Bob Barbieri is one of the producers of "Road Icons: The Wacky World of Productmobiles" and we spoke with him recently about his upcoming production.
FF: What gave you the idea to do this documentary?
BB: Our company, Versa Video, is based in Santa Barbara, CA. Some years ago, we were hired by a mid-west ad agency to document the construction of the Pfizer Revolution Mobile, which was being built to promote a pet care product.
The Revolution Mobile was designed and built by Prototype Source, also of Santa Barbara. Over time, we shot footage of other vehicles being fabricated at Prototype, and the more we shot, the more we thought the subject of productmobiles would make an interesting subject for a documentary.
We knew the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile always received wide media coverage, but what other vehicles were out there, and who was building them? So were started making calls, and found the agencies that did the mobile marketing programs for the vehicles, and we worked with them and sometimes directly with the product manufacturers, like Zippo and Oscar Mayer.
FF: How hard was it to track down and research all these vehicles?
BB: Fortunately, the product manufacturer is emblazoned on the side of any given vehicle, so they weren’t too hard to track down. Sometimes finding the right person to speak to took a number of calls, but once we connected, we found that everyone was supportive and enthusiastic about the project. Research came from a wide variety of sources: the manufacturers, interviews with team members and builders, old magazine articles, and the internet came in handy as well.
Once we had a plan in place, we started the process of tracking vehicle schedules, and then meeting up with the productmobiles and their crews in various cities. At first we went to locations that were relatively close to us, like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but then we needed to go wider if we really wanted to get all the productmobiles on the road. So we did a cross-country tour to get as much footage as possible, and the states visited included Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. Along the way, we interviewed productmobile “ambassadors”, builders and fans, and also shot a lot of driving footage using a special rig with a remote pan/tilt head for our camera that utilized a broadcast Canon image stabilization lens.
FF: Which vehicles are included and what are your favorites?
BB: Some of the vehicles included in the documentary are the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile (classic), Mini-Wienermobile (built on a Mini-Cooper S), Spammobile, Meow Mix Mobile, Zippo Car, Dunkin’ Donuts Great One, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, Turtle Transit’s Elvis and Rhino, Planters Nutmobile (aka Mr. Peanut’s Hotrod), Tonka’s Mighty Dump Truck, Kellogg’s Tonymobile, and the Hersheys Kissmobile. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the Goldfish is always a great crowd-pleaser with those giant sunglasses and that huge smile.
FF: Were there any vehicles you wanted to include but could not?
BB: One vehicle that was no longer on the road at the time we were shooting was the Eckrich Fun House, so that didn’t make the cut. Pace Picante Salsa had a unique Chuckwagon we wanted to include in the program. We caught up with it in Las Vegas at a national rodeo event, and the next day we were going to shoot all the driving footage of the vehicle and interview the crew.
When we went to the van in the morning, it had been broken into, and a significant amount of our gear had been stolen, including our remote pan/tilt head and stabilization lens and other crucial items. So we postponed the shoot and made plans to catch up with the Chuckwagon at a later date, but for various reasons we could never connect with them again. So that was one that definitely got away!
For more information about the documentary check out the website: