Michael Wallis reprises his Sheriff of Radiator Springs role for PSA

Michael Wallis, author of “Route 66: The Mother Road” and other best-selling books, this week reprised what probably remains his best-known role — the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in the Disney-Pixar “Cars” animated movies — for a video about the dangers of texting and driving.

The video was shot with a replica of a 1949 Mercury Cruiser police car — a doppelganger of the Sheriff — in front of the Cars on the Route business in Galena, Kansas. Wallis autographed the car, which will be put on display on Route 66 near the historic Front Street Bridge that carries Route 66 into Galena.

According to the Joplin Globe, Wallis growled these words with his baritone voice for the PSA:

“There will be no runnin’, spittin’, lollygagging, no tractor tippin’ and no texting while you’re driving Don’t be a knucklehead. If you’re behind the wheel of a car or truck, you better have that cellphone elsewhere, hopefully, tucked in your pocket. It’ll only save your life is all.”

Those lines are an homage to the Sheriff giving instructions to Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson before an impromptu race on a dirt track in the 2006 movie “Cars,” the first of the animated series:

Galena High School students shot the video. It eventually will be uploaded to YouTube.

Here’s a report from the scene by KOAM-TV:


It sort of became full-circle visit by Wallis. Almost 20 years ago, he guided a Pixar crew into Galena for Route 66 research for “Cars.” Near a closed Kan-O-Tex gas station that later became Cars on the Route, one animator saw a 1951 International boom truck that became the inspiration for Tow Mater.

Wallis told the Globe:

“It was right here when I came from Joplin over that graceful bridge, I had all three vehicles stop and get out to soak up color. They would always get out, sketch, take photographs and soak up the ambiance. I started rolling around here, and lo and behold in this grassy lot, I come across this old rusty tow truck. I call up (‘Cars’) directors John Lasseter and Joe Ranft and said, ‘Gents, come up here.’ When they came up and saw that tow truck, their mouths fell open. I knew right then and there that vehicle would somehow be in the movie, and, of course, it was.”

The tow-truck story was documented in a “Cars” spin-off book “The Art of Cars.” The tow truck later was found in a field and brought to Cars on the Route, where it remains on display today.

(Screen-capture image from KOAM-TV video of Michael Wallis at the video shoot at Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas)

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