To be bloody honest, I was never a huge fan of Speed Racer. Actually I spent most half hours watching the cartoon (in college) poking fun at it and wondering how many drinking games could be compiled by just analyzing various components. It was a serious cartoon with some brief comedic relief that did not come off as funny, what was funny was all of the seriousness of driving the Mach 5 and figuring out who this Racer X character was (it was Speed’s Older Brother, sorry if I spoiled it). Anyhow, it’s 2008. Speed Racer has experienced a resurgence including a movie and a new cartoon series. The movie hasn’t done very well but many times the cartoon can be the saving grace. It was supposed to follow a new Speed, with a mysterious past. Ooooo, well as long as no Chim-Chim or Spritle is around, we’ll be okay.
In the not too distant future, a hopeful racer who goes by the name of Speed wants to attend the Racer Academy founded by the original Racer bunch. However he knows nothing of his past and finds that his name & lack of friends is a source of much teasing and criticism as he tries to ascend to the top of his class. There are other major players such as Headmaster Spritle (he grew up? I thought he would have gotten run over by the Mach 5 by now), X who is Speed Racer’s son and X’s girlfriend Annalise, both of which try to thwart the young Speed. Annalise’s father, Zile Zazic is the main funder for the school and serves as the evil mastermind and antagonist to Speedy.
However, Speed does find a few friends in Lucy and Conner. Lucy is the brains of the group while Conner serves as comic relief and the engineer of the group. His perhaps greatest creation is his side-kick Chim-Chim (*sigh*), an electronic robot monkey who provides many functions for the trio. Now, Speed must find a car so he can drive straight to the top of his class (one racing cliche was needed). His first car doesn’t fare so well, but then he is giving the means to explore the junkyard. There he finds that his necklace is glowing and he starts to find pieces to what remained of the Mach 5. Thus starts the journey to figure out his past and establish himself as the future of the racing academy.
It’s not bad. There I said it. While I always found the original to be cheesy beyond belief, the new cartoon has a few interesting snags and good touches. The first thing they did right was cast Peter Fernandez who did so many voices in the original including the main character, Speed Racer. Here they gave him the role of the Head Master Spritle. They threw that together with an updated Speed Racer including several nice technological tricks. One is the virtual track idea (even if it has a few holes in theory) where racers don’t go down a normal circle track but are instead thrown into a virtual reality where the world might be on a computer’s hard disk but the danger is real. The other is updated Mach 5 or the Mach 6 which has a nice ecological touch: the first gasless engine. These ideas and more make the series much more fun to watch than any episode they used to show on MTV.
The film is presented in 1.33:1 Fullscreen. At first the animation design will frustrate you a bit. Outside of it only being fit on a 1.33 screen, the backgrounds are not quite as appealing as one would hope. They are very static for the most part and instead the emphasis of the graphics is on the characters. So once you accept that, you can enjoy the scenery and the crisp colors behind it.
The audio is provided in 5.1 English Dolby Digital and is pretty good in scope. Racing is fast and furious. The sounds can be heard pretty well in all speakers, making it an enjoyable cartoon for the audiophile in you (no washed out sounds from the 60’s here). Dialog is good and clear and just about what you expect from any modern cartoon. Good use of sound in a cartoon that should have loads of it. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, Speed Racer: The Complete Series, 24×24: Wide Open with Jeff Gordon, & Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- The Making of Speed Racer: The Next Generation 10:35: A good featurette, if nothing else to introduce us to the legend known as Peter Fernandez. The rest of the cast looks grateful to be there and we get some functional spots.
- The Virtual Track Racing Game: Quite possibly the easiest dvd remote game I have ever played. You learn to Brake, Turn and then you have the big race where take on X. Should take you about 5 minutes to finish (mostly loading screens), no joke.
- Meet the Folks at the Racing Academy: Text bios on all of the cartoon characters in the series.
So there is Spritle and Chim-Chim. So there is a guy who is just Speed reincarnated complete with a Racer X who just happens to be the son of the legendary Speed Racer. That doesn’t mean that the show doesn’t have promise. Actually since these three episodes were made, 6 more have appeared on the television network: Nickelodeon. If they trim back some of the hokeyness and capitalize more on its strengths (like Peter Fernandez or uses of technology), we could have the makings of a fun little cartoon series. The first three episodes contained here serve well to introduce you to the show. The disc is decent for kids fare with a few extras and an adequate ratio of good picture and sound. Heck, it might even make somebody want to go back and watch the old episodes of the classic cartoon show. Errrummm, or perhaps not. Recommended for those with an open mind of Speed Racer and kids alike.
- DvdVerdict.com “Speed Racer: The Next Generation—The Beginning is not completely horrible. Maybe given the chance to develop into a full series, the (admittedly few) positives could be developed into something far more impressive.”
- CurrentFilm.com – “Overall, this series will entertain kids, but I just didn’t find it too engaging.”