The film was met with generally positive reviews. Despite earning $282.5 million on a $127 million budget, the studio had to take a total of $15.6 million write-down on behalf of the film. A television series based on the film, titled Turbo FAST (Fast Action Stunt Team), was put into production a year before the film's release, and it first aired on Netflix on December 24, 2013.
In a suburban San Fernando Valley garden in Los Angeles, Theo, a.k.a. Turbo, is a garden snail who dreams of being the greatest racer in the world, just like his hero, 5-time Indy 500 winner, Guy Gagné. His obsession with speed and all things fast has made him an outcast in the slow and cautious snail community, and a constant embarrassment to his older brother, Chet. Turbo desperately wishes he could escape the slow-paced life he's living, but his one chance to live proves a near fatal disaster when he tries to recover a prize tomato and needs to be rescued by Chet.
Demoralized, Turbo wanders onto a freeway to admire the traffic and wishes he was fast on the first star (which is actually an airplane light). Suddenly, he gets into a freak accident when he gets sucked into the supercharger of a drag racer, fusing his DNA with nitrous oxide. The next day, when Theo wakes up, he now possesses incredible speed and accuracy, as well as some characteristics of an actual car. Unfortunately, Turbo's first attempt to show this power off ends with him crashing a Big Wheel tricycle into the garden, getting himself and Chet fired from the garden crew by their foreman.
As the siblings quarrel over Turbo's problems, Chet is snatched by a crow, but is pursued and rescued by Turbo at a run down strip mall called Starlight Plaza. There, they are captured by Tito, a "Dos Bros" taco truck driver, and are brought to a snail race held by him and his co-workers. Theo astounds both humans and snails alike and earns the respect of the snails, led by Whiplash, with his crew members Smoove Move, Burn, Skidmark, and White Shadow, who have skills of their own. Inspired by this extraordinary snail, Tito dreams to revive the strip mall with Turbo as an attraction, and eventually with the help of the snails who manage to divert and strand a tour bus and drum up impressive business. At this success, Theo convinces Tito to enter him in the Indianapolis 500 as a competitor. While Tito's brother, Angelo, still declines to support him, the neighbors agree to put up the entrance fee and accompany them to Indianapolis.
Once there, Tito is refused entry into the race, but a chance meeting with Guy Gagné gives Turbo a chance to show off his speed, astounding the audience and the racers and qualifies for the race. This impossible feat soon becomes a sensation on social media and the CEO gives in to the pressure, egged on by Gagné himself, to let the snail compete. However, the night before the race, Turbo is demoralized by Gagné, while Chet confesses that he cannot bear to see his brother endanger himself. Undeterred, Turbo enters the race the next day, but the dangerous racetrack and the more experienced competitors leave him trailing in last place. At a pitstop, Whiplash and his crew give Turbo a vital pep talk, advising him to stop racing like a car. Back in the race, Turbo realizes what they mean and uses his small size to his advantage. With the snail rapidly gaining in the standings, Gagné starts racing dirty and manages to knock Turbo against the circuit wall, damaging his shell and weakening his speed powers.
Eventually, in the final stretch with Turbo in the lead, Gagné tries a desperate maneuver to beat the snail and gets into a major crash that snares most of the competitors in a major pileup. Similarly, Turbo is thrown, waking up from unconsciousness with his shell punctured and his speed gone. Alarmed at seeing Turbo giving up, Chet puts himself into incredible dangers to meet up with Whiplash's crew to get to the racer. Seeing his brother and the crew arrive on crows to encourage him to continue, Turbo resumes the race. Unfortunately, Gagné, refusing to lose, single-mindedly pursues him by dragging his wrecked car in an attempt to win. At the last second, Chet tells Turbo to tuck and roll into his shell before Gagné tries stepping on him, and the force allows him to tumble past the finish line to win. Gagné is then attacked by Kim-Ly before being disqualified for cheating.
At this victory, Starlight Plaza becomes a major attraction with all the businesses becoming spectacular successes including extremely elaborate snail races with Whiplash's crew getting special propulsion aids for their shells, while Chet is content with his new job as the track referee and paramedic. As for Turbo, he becomes happier discovering that his shell has healed, and with that, his superspeed has returned.Ryan Reynolds as Theo/Turbo, a garden snail who dreams of becoming a racer and the next Indianapolis 500 champion.Paul Giamatti as Chet, Turbo's older brother.Michael Peña as Tito Lopez, a "Dos Bros" taco truck driver who finds and befriends Turbo.Snoop Dogg as Smoove Move, a flexible snail.Maya Rudolph as Burn, a snail.Michelle Rodriguez as Paz, a car mechanic at Starlight Plaza.Samuel L. Jackson as Whiplash, the leader of the Starlight Plaza Snail crew.Luis Guzmán as Angelo Lopez, Tito's brother and a "Dos Bros" taco truck driver.Bill Hader as Guy Gagné, a French-Canadian Indy 500 champion.Richard Jenkins as Bobby, a shopkeeper at a hobby store in Starlight Plaza who makes custom snail shells.Ken Jeong as Kim-Ly, an elderly manicurist at Starlight Plaza.Ben Schwartz as Skidmark, Whiplash's "feisty #2".Kurtwood Smith as Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEOMichael Patrick Bell as White Shadow, a white snail.Dario Franchitti as Scottish Anchor, Male TouristWill Power as Australian AnchorMario Andretti as an Indianapolis Motor Speedway Traffic DirectorPaul Page as Announcer #1Chris Parnell as Announcer #2Paul Dooley as Snail ForemanChris Miller as Tour Bus DriverLloyd Sherr as Spanish DJ
Turbo was directed by first-time director, David Soren, who also came up with the idea for the film. It all started when DreamWorks Animation organized a competition for all employees to pitch a one-page idea. The night before, Soren conceptualized Fast & Furious with snails, and won the competition. The studio bought the idea, and let it "simmer" for more than five years. When Soren and his family moved into a new home with a backyard infested with snails, he pushed for the idea and "got it back on the fast track." Soren explained why he chose snails: "For me, it was less about trying to make a racing movie and more about finding an underdog that I could really latch onto. I think that a snail is inherently an underdog. It's smashed, eaten by people, the butt of slow jokes around the world. It just seemed loaded with obstacles. Obviously, the opposite of slow is fast, and that's where racing came into the picture." For the racing side of the film, Soren was inspired by his six-year-old son's fascination with race cars.
DreamWorks Animation partnered with Hulman & Company, parent company of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League, LLC (the organisation that sanctions the IZOD IndyCar Series) to make the racing as authentic as possible. Dario Franchitti, four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion, was a technical consultant on the film, giving advice how Turbo should navigate the speed and competition through the eyes of a snail.
Turbo had its world premiere on June 24, 2013, at the CineEurope film distributors' trade fair in Barcelona, Spain. It was theatrically released in the United States on July 17, 2013. Turbo was originally scheduled for a July 19, 2013, release, but DreamWorks Animation moved the release up by two days.
In Chile, this film was the first feature film to play in the 4DX motion format, featuring strobe lightning, motion, wind, water sprays, and aroma effects, which premiered at a Cine Hotys theater in La Reina.
Turbo was released digitally on October 22, 2013, having in its first week the highest box office to digital unit ratio for DreamWorks Animation. It was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on November 12, 2013. The Blu-ray and DVD comes with a Turbo toy. As of February 2015, 6.3 million home entertainment units were sold worldwide.
A video game based on the film, titled Turbo: Super Stunt Squad, was released on July 16, 2013 on Wii U, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Published by D3 Publisher, the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U versions were developed by Monkey Bar Games. The Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS versions were developed by Torus Games. In the game, a crew of characters has to perform stunts to build up their skills and win challenges. The game received negative reviews from critics with Metacritic giving the PS3 version a 38/100. It was the last DreamWorks Animation game to be published by D3 Publisher and also the last DreamWorks Animation game to be released on Nintendo DS.
A free mobile game titled Turbo Racing League was developed by PikPok and was released on May 16, 2013, for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8 devices. Played as a snail, the game allows players to race against time and collect tomatoes to earn upgrades. Verizon Wireless sponsored a competition with a total of $1 million in cash prizes – the largest sum for a mobile game to date – in which competitors had to achieve daily goals or collect enough tomatoes to unlock access to the weekly contest. The competition, which ran for eight weeks from May 16 through July 7, 2013, awarded the 10 fastest racers of each week up to $25,000, while the winner of the week was invited to the Grand Finale Race Event, which took place in Los Angeles on July 17, 2013, to earn the title of Turbo Racing League Champion and earn $250,000. In its first ten weeks, the game was downloaded more than 20 million times, and was the most downloaded racing application during the time.
Turbo received generally positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, reported a 67% approval rating with an average rating of 6.1/10 based on 106 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "It's nowhere near as inventive as its off-the-wall premise might suggest, but Turbo boasts just enough colorful visual thrills and sharp voice acting to recommend as undemanding family-friendly fare." Another review aggregation website Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 58 out of 100 based on 30 reviews. The film earned an "A" from general audiences polled by CinemaScore, and an "A+" from audiences under age 18.
Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying "Co-writer/director David Soren's story offers little that even the average 6-year-old couldn't imagine, though the film's considerable charm comes through via its characters and sense of humor." Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B, saying "While there's no denying that the film is a harmless, wholesome, and heart-warming ride crafted with polish and skill, it's also so predictable that you'll see every twist in the story driving down Fifth Avenue." Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Let’s just say there are no surprises here, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in a film that’s aimed mostly at the under-10 set. Mercifully, the characters and the comedy are just sophisticated enough to keep their minders from drifting off." Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic gave the film three out of five stars, saying "There’s certainly no harm in seeing “Turbo.” Competent, pretty funny in places, awfully nice to look at, that sort of thing. There’s just not a lot of excitement, though." Rafer Guzman of Newsday gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Turbo" has just enough heart to make it to the winner's circle." Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "This good-natured but generic animated tale of a puny garden snail with huge dreams has some appealing characters, a few laughs and then devolves into a predictable Tortoise and the Hare spinoff.'
A.O. Scott The New York Times gave the film three out of five stars, saying "Even in the absence of originality, there is fun to be had, thanks to some loopy, clever jokes and a lively celebrity voice cast." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave the film three and a half stars out of five, saying "Honestly, they pretty much had me at "racing snails." Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Turbo's colourful trek to product placement-littered Indianapolis is as rote as it gets, but little viewers won't care about predictability." David Hiltbrand of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Let's face it: Kids aren't a very demanding audience. If there's color, movement, and a high quotient of silliness, they're happy." Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a negative review, saying "After the originality of the hero, the filmmakers borrow too heavily from other movies; the similarities to Ratatouille and Cars are almost distracting." Laremy Legel of Film.com gave the film an 8.5 out of 10, saying "Turbo" is the sort of film that should work extremely well for folks who are interested in it. It lives up to expectations, even often exceeding them, though it’s a shame it’s unlikely to find much of a cross-over audience."
Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gave the film three out four stars, saying "Turbo" isn't a perfect cartoon, but it's so likable that, like its humble hero, you have to root for it." Moira MacDonald of The Seattle Times gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Ultimately, "Turbo" nicely lives up to its diminutive hero's credo of, "No dream is too big, and no dreamer too small" - a pleasant thought, for people of all sizes." Jen Chaney of The Washington Post gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying “Turbo” is a derivative but nevertheless good-hearted movie that’s peppered with enough clever touches to engage adults as well as moviegoers of the smaller, squirmier variety." Joe Neumaier of New York Daily News gave the film three out of five stars, saying "Families who have already raced to Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 will find “Turbo” an acceptable third-place finisher. A sort-of escargot-meets-“Cars” adventure, it has some sharp vocal turns and remains fun even when its inventiveness runs out of gas." Tom Russo of The Boston Globe gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "While Disney seems to actively court entertainment headlines every time it gives us a new princess of color, here there’s no fuss, just a fully realized cartoon world that happens to be made up of the places and diverse faces found around an urban strip mall."
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "An attractively designed but narratively challenged, one-note film." David Fear of Time Out gave the film two out of five stars, saying "All Turbo does is give Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Samuel L. Jackson and Snoop Dogg the easiest paychecks they'll ever make, and its corporate overlords the chance to sell a few toys." Nell Minow of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a B+, saying "The movie gets a bit slow, with too much time spent on the human characters, who are dreary and underwritten, compared to the big dreams of the little snail. But the film picks up when the racing snails come back onscreen, thanks to the adorable character design, with expressive use of those googly eyes, and especially to the voice talent." A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a B–, saying "For all its chronic familiarity, the movie has its minor pleasures, many of them visual. Though at this point it's basically a given that a new studio-animated movie will look good, Turbo often looks downright exceptional." R. Kurt Osenlund of Slant Magazine gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "As a film about social issues, and simply being yourself, it's commendably progressive, going so far as serving as a kind of coming-out story."
Turbo grossed $83,028,128 in North America and $199,542,554 in other countries for a worldwide total of $282,570,682. The film cost $127 million to produce and DreamWorks Animation spent over $150–175 million to market it. Although, the film had one the lowest grosses in the history of DreamWorks Animation, forcing the company to take a $13.5 million writedown, Turbo franchise, which includes the Netflix television series Turbo FAST, is still expected to be profitable.
In North America, on its opening day, the film earned $5.8 million in 3,552 theaters. The film went to number 3 in its first weekend with $21,312,625, behind The Conjuring and Despicable Me 2, making this the third lowest all-time opening for a DreamWorks Animation computer-animated film, or adjusted for inflation and 3D prices, the lowest ever for a DWA CG film. Turbo's domestic performance was a disappointment for DreamWorks Animation, which had expectation for their films to be "$150 million, $200 million grossing movies." Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation's CEO, attributed less than expected gross to the bad release date, set in the middle of over-crowded summer marketplace, having an original film compete with five other animated films ― by about 100% more than before.
The film opened at number one in 32 territories. It became one of the top dozens animated films of all time in China, Korea and Venezuela.
On February 25, 2014, Jeffrey Katzenberg announced that the studio would have to take a $13.5 million write-down on the film, claiming that it "fell short of our expectations", particularly in key international markets. This marked the second film in two years that DreamWorks Animation has lost money on, after Rise of the Guardians. On October 29 it was revealed that DreamWorks had taken a further $2.1 million loss on the film, due to its poor performance in international markets.
Turbo: Music from the Motion Picture is the soundtrack of the film. Henry Jackman composed the original music for the film, which was released on July 16, 2013 by Relativity Music Group. The soundtrack with an additional 11 songs was released on the deluxe edition. Snoop Dogg, who voiced one of the characters in the film, also contributed to the soundtrack with an original song titled "Let the Bass Go", which was played over the closing credits. According to Dogg, the song is "something upbeat that everyone in the house can enjoy. I'm on my old-school rap style there: we took sounds from the Eighties like an 808 bass to give it that 'Planet Rock' and 'Going Back to Cali' feel. It was about paying homage, while at the same time taking the movie to the next level."
All music composed by Henry Jackman, except where noted.
A flash-animated television series, titled Turbo FAST (Fast Action Stunt Team), debuted exclusively on Netflix on December 24, 2013, when the first five episodes of the first 26-episode season were released, with subsequent episodes following around holidays throughout 2014. As the first original Netflix series for children, it is available in United States and in the 40 countries where Netflix offers its service. Picking up where the films has left off, the series follows Turbo and his crew on their worldwide exploits while mastering new stunts and competing with villains. A total of 56 11-minute episodes will be produced by DreamWorks Animation Television, with production services provided by Titmouse. A large part of the production is outsourced to South Korea, which marks the first time for DreamWorks Animation to outsource to the country. The series is directed by Mike Roush, executive produced by Chris Prynoski, and features Reid Scott as the voice of Turbo, John Eric Bentley as Whiplash, Grey DeLisle-Griffin as Burn, Phil LaMarr as Smoove Move, Amir Talai as Skidmark and Tito, Eric Bauza as Chet, and Ken Jeong, who reprises his role of Kim Ly.