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Many characters and places in the movie are directly inspired by real Route 66 places and people.

To quote the Pixar crew:

"As we traveled on Route 66, we were privileged to visit many places and to meet a number of people who live and work alongside 'The Mother Road'. The following is a list of the places and people we wanted to honor by including their names in our 'Special Thanks' credits at the end of the film.

Among the many references to Route 66 landmarks and personalities:

The Cozy Cone Motel's design is based on the two Wigwam Motels along Route 66, in Holbrook, Arizona and Rialto, California. These were once two out of seven built motels, with individual cabins shaped like teepees. Three Wigwam Motels remain; the third (and oldest) is in Cave City, Kentucky, far from Route 66. The recently restored Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, Texas, south of Houston, is of similar design but unrelated. The name "Cozy Cone" was inspired by the Cozy Dog Drive-In of Springfield, Illinois, which lays claim to being birthplace of the corn dog. The character "Fillmore", referring to the famous San Francisco music venue The Fillmore, was at one time to be named "Waldmire" after Bob Waldmire, a self-proclaimed hippie artist known to Rt. 66 fans for his detailed pen-and-ink maps and postcards of the route. Though Waldmire's family owns the Cozy Dog Drive-In, Bob, having since become a vegan, preferred not to see his name put on a character that would become a McDonald's Happy Meal toy. Ramone's House of Body Art is based primarily on the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas. It opened in 1936 as Tower Conoco (from its distinctive Art Deco spire) with the U-Drop Inn Cafe and a retail building attached. Many other establishments built along Route 66 in its heyday had Art Deco elements that might be reflected in the design of Ramone's. The yellow billboard for Lizzie's Curio Shop reading "HERE IT IS" with an image of a Model T is based on the Jack Rabbit Trading Post signage in Joseph City, Arizona. Sheriff is voiced by Michael Wallis, an American historian and author of Route 66: The Mother Road.

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