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Could it be that Speed Racer is heading back to the track for more laps? The iconic 1960s anime series, which has been relaunched numerous times and even made into a 2008 3D live-action film, could see a return to television. While the plans are far from set, the property’s Japanese production company has confirmed that something is in the works with a new project.
According to a report from Anime News Network, franchise owners, Tatsunoko Production has confirmed that the long-sidelined Speed Racer franchise will be looking to refuel and getting his car, the Mach 5, back in the pop-culture race with a new television project. That, however, is the extent of the details; currently little else is known about the project’s potential format or whether it will move forward.
For fans of the quirky but groundbreaking Japanese manga turned pioneering anime series (known in the Land of the Rising Sun as Mach GoGoGo), it’s been a long 7 years of being relegated to relative obscurity. Speed Racer previously enjoyed several iterations after the brief but legendary run of the original 1967-1968 animated series, with other animated revivals; notably with 1993-1994’s The New Adventures of Speed Racer, 1997’s Speed Racer X and Nickelodeon’s long-running 2008-2013 Speed Racer: The Next Generation. Consequently, the property has been well-represented in the last decade. However, in 2008, it would, like Icarus, detrimentally fly too close to the sun or, in this case, Hollywood.
News of the revival project could be the franchise's first real shot at redemption since the disastrous 2008 live-action Speed Racer film starring Emile Hirsch as the titular “Speed” and Matthew Fox as his repertory rival, Racer X. That film, brandishing seemingly stunning visuals and the directorial talents of the Wachowski siblings, ended up yielding a $93.9 million global return on a $120 million budget investment. It was an unmitigated box office disaster that fell victim to being overlooked thanks to the May dominance of the first Iron Man. While the property would still be represented on television for five years by a Nikelodeon animated series that no doubt tied its hopes to the film’s success, the damage was done.
It didn't help that after the 2008 film fizzled, the property rights became disputed as company, Tatsunoko sued American licensing company, Speed Racer Enterprises after they allegedly exceeded their licensing rights, continuing to work with the property after 2011. The suit would be dismissed in December of 2013, but it was amicably agreed that all licensing of Speed Racer as of May 31, 2011 would be retroactively and henceforth be given completely to the control of Tatsunoko. Now, giving the smoke from that legal battle about a year and a half to finally clear, it seems that Tatsunoko are looking to get back into the Speed Racer business.
Exactly in what form this upcoming new Speed Racer project manifest remains a mystery. However, while yet another animated series does seem to be a safely conceivable choice, it would certainly be an ambitious and intriguing prospect to let the property make a drastic turn of the wheel over into the live-action television arena. This is especially true with so many alternative outlets available in not only network and cable but the streaming platforms.