Speed Racer (1967-???)
Again, I am stretching the boundaries of Saturday Mornings. I recall watching this during the week after school usually on one of the "sometimes you can get it, sometimes you can't" channels, like 43, 50 or 61 out of Cleveland or Detroit. Way before you ever regretted hearing the word Pokemon, Japanese animation was in syndication in the states. While the Japanese animators have been hitting us up with some pretty fantastic characters and stories, the most prominent pre-1980's cartoon has to be "Speed Racer."
Speed Racer first appeared on American television in 1967 and ran throughout the 70's. Apparently, they only produced the original episodes in '67 and '68.
Some interesting trivia. I assumed the "M" on Speed Racer's helmet and car stood for Mach, as in Mach 5, the name of the car. It actually stood for Milfune, Speed Racer's name in the Japanese version.
Here are the original un-remastered opening and closing credits.
And just for fun, here are the original Japanese opening credits with English subtitles. It's very different from the U.S. version and makes Speed Racer look more like Johnny Quest.Not surprising given the origin of the character. According to Wikipedia, Tatsuo Yoshida got his idea for Speed Racer after seeing two films that were very popular in Japan at the time—Viva Las Vegas and Goldfinger. By combining the look of Elvis Presley's race car driving image (complete with neckerchief and black pompadour) and James Bond's gadget-filled Aston Martin, Yoshida had the inspiration for his creation. I'll buy that. It sure fits.
Unlike the recent horrible misfire of the cartoon-to-big-screen adaptation of Under Dog and the likely-to-be-rancid Alvin and the Chipmunks, the upcoming screen version of "Speed Racer" looks promising. You can tell by the trailer that the Wachowski brothers respect and honor the source material.