This Guy Owns the Pizza Planet Toyota from “Toy Story”

Not even the 30th movie car we’d remember, but still damn near perfect.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


It’s the 20th anniversary of Toy Story, and for some Disney acolytes, a yellow Toyota pickup truck that appears in one quick scene is the most exciting part of the entire series.

Don’t remember? After squabbling over who is Andy’s favorite toy, Buzz and Woody tumble out of the family car on their way to Pizza Planet. Stranded, they find a rusty, yellow Pizza Planet delivery truck en route, which becomes an impromptu chariot that carries the duo on to one of many adventures.

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Four years ago, Marco Bongiorno was a college student working as a Disneyland photographer in Anaheim, Calif. He bought a blue 1988 Toyota pickup to create the most realistic Pizza Planet tribute truck the world had ever seen. Like many car fans, Bongiorno believes that his truck’s glory hinges on the minor details.

“We aren’t the first Pizza Planet truck out there,” he told The Drive. “But when we see others, we can’t help but nitpick about colors and things that aren’t true to the film.”

The primerless Maaco paint job marked the start of the truck’s journey. Then came the rocket sign, the identical white bed cap, intentional rust, the exact drink cup spotted in the cab—and an overheating issue. The truck was featured at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, a convention hosted by the official Disney fan club. There, the crew handed out their “YO” buttons, each clad with the truck’s iconic tailgate nomenclature.

Like the pickup itself, Bongiorno didn’t make the buttons for any reason other than he liked the idea. “Originally, it was built as a disposable spectacle,” he says of the truck. “But now we just like to inspire nostalgia. People really short circuit when they see it.”

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Apparently, so does Pixar—Toy Story’s creator and, since 2006, a subsidiary of Disney. Look carefully in nearly every Pixar film since 1995, and you’ll see the animated truck pop up randomly—not just for Toy Story sequels, but even inFinding Nemo and Wall-E.

Bongiorno’s dirt-clad Toyota makes rounds at southern California car shows, where it’s frequently mistaken for a food truck. Once parked, Bongiorno tells people not to lean on the show car, but it’s not informed by the typical garage-queen logic. “We’ll get back from the event and think, we’ve gotta put more dirt on because people wiped it all off,” he says.

Bongiorno hopes to drive his truck cross-country by the time Toy Story 4premieres in 2017, although he needs a new carburetor, muffler, hoses and must “weld the catalytic converter back into place,” according to his GoFundMe page. (To date, the old yellow pickup hasn’t smitten anyone to donate.)

But to answer the obvious, most important question: “We still haven’t delivered a pizza yet.”

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Fast & Furious, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

An automotive affair gets complicated.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


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The relationship between car fans and the Fast & Furious franchise is odd. Very odd. The promises forged in a modded Toyota Supra’s tire smoke have turned acrid, and the flame of our 14-year fling has begun to flicker. But if a Facebook post by actor/producer Vin Diesel is anything to go by, we’ve barely entered the franchise’s twilight.

Diesel posted recently that an additional trilogy would end the film series. Could we renew our vows? We’re not feeling very giving at the moment.

Our love started simple enough in 2001, with a soundtrack populated by the likes of Limp Bizkit and Ja Rule. A bottle-blond Paul Walker trotted into Vin Diesel’s grocery store and sat in the adjacent diner. A young Jordana Brewster looked up before asking, “Tuna on white, no crust?” The repartee that followed represented the coy flirting stage that would lead audiences into a deeper love affair containing various criminal investigations, contrived romances and explosions. Lots of explosions.

Gaggles of car obsessives gathered in theaters to watch their street-racer fantasies play out on the big screen. But as more Fast & Furious films were produced, the relationship began to turn. The order of events changed. Characters passed away and returned from the dead. Our relationship was growing complicated. We thought it was over, owing in no small part to the seventh installment’s tagline: “One last ride.” Paul Walker passed away tragically in 2013—halfway through the filming of Furious 7—and a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Walker’s daughter on Sept. 29 has turned attention to the franchise that its producers would probably like to deflect.

Since James Wan backed out after directing Furious 7, the series is left without a director, despite a reported April 2017 release date.

We groan as an audience with the announcement of three more movies. “Why does our partner keep doing this to us? They swore they would change!” It’s like Universal keeps manipulating this relationship. They know we’ll always come running back to see them, hoping to recapture the glimmer of our torrid romance in the early 2000s.

And they’re right. We will.

So what if the announcement cements the Fast & Furious franchise as the dad joke of car cinema? Who cares if the series is hell-bent on surpassing the sevenPolice Academy movies? That must be how these relationships mature. At a certain point, we must trade in our hot pants for sweatpants. It’s complex. It’s a roller coaster. It’s emotionally draining and expensive.

How expensive? More than you can afford, pal.

The Pride of the Ocean State

Lil’ Rhody is no Hollywood—just don’t tell Ben Hague that.

Sean McFarland

On the surface, Ben Hague looks like just another comedian trying to make it big in Manhattan—and it looks like he just might. He presents topical comedy effortlessly, stands before massive audiences with ease, and is confident in a way that almost makes you jealous. Although the RI-based comedian is beginning to make his mark in New York City, he’s not quite through with his work back home.

In Rhode Island, Hague leapfrogged from morning television, to drive-time radio, to headlining on the state’s comedy scene before taking his talents to the big city. Many in the Ocean State wondered if they’d ever see him again. But Ben made sure not to let his comedy career get in the way of his latest Rhode Island-based project. Getting Home is Hague’s first film, one that he not only wrote, but also starred in.

(Courtesy: Getting Home-The Film)
(Courtesy: Getting Home-The Film)

Because the short film follows a pair of soldiers on their last few days of service in Afghanistan as they fight to return to their base, Hague took the opportunity to extend the movie’s scope beyond the big screen. Operation Stand Down, a RI-based charity committed to supplying veterans with local housing, will see a portion of the Getting Home’s proceeds. So far, the movie has a bright future, debuting before a sold-out crowd in Newport in late September—all of which makes Hague question swapping his future in comedy for a future in filmmaking.

You’ve been a standup comedian for a while. What sparked the transition from that to executive producer and actor?

As a comic, you’re technically a writer, and I’ve always been fascinated with the drama side of stuff, and I went to school for that. But I honestly, personally, just needed a break from comedy. I was not in a really good place with my comedy at the time. I was sick of writing jokes every day and was just frustrated a little bit and needed something totally the opposite.

So you wrote a drama.

It opened up a part of my brain that I don’t use very often doing comedy. It was a challenge and it was just exciting—I was really excited to get up everyday and work on it.

What was the inspiration for the film?

Well I’m a big supporter of the military and both my grandfathers served, my cousins and uncles have served and to be honest, I always said to myself if I do a movie, I’d love to do a war movie.

Did you want the audience to leave the theater with a certain mentality?

I wanted them to leave with a thought of, “Wow, there are so many untold stories about our soldiers that are probably similar to this one that happen every single day.” Not every story is a Black Hawk Down or a Saving Private Ryan, sometimes it’s just like what I wrote: these two guys are just these young kids who talk about war and also the people that they left behind: the parents, their wives, their kids. The soldiers aren’t the only ones who go to war.

I agree. My father served in Desert Storm.

Yeah, so you know how it is, man. There are so many aspects of what happens when a soldier goes away. I really wanted to capture the isolation that these guys go through a story that’s truly believable.

When you were playing SGT Justin Carrier, did you learn anything from your character that took you by surprise?

No matter how tough these guys are, these guys are vulnerable. These guys have feelings. They do open up to their buddies. They do talk about their hopes and their dreams and seeing where they want to be when they get home, as opposed to just being these robots that are stuck out there to do their job. These are human beings.

Getting Home pairs up with Rhode Island’s own Operation Stand Down. How did that pairing come to fruition?

When I started writing the movie, I said we’d do some sort of premiere or something like that, and I wanted to team up with a charity. I decided to go with Operation Stand Down because it directly benefits soldiers from Rhode Island. 90% of the movie was shot in Rhode Island, a lot of the funds that we raised came from Rhode Island, and so I kind of wanted to keep it there.

You mentioned that you’d be pitching the film to festivals. Which ones exactly?

All the big ones. We’re going to send it to Sundance, Tribeca and see what happens. I think we’re going to do really well in some smaller ones, local festivals, whether it’s Newport, or Cape Cod, or smaller ones across the country. What we were able to do on our budget, you just don’t see in independent films. You watch any short and it’s two people sitting around chatting and it cost them $20,000 whereas for about $9,000-10,000, maybe $12,000 max, our film has helicopters in our movie, explosions, a cast and crew of twenty people—you just don’t see that.

I had ten or fifteen friends who came out to Quonset Air Base on a Sunday morning in the cold to put on shorts and a t-shirt to run army drills to be guys in the background. If they all said, “Eh screw this, I’m hungover, I’m staying in bed,” guess what? None of those scenes look as spectacular or as real or as believable.

(Courtesy: Getting Home-The Film)
(Courtesy: Getting Home-The Film)

On Facebook, you reached out to your followers to help find props, filming locations, even various crew positions. What was it like having that support?

People knew from the beginning, they could just tell how passionate I was about this project. People wanted to be involved. Rhode Island is unique like that where it’s so beyond supportive. If I were born anywhere else, this film would never have been made. That’s the bottom line.

What’s next for Ben Hague?

Standup will always be my first love and I will always use my standup to pay the bills and make a living. I took so much time away from that because this movie was just so time consuming, so I’m looking forward to getting out and writing a new hour of material.

But that being said, this film opened my eyes to what I want to college for, which was acting and writing. As much as I love doing standup, and I’ll always do standup, this opened my eyes to like, “Man, this is what you should be doing.” Every day was so exciting on set—I loved every minute of it.

Blues Brothers mayhem, distilled for the small screen

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.



The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, BBC Autos’ most recent Icons & Innovators subject, was the childhood equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle: simple, cheap and effective.

Children found the red and yellow plastic hardtop an easy vehicle for driveway exploration, and parents found it a surefire way to keep a child engaged. The Cozy Coupe was tough, too, able to withstand the occasionally destructive force that is a child’s imagination.

But the appeal of an automotive “smash ‘em up” does not wane just because a child grows older. When the US comedy The Blues Brothers hit theatres in 1980, it did so with a smash-and-crash storyline heavy on gratuitous automotive carnage. Cozy Coupes may be a tight squeeze nowadays, but even the most severe cases of Peter Pan syndrome can be soothed with this piece of escapism.

YouTube user Bricktease employed stop-motion video and Lego in a shot-for-shot recreation of the mall chase in the movie. Audiences everywhere could view the pursuit through an Illinois shopping centre as a celluloid facsimile of their childhood fantasies. Filming the sequence brought about the destruction of 103 cars in total, a record for films at the time.

This colourful Lego tribute matches the calamities of the chase all the way down to the scattering patrons. The cars slide and tumble through the mall with awful handling as the film’s main characters casually take in all the newest retail additions.

Not quite the same as a Cozy Coupe demolition derby, but it scratches an itch.