The “Round Wheels” segment features the show’s characters as, well, cars. They look not unlike several of Mattel’s Hot Wheels products that are made to resemble the heads of famous pop culture figures. The Planet Express ship is a multi-car playset, and the roads are bright orange connectable tracks. They can’t drive unless they roll down a hill to gain momentum. Anyone who has played with Hot Wheels (or who has a young child) will likely be very familiar with these conceits.
The story of the episode, however, has nothing to do with Hot Wheels. While Car Fry, Car Bender (John DiMaggio), Car Leela (Katey Sagal), and the other cars are watching car news on TV, the car newscasters announce that a mysterious video is circling the internet. Viewing the video will invite a mysterious and evil telephone call asking about your car’s extended warranty. The call also brainwashes the listener, hypnotizing them and leading them to drive to a mysterious garage in the middle of the city. It seems that the garage is actually a chop shop, a term that has a very different meaning in a world of living cars.
Horror fans the world over will handily recognize the imagery and the conceits borrowed from “The Ring,” a horror franchise that started its life as a Koji Suzuki novel in 1991 and has spawned 14 feature films in both Japan and the United States. Gore Verbinski’s 2002 U.S. film version of “The Ring” was about a haunted VHS videocassette that contained a surreal, terrifying short film. After someone watched it, they received a phone call informing them, via creepy whisper, that they had seven days to live.
There is no connection between “The Ring” and car toys.