The toy company Mattel had just introduced Hot Wheels in the late ‘60s. Prudhomme and McEwen pitched them the idea of reproducing their yellow Baracuda and red Duster as toy cars. In turn Mattel saw a great advertising opportunity for their brand right on the drivers’ cars.
“The first major non-automotive sponsorship in drag racing was born,” said Robin Broidy, one of the producers of “Snake & Mongoo$e.” “It revolutionized all sports marketing. It also put drag racing on the map. Until then it was sort of a down-and-dirty underground sport. The moment the family-friendly Mattel got involved, it became mainstream enough for everyone else.”
Indeed, after that drag racing became a fixture on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” Corporate sponsorships and the added exposure brought enough money to the sport that drivers could now do it for a living and the cars could be made safer. The Mattel deal is one of Broidy’s favorite parts of the movie.
“If you have a dream, the only way for it to be achieved is to go for it,” she said of its underlying message. “If you’re just dreaming about it, it’s never going to happen. But if you have the courage to try it, the worst that could happen is you get rejected.”
But there’s also plenty of racing in “Snake & Mongoo$e.” Principal filming was done in Los Angeles and at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. Producers had to use special effects to depict some tracks that no longer exist. There’s also a lot of 8- and 16-mm archival footage of historic drag races that was digitized and color corrected for the film.
“It was quite a process,” Broidy said. “The good news is people have never seen archival footage that looks like this. Everyone I’m hearing loves how it’s integrated into the film so seamlessly.”