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Speed Racer on DVDSpeed Racer the Next Generation - The Beginning (2008)

Created to capitalize on the movie and it shows.

Story
In this brand new incarnation, our hero is Speed Racer. Only he isn’t THE Speed Racer, he just happens to share the same name as him. He is however a teenage orphan who is about to enter a prestigious racing school where he will be competing against another legendary driver, X (not Racer X, just X), who happens to be the son of the original Speed Racer. Possessing amazing driving skills, Speed Racer (the younger one) competes to take his place among the best.

Upon entering the school run by the original Speed Racer’s brother, Speed (the younger one) reveals that he doesn’t have a car to race in. After being sent to a junk yard though Speed finds pieces of the legendary Mach 5 that the original Speed Racer used to drive and puts it together. He quickly finds though that there are certain people who do not want him to drive the Mach 5 and will go to very far lengths to keep the technology for themselves.

Good and the Bad

Starting with the story, it’s very difficult to know if this series was meant to be a tribute to the original incarnation that would expose a brand new audience to the classic or if it was meant to be a series that was only very loosely affiliated with the original series. Within a few minutes it becomes fairly obvious that the ties to the original series were all more than just coincidence though.

Racer X is now X though he’s still Speed’s brother. Pops, Mom and Trixie are nowhere to be seen and haven’t really been replaced by anything though the female that lives in Speed’s dorm could qualify I suppose as an alternate Trixie. Speed’s little brother has been replaced by an annoying room mate who is obsessed with the original Speed Racer and Chim Chim was turned into a robot monkey.

The animation is the sticking point that is the most difficult to get past. While the animation really fits well with the futuristic feel of the characters and the setting, hardly any of the animation was particularly well done. The animation is really quite lack luster and the character designs seem to fall into typical cartoon stereotypes without developing particularly unique characters. Even Speed (the young one) seems to be just another typical character from any typical American cartoon made in the last few years.
The racing scenes were very well done though and no audience member is going to be able to deny that fact. One interesting feature that was particularly well executed was while Speed is racing. To emphasize his talents behind the wheel, various graphs and mathematical equations appear on the screen whenever Speed has to make a split second decision. This was a particularly well used plot device and really highlighted what is going on in the character’s mind while he is racing.

As an adult though, anything negative that I say about this series has to be taken with a grain of salt. As I am not the target audience for this series, the animation needed a proper eye to take a look at it and so for the purposes of this review an expert was called in: my friend’s six year old son.

When first put into the player, there was quite a bit of initial excitement. The early race scenes were really well paced for him and he seemed to enjoy the excitement of it all. After awhile though the story started to slow down and attempt to develop the characters which is when he started to lose interest. While he never complained about the characters, he also didn’t show any particular attachment to any of them making it much easier for him to walk away and not pick it up again.

Music

Keeping with the theme of paying tribute to the original series, the main theme for this series is the original theme remade into a punk tune. While the song is fun to listen to, it felt obvious that the band that was chosen to play the theme didn’t seem to have a real feel for the original theme or series. This led to a performance that sounded and felt half assed.
The background music for the series stood out as particularly well composed though. Early in the release the music that is played during Speed’s initial qualifying race was particularly well composed. The rhythms really paced well with the drivers and made the scene much more interesting than it ever would have been on its own.

Extras
None.

Overall
Obviously created to capitalize on the projected profits of the live action Speed Racer film, this cartoon tries its best to capture the spirit of the old to entertain the new and fails spectacularly. While the pretty animation may get the series some initial points from audiences, the cookie cutter characters and story will ultimately doom this series before it even has a chance to get started. Maybe if we ignore it, it’ll go away quietly on its own.

Not recommended.


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Speed Racer on DVDSpeed Racer the Next Generation - The Beginning (2008)

Language: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Lions Gate
DVD Release Date: May 6, 2008
Run Time: 66 minutes

PRODUCT INFORMATION:
Speed Racer The Next Generation: The Beginning (Lionsgate) builds on the adventures of the original series by focusing on Speed's orphaned son as he juggles school life at the Racing Academy while uncovering secrets behind his father's disappearance. The new chapter of Speed Racer utilizes a cutting-edge style of animation inspired by the original series, while incorporating topical storylines like the pursuit of a car built with a gasless engine. The movie features Peter Fernandez (as Headmaster Spritle) - the voice of Speed Racer in the classic TV series and the man responsible for the lyrics of original Speed Racer theme song. The DVD (which is released on May 6th) includes an interactive racing game and the “Creating The Next Speed Racer” featurette.

Speed Racer The Next Generation: The Beginning sets up and launches the new animated half-hour TV series which airs Fridays at 7pm ET on Nicktoons Network; and also coincides with the Warner Bros. live-action feature film which hits theatres on May 9th.

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