Last year, the McLaren F1 team joined forces with Framestore to develop Tooned – a cartoon about the adventures of McLaren’s drivers and fictional character Professor M voiced by Alexander Armstrong. The first series focused around Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and their hi-jinks around the McLaren Technology Centre, undermining Professor M at every given opportunity. Series two, which debuted this year, focuses on McLaren’s celebrations for their 50th anniversary, offering an alternative McLaren story.
Tooned is broadcast on Sky Sports F1 (and the first series is also available to buy on DVD) and premiered before the British Grand Prix in July 2012. Ron Dennis said of the series: “Motor racing can come across as quite cold and scientific, and at McLaren we’ve probably been accused of lacking humour in the past. But a lot of humour exists in F1, so this is about putting smiles on people’s faces.” The first series featured cameo roles from the likes of Mika Hakkinen, development driver Nyck de Vries, and Ron Dennis himself. Sergio Perez made a very brief appearance at the end of series one after it was announced that he would be replacing Hamilton at the team. Most episodes also feature the mechanics, who don’t speak but are also integral to the story and witness to the mischief Button and Hamilton get up to.
McLaren Group brand director, John Allert, told Marketing Magazine that Tooned was “an opportunity to stretch the demographic aperture of the brand, to bring it younger, and to also bring a self-effacing humour to a brand that hadn’t been particularly good at laughing at itself.” McLaren followed the Tooned series by launching merchanise in their store as well as the aforementioned DVD of the first series.
Series two has focused around McLaren celebrating their 50th anniversary. The story starts with Professor M hosting a special night with Button and Perez, telling the story of McLaren. However, there is another character on hand (voiced by Brian Cox) to share the ‘real story’. He starts by explaining how Bruce McLaren started the team in a shed and worked with a mechanic and a Kiwi before moving on to the team’s first world champion, Emerson Fittipaldi. While Professor M tells the story of Fittipaldi being known as “the Mouse”, the mysterious Scottish man suggests he was in fact a werewolf. Next up was James Hunt, or ‘Hunt, James Hunt’ national hero, voiced by his son Tom Hunt.
The Tooned series shows a lighter side to McLaren, combining humour and some cases of innuendo with stories from McLaren’s history with a twist.