Sunday, November 11, 2012

Toon Sports: Speed Racer (1966)

As part of the first wave of Japanese anime to land in the United States in the mid-60's, Speed Racer has turned out to be the most enduring of those franchises, such that there have been revivals over the last 20 years, including an ill-fated live-action feature film adaptation that laid an egg at the box office in 2008.

Most of you probably know the story. Speed, or Go Mifune as he's known in the original Japanese version, enters a race against the wishes of his father, and unbeknownst to both, the original Mach 5's windshield includes some secret plans that Pops had developed. So, of course that means some cloak & dagger action with enemy spies.

Speed's younger brother, Spritle, and his pet monkey, Chim Chim, provided comedy relief, more than anything, setting the stage for similar comedy sidekicks to be introduced in the US in later years. Trixie was Speed's faithful girlfriend, but hardly a damsel in distress. In fact, a few years ago, GEICO took a clip from the show, with Trixie in her helicopter, and redubbed new dialogue to fit the sponsor. Silly stuff. Around the same time, Nicktoons had introduced a follow-up series, Speed Racer: The Next Generation. By this point, Speed, Trixie, & Spritle are all grown up, and it's assumed (since I never saw this show) that Speed & Trixie finally got married. Unfortunately, this, along with a 1993 revival, were done without the authorization of the Japanese producers who introduced the franchise all the way back in 1966.

Speed has made his way through a few cable networks, including MTV, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and, finally and appropriately, Fox's Speed channel, which was the last network to hold the rights to the classic series.

Treadwell Jay uploaded the original open/close dating back to when the series first arrived in America in 1967. What you don't know is that the theme is performed by the country music group, Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass.

Dexter's Laboratory famously parodied Speed in the 90's in the episode, "Mock 5", with Dee Dee in the Racer X costume (as Racer D). Gotta remember to pull that one up sometime.

Rating: B-.


magicdog said...

Speed was one of my first cartoon crushes! I didn't know animated guys could be so handsome!

I used to watch it coutesy of a UHF station in the NYC Metropolitan area. I used to get frustrated because many two parter episodes were not continued the next day, despite the fact it aired 5 days a week! It's what lead to my first inclination to write a complaint letter to the station!

I've caught a few eps of the Next Generation series but I just couldn't enjoy it. The live action film isn't too bad (the movie was cast perfectly) but the special effects and cartooney virtual world they created for it was difficult to watch.

hobbyfan said...

The movie was a critical dud, based on the reviews I'd read, and maybe they overdid it with the SFX.

I tried to find "Mock 5", but, unfortunately, no one's had the stones to post the complete episode.