.”
LaDuca, serving as executive producer on the series, reached out to his collaborator on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”, Mark Seidenberg. Joining LaDuca as co-executive producer and supervising story editor, the two began to refine the look and vibe of the animation. Geared towards the Disney Junior audience, “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” has a bright, fresh three dimensional look filled with modern gizmos while harkening to the 1940s aesthetics of its characters.
“Working in a 3D world of computer animation, the camera can move around,” said LaDuca. “The shadowing and the details are pulled from the 30s and 40s. For instance, in 2D animation Mickey’s ears look flat, so we’ve maintained that look in the 3D world.”
During the program’s research phase, LaDuca and Seidenberg went to a variety of car shows as well as comedian Jay Leno’s garage to review his auto collection. They noted the extreme variations in details as well as vibrant colors found in the vehicles. While the duo have worked with each classic Disney character in the past, they went through a period of watching and re-watching original animated films featuring Mickey and the gang to ensure they captured each character’s personality authentically.
“These characters haven’t changed their personalities since the 30s and the 40s,” said Seidenberg. “We can modernize their activities but not (their core personas). We don’t want to overly personalize them.”
Each character’s personality is embodied in the design of their roadster. Mickey, the leader and role model of the gang, is a Model T. The more introverted Minnie is a Delahaye, a classic French model that features a small, rounded driving space behind an extensive engine. Goofy’s model is designed after the hot rods created by Ed Roth, an artist and automotive customizer. Daisy drives a Snapdragon, while Donald’s vehicle is essentially a boat on wheels.
Working with Disney Junior’s in-house education group, each episode of “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” includes themes that are valuable to young, developing minds, such as loyalty, friendship, skill development and teamwork. For example, in one episode, Mickey can’t participate in a parade he is supposed to orchestrate, so Donald takes over. Donald has to learn how to take responsibility of his fiery temper to ensure the parade runs smoothly. To further engage the young viewers in the social themes, Minnie and Daisy run a side business called “Happy Helpers”, where they lend a hand to those in the communities needing a little extra help.
To heighten the action in the series, Mickey and his friends engage in little adventures as they travel the globe, including trips to London, Spain and France. LaDuca and Seidenberg have fun infusing elements of each locale that can be easily embraced and digested by the viewer’s young minds.
“In London (the characters) meet a proper English gentleman. In Spain they get to experience spicy foods,” said Seidenberg. Noted LaDuca, “We’re focusing on creating a social experience that is fun for kids, without making it to curriculum based.”
In addition to the roadsters morphing into skateboards or scooters and the characters using iPads and iPhones, current popular figures in the entertainment world lend their voices to the show. Gordon Ramsay, Tim Gunn and professional race car drives Danica Patrick and Jimmie Johnson are amongst those who’ve embraced their voice-over debut on “Mickey and the Roadster Racers.”
“We’ve shown them what they look like as a cartoon characters and they are so enthusiastic,” said Seidenberg. Added LaDuca, “It’s fun to bring in guest actors. Patton Oswald came in and asked if he could add snorts to his character. They come in with some great ideas.”
To learn more about “Mickey and the Roadster Racers”, please visit: http://disneyjunior.disney.com/mickey-and-the-roadster-racers