Who is Fillmore, you ask? Voiced by George Carlin in the Cars franchise, Fillmore is the “hippie” Volkswagon van that makes a few appearances in the movies. You might see him if you stop by Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and stroll into the Cars section.
But, did you know that Fillmore was almost “Waldmire?”
The Answer Lies in Pontiac, IL
A visit to Pontiac, IL helps tell the story. Pontiac, IL is a city that has truly embraced Route 66. Located about 90 minutes or so southwest of Chicago, the city’s downtown is filled with murals painted by the Walldogs. The Walldogs were a group of traveling artists back in Route 66’s heyday that would exchange their artistic services (typically painting an outdoor advertising mural) for room and board.
The photos below were provided by the Illinois Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Visit Pontiac, IL. Special thanks to Ellie Alexander, Liz Vincent and Mary Jones for their assistance in this article.
In the City of Pontiac, one of these murals honors the artist Bob Waldmire. Waldmire not only was an artist, but he was a preservationist, naturalist and icon. His work is highlighted in the city’s Illinois Route 66 Association Hall of Fame, which contains “The Bob Waldmire Experience” exhibit and his unique Road Yacht home (pictured below).
The Background of Bob Waldmire
Bob Waldmire was born in St. Louis, IL. He grew up a little bit further north on Route 66 in Springfield, IL. His family ran the Cozy Dog restaurant and forever changed the world by inventing the corn dog. He spent most of his time on the road, drawing the landscapes and selling them as postcards and maps. He told the Chicago Tribune that “The reason I became a traveling artist was to avoid having a real job. It was about being free to move. Wanderlust.” In 2004, he was awarded the National Historic Route 66 Federation’s John Steinbeck Award for contributions to the preservation of “The Mother Road.”
He even spent some of his life operating a Welcome Center in Hackberry, AZ.
The mural honoring Bob Waldmire showcases the artistic style for which he was known. He actually started the design of this mural before has passed in 2009, and his family and 500 friends helped to finish the artwork and make it a true memorial. The mural is aptly 66 feet in length, showcasing the entire route. If you stand close enough to the mural, you will notice hundreds of handprints. Each person that worked on the mural and felt that they had been touched by Bob’s art left a hand print. The mural was completed in 2011.
The van that was the inspiration for Fillmore is actually inside Pontiac’s Route 66 Hall of Fame. It’s an orange colored 1972 VW Camper Van.
(And, in case you’re wondering, an original table from the first Steak ‘n Shake is in the bottom-left corner of the photo that’s above.)
Why is it “Fillmore” and not “Waldmire?”
Pixar sent a letter to Bob Waldmire, requesting the use of his name (which we have included a picture of below). You’ll note that Bob crossed out a lot of the verbiage in the letter of agreement.
So, what was crossed out? We actually have a copy of the original letter as well.
So, why was the character named “Fillmore” and not “Waldmire?”
The short answer, Happy Meals.
Waldmire was a vegan and knew of Disney’s commercialization. He did not want Waldmire toys being given out in McDonald’s Happy Meals. Inside the Hall of Fame in “The Bob Waldmire Experience,” a copy of Waldmire’s letter to Disney stating his requests in exchange for using his name in the movie.
As you can imagine, his proposal was not accepted. That is why George Carlin’s van is named Fillmore, not Waldmire.
- Route 66 Hall of Fame, Pontiac, IL
- St. Louis Post Dispatch – Route 66 icon was inspiration for ‘Cars’ character, Joe Williams
- Chicago Tribune – Bob Waldmire: 1945-2009, obituary
- State Journal Register – Bob Waldmire: An Ethical Vegetarian
- Fillmore, Flickr User Jared422, Flickr Creative Commons, License
- All other photos, Visit Pontiac, IL and Illinois Route 66 Association Hall of Fame, Used with Permission
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