Thursday, September 13, 2012

Toon Sports: Hot Wheels (1969)

Independent producer Ken Snyder and his Pantomime Pictures first came on the scene with Roger Ramjet in 1965, so why did it take so long to produce another series?

While that question might never be answered, Snyder more than made up for his in absentia by returning in 1969 with 2 series, both sold to ABC. A ways back, we reviewed Skyhawks. Now, we turn our attention to what would be the last series Snyder would ever sell to the networks.

Part of the reason you don't see reruns of Hot Wheels anywhere is that the series ended up being one season and done, due in large part to complaints lodged with the Federal Communications Commission alleging that the show was a glorified infomercial for Mattel's namesake toy line. It didn't matter that there was also a comic book based on the show that came out around the same time, published by DC. In an ironic twist, legendary artist Alex Toth, who'd done character designs for Hanna-Barbera, was one of the artists associated with the book.

Years pass, and a new version of Hot Wheels, more closely associated with the toy line than the original, is currently airing on Cartoon Network. You'd think CN would find it within themselves to locate and acquire the original, just to run it on Boomerang, but no. The suits are a wee bit skittish when it comes to passing coin to find some shows that haven't seen the light of day in forever. They go el scrimpo instead.

For a while, there were some excerpts from certain episodes available on YouTube, but those clips apparently were pulled some time back. Muttley16, though, offers up the open, with theme music composed & performed by Mike Curb and his band, the Curbstones, who did the same for Skyhawks and also contributed music to another ABC frosh, Hanna-Barbera's Cattanooga Cats.

Mattel, I assume, owns the rights to the series, and probably had some leverage to take the excerpts off YouTube. I'm begging them to consider releasing this show on DVD, as it'll approach its 45th anniversary in 2014.

Rating: B-.


magicdog said...

I'd never seen this show, but I'd heard of it and how "exploitative" it was as a "30 minute commercial".

Funny how no one seemed to have a problem with "30 minute commercials" when action figures were turned into shows (He-Man) or video games received shows of their own (Pac Man, et al).

What was the premise of the show anyway? Guys racing around the world?

The next best thing we have now is a spiritual successor of sorts... "Motorcity", airing on Disney XD. Despite the vastly different premise, it celebrates the automobile and the animation is a joy to behold!

Geed said...

Found some episodes of Hot Wheels on bootleg dvd at a con once and thought they were great. I laugh when they say it was a "30 minute commercial" because they never even say the names of the vehicles and it's not like the characters had action figures.

hobbyfan said...

My own memory of the show is rather hazy (hey, I was 6 when it aired), and, as you note, Geed, it was never intended to be an infomercial for the toys. It was the perception of whomever it was that whined and cried to the FCC about it.

Magicdog: In the 80's, the rules changed, especially with shows like He-Man & GI Joe airing in syndication, where they weren't beholden to the restrictions the networks had to deal with. Haven't seen Motorcity yet, have read about it, but we'll deal with the more recent Hot Wheels toons down the line as well.

Michael DAntonio said...

The cartoon was about rival car clubs competing. It never mentioned toys - die cast ro otherwise. The decision by the FCC to remove it was wrong.
The dvd should be released so we can purchase it. It was a very informative cartoon. I have a few of the episodes.

Syad Abdur Razzaq Ali said...

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hobbyfan said...

Michael: I agree that there should be a DVD release to mark the 45th anniversary. Mattel, though, may have the final say on that. Some episodes have turned up on YouTube since I first wrote this piece.

Syad: Anything further to add?

Michael Fawver said...

Growing up in that era, I remember the Cartoon well. I would Love to have it on a DVD set!

hobbyfan said...

Well, the series turns 50 next year. Maybe Mattel should consider the DVD?