Touring truckstops with “Cliff”

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John is not your typical Hollywood type. He brings energy, wit and insight that we hope will help inform viewers across the country that we are an excellent choice for stopping while on the interstate and inform the general public about what truck stops and truckers are all about.” –Tom O’Brien, president, CEO, and managing director of truckstop chain TravelCenters of America, on hiring actor John Ratzenberger for a series of promotional videos

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If the name John Ratzenberger isn’t familiar to you, maybe Clifford C. Calvin Jr. is – the character Ratzenberger portrayed over 11 seasons on the hit TV series Cheers. Or, perhaps, you know him more for his voice-over work for a multitude of characters populating almost every Pixar-Disney animated film made to this point.

(My favorite is Ratzenberger’s rendition of “Mack” the Mack Truck in the movie Cars.)

Now, Ratzenberger is taking on a new persona – that of “tour guide” for the TravelCenters of America national chain of truckstops. In a series of promotional videos being widely disbursed on YouTube, Ratzenberger plays himself as a sort of “man on the highway,” visiting various TravelCenter TA and Petro Stopping Centers branded locations, informing viewers of the various amenities and services offered but also meets with customers and employees for their unique perspectives of the highway and the passion for what they do.

[You can view the first in this series of three six to eight minute videos below – shot at a Petro facility in Wheeler Ridge, Calif. – produced by Magnetic North Films of St. Louis, Mo.]

Tom O’Brien, president, CEO, and managing dirtector of TravelCenters, said these videos are part of a “grass-roots” education effort to foster the respect and admiration for the American trucker and truckstops to the general public, as well as within the transportation community. “By employing these videos on our web site, Facebook pages and YouTube links, we can spread the word via today’s hottest communication venues,” he explained.

Ratzenberger, however, isn’t just any typical “hired gun” in all this, as he has some strong connections to the trucking industry. He grew up in Bridgeport, Conn., as the son of a truck driver and though he went on to pursue an acting career all over the globe, working in wide a variety of genres across the big and small screen, he remained very close to his roots.

[On of my favorite characters Ratzenberger came up with is “Bill Towner: Electrician & Adventurer” for the 1987 humorous horror movie House II: The Second Story.]

For example, several years ago, Ratzenberger worked on a documentary series called Made in America, which examined different manufacturing industries and the important role they played in U.S. history – a testament, in Ratzenberger’s own words, to the community where he was raised and that are all too rapidly fading from the American landscape.

Whether these videos produce the intended effect – driving more traffic to TA and Petro truckstop locations – remains to be seen. One thing’s for certain, though – these videos will certainly provide an entertaining look at the hardy truckstop and the people using their services every day out on the highway.

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