Television stars are often born in obscurity. We first met Bart
Simpson, for instance, in throwaway vignettes on The Tracey
Ullman Show. Just as that 1980s variety program launched The
Simpsons, the Web is introducing us in snippets to the title
clan of an animated race car series, The Kellys (whose
characters are shown below). Created by SportsBlast, a company
founded by Nancy Cartwright--the voice of Bart--the series
debuted on Sept. 26 on nascar.com, on which a three- to
four-minute episode premieres each Friday and is then archived
on the site.
The Kellys, which mixes drama and comedy, tells the story of a
NASCAR family in transition. Racing veteran Joe Kelly has
recently retired to manage his own team, but his lead driver and
oldest son, Denny, has a knack for finding trouble on the track.
Desperate, Joe brings in egomaniacal Italian Formula One driver
Armani, all the while fighting off the claims of his daughter,
Trish, that she's the best driver available. The series, which
operates best in Shockwave Flash, will run until the end of the
NASCAR season, in November, and is expected to resume when the
2002 season begins in February. If it catches on, it might spin
off into a Saturday-morning television series.
Cartwright, who's the voice of seven-year-old Chip Kelly, formed
SportsBlast a year and a half ago after determining that sports
was a relatively untapped area of animation. She and her team of
writers have immersed themselves in NASCAR culture, hanging
around the pits at numerous events and two weeks ago even taking
the high-powered cars for a spin at California Speedway. "Oh, it
was awesome, man," says the 40-year-old Cartwright in her best
Bart-ese. "I left my writers in the dust."