'Fast & Furious Spy Racers: South Pacific' has AI cars and a musical episode

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'Fast & Furious Spy Racers: South Pacific' has AI cars and a musical episode

 Fast and Furious Spy Racers South Pacific

As the live-action Fast & Furious franchise has grown, so too has its animated spin-off universe, Fast & Furious Spy Racers. Although it only premiered in 2019 on Netflix, the DreamWorks Animation series has been moving fast (naturally), as it's already on its fifth season, Fast & Furious Spy Racers: South Pacific, which premiered with eight new episodes last week.

The series is executive-produced by Vin Diesel, Chris Morgan, and Neal H. Moritz, but it's the series showrunners Tim Hedrick and Bret Haaland who are at the wheel. The series tells the story of Dominic Toretto's younger cousin, Tony Toretto (Tyler Posey) with fast-paced, elite racing adventures that live up to the blockbuster movies when it comes to horsepower, tech, and thrills. When Season 5 opens, the rest of the Spy Racers have to find Tony, who has been kidnapped, and deal with the high-tech hijacking of his driving skills.

“The interesting thing starting up this show is here is a group of kids whose superpower is that they're awesome drivers, right? They don't have magic. They're just really good behind the wheel,” Hedrick explains about the series premise. “This [season] was the opportunity to take the most Toretto thing away from Tony, to really make him feel what it is to be outside of the family. And what is he without that?”

Hedrick says family, just like the central thesis to the film series, will get Tony through. “It really focuses on the support he gets from his team, and everybody really steps up to help him shoulder the burden.”

Stepping up to do their parts, Hedrick teases a few of his favorite character arcs in South Pacific. “We've seen these characters really grow and meet new people. Their relationships are becoming richer, so it's really fun to bring out someone new, like Palindrome (Paul “Big Show” Wight), and see how they're relating to the crew. Like Ms. Nowhere (Renée Elise Goldsberry) and Palindrome have a great arc this season. And this is a great Layla (Camille Ramsey) season, as she comes up with some awesome plans and does some incredible stuff. To see her, this outlaw who was on the outside, who is now kind of the leader of the team, was really cool.”

“Also, we bring Rusty (Fred Tatasciore) back and he has a ridiculous chase in a big rig that's really fun,” Hedrick continues. “All of the self-driving cars are fantastic. Seeing the Toretto brain get picked to make these AI cars is really exciting. It's ridiculous sounding, but it all is grounded in these characters, which is what I think it makes it interesting.”

Considering the live-action films in the franchise are practically sci-fi movies at times, does the animated series has any hard and fast rules about anything being too preposterous to bring to life?

“The challenge for us in production is the opposite that it is for them,” Hedrick explains about animation vs. film. “It’s about how do we take fantastical things in animation, and make them seem like they're grounded in physical reality? Thinking about how this big block of a hauler would work as a submarine? How do the cars operate with gravity and the physics of them turning, and really trying to apply that into every scene that we see so that it doesn't seem so cartoony? At a certain point, you just stop caring because it becomes so ridiculous. We really have to focus on adding gravity to everything and making sure everything seems as grounded as it can be while still being fantastical.”

Since the series is playing in the South Pacific as its backdrop, Hedrick says they look to the Roger Moore era of James Bond films with its crazy vehicles and gadgets for a lot of inspiration. “One of the best all-time is the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me changing into a submarine,” Hedrick enthuses. “I always wanted do that, so that's one thing that I had on a card in the office for years. When can we turn the car into a submarine?”

The team’s spy plane also gets more into the action this season too. “We had this idea of wouldn't it be great if we saw a spy plane dog fight? Then we thought, what if we put these two things together: a spy plane dog fight with a crash in the ocean. It turned out great. Our production team totally nailed all the underwater sequences. I think they look fantastic. It became a really fun playground. And, there's this whole part of the world that we hadn't gotten to explore before.”

 Fast and Furious Spy Racers South Pacific

One of his favorite sequences is a huge fight that Ms. Nowhere and Palindrome get into on this island they're escaping. “It's all framed by this full moon, and we see them battling this big crowd of guards. Not only did the scene turn out great, I think the animation is beautiful, and it was directed in a beautiful way,” Hedrick teases. “It's the culmination of this relationship that they've been building this whole time. While they're fighting the bad guys, they're also having this relationship fight. It all comes together in a very character-driven way that makes it all pay off.”

There’s also a musical element to this season inspired by Vin Diesel. “He was talking about how much he would like to do a musical with Fast & Furious elements,” Hedrick details. “I'm happy to say that we've introduced the first musical number in the Fast & Furious this season. And The C-Majors was a real push to get that into the show,” he laughs. “No one believed that The C-Majors would fit into Fast & Furious, but we got behind that.”

As for how long the Spy Racers could go on, Hedrick says they always leave the team dangling with the potential for more adventures, and South Pacific is the same. “Obviously, there's plenty of places around the world that we have yet to explore. There's plenty of room for us to go. Really, what it's about is keeping the relationships between the characters alive and seeing the dynamics change so that it doesn't feel like every time this crew goes on a mission, it's the same thing over again. We see different characters step up and change and have their outlook change the way Echo (Charlet Chung) became the leader of the crew, and then stepped back and said, "That's not for me." We see Ms. Nowhere growing closer with the kids, even though she may never say that. We see Gary and Julius expanding their roles. And we can keep doing it forever.”

Season 5 of Fast & Furious Spy Racers is now streaming on Netflix. DreamWorks Animation and SYFY WIRE are properties of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

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