The property started out in the 1960s as a manga created by Tatsuo Yoshida. For the manga, Yoshida was inspired by the films Viva Las Vegas and Goldfinger; the design for the main character came from Elvis Presley's race car driving image, and the Mach 5 was inspired by James Bond's gadget-filled Aston Martin. Tatsunoko Productions produced a 52-episode anime series based on the manga, which ran from April 2, 1967 to March 31, 1968.
Trans-Lux, an American syndicator, acquired the English rights to the series. The main character was re-named Speed Racer, and this new character name was also used to name the show. This was a major editing and dubbing project, which was undertaken by producer Peter Fernandez. Fernandez also provided the voices for Speed Racer and Racer X.
In an attempt to fit in complicated plotlines into the already existing lip movements, Fernandez employed a frenetic pace for the dubbing. This frenetic pace became a signature of the original Speed Racer anime; unfortunately, this technique has also been parodied often in pop culture over the years.
The world of Speed Racer was inhabited by more than just the title character. He has a younger brother named Spritle, and Spritle has a pet chimpanzee named Chim-Chim. Speed's father, Pops, is a former wrestler who has become a race car owner and builder. Speed's mother (simply called Mom in the series), is a stay-at-home mother.
Speed Racer has a girlfriend named Trixie, and she often flies around in a helicopter while Speed is racing and gives him advice on the surroundings during a race. Sparky is a company mechanic, and is also one of Speed's friends.
Racer X is a recurring character, and it turns out he is actually Speed's long-lost older brother, Rex Racer. Rex and Pops had a falling out years earlier, when Rex entered a race with a car Pops had built without Pops' permission; Rex wrecked the car before he crossed the finish line. After that, Rex exiled himself from his family, started hiding behind a mask, and vowed to become the world's best race car driver.
In 1993, an American company produced their own version of Speed Racer (called The New Adventures of Speed Racer), which was an attempt to cast the franchise in a contemporary style. This new version did not resonate with viewers, and the series only lasted for 13 episodes.
In 1997, a new Speed Racer series was produced in Japan, and a new version for the U.S. that was based off this series was produced by DiC in 2002. Speed Racer X aired during Nickelodeon's short-lived action block called "Slam." The series was discontinued after a few weeks, when Nickelodeon suddenly pulled all of the "Slam" programs off the air. Unfortunately, the future of the series is uncertain, since DiC and Speed Racer Enterprises are embroiled in lawsuits for control of the series. However, even if the lawsuits are ever resolved, this series will never be completed due to production problems, since only 34 out of 52 episodes were ever produced.
Speed Racer and Astro Boy were the first truly successful anime franchises in the United States. Over the years, Speed Racer has appeared in commercials, and the series has been referenced numerous times in pop culture. A live-action movie was released in May 2008, and a new animated series (Speed Racer: The Next Generation, which focuses on the sons of Speed Racer) also debuted on the Nicktoons Network in May 2008; this new series only lasted for two seasons.
|Mach GoGoGo||52||1967-1968||Hiroshi Sasagawa||Tatsunoko||N/A|
|Speed Racer||52||1967-1968||Peter Fernandez||Speed Racer Enterprises||Trans-Lux|
|Speed Racer X||34||1997||Hiroshi Sasagawa||Tatsunoko Productions||DIC Entertainment|