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Posts Tagged ‘monkeys’

Adventure’s Waiting Just Ahead!

May 9th, 2008 No comments

One of Speed Racer’s greatest challenges was posed by the Gang of Assassins, featured in the episode “Gang of Assassins.” Another ninja-themed group, they had a couple of clear advantages over the previously-seen bat boys: sheer numbers and bitchin’, death’s head cars. Also a flying dragon submarine, but more on that in a minute.

They had been hired to disrupt the International Peacemeal Conference, the name of which was probably as close to political satire as the American translators of Speed Racer ever got. The Mach 5 happened upon the scene of their next assassination attempt, but when Speed used the homing robot to give them the bird, one of the gang retaliated by throwing a million, billion ninja stars.

Speed and Trixie gave chase in the Mach 5, but the assassins’ cars proved to have an overwhelming array of weapons: machine guns, spike strips and flamethrowers.

Later, Racer X, who had been in town for the Fujiyama Grand Prix, was standing on a lake shore watching a boat full of delegates to the Peacemeal Conference when he was ambushed by the assassins. Who were buried in the dirt beneath him. That’s how kick-ass the Gang of Assassins were: they could burrow. They snagged the Masked Racer’s wrists with chains, but he gave them a spin.

Racer X learned that the attack was just a test: they wanted to recruit him into the gang. Just then, a dragon-headed submarine reared out of the water and a whirlpool sucked the delegates’ sightseeing vessel below the surface!

After a series of adventures, Speed, Trixie, Spritle and Chim-Chim all found themselves in the underground lair of the worldwide assassins’ organization.

The assassins deliberately kept their lair chilly.

Speed met their leader, Professor Anarchy, who offered Speed a job on the team. When the racer refused, Anarchy threatened to make him his 2,708th victim. (That’s right, he kept track.)

Even’s Anarchy’s eyepatch was twisted.

The conversation was cut short by the arrival of Racer X, seemingly in cahoots with the villains. Rex was put in charge of murdering Speed, Trixie and the captured delegates. Indeed, he blasted away with a submachine gun…and, in what was arguably the greatest feat of precision ever achieved by a racer-turned-secret-agent, shot off their ropes.

Not even Speed is buying it.

A fracas ensued, and, as this was Speed Racer, it involved submachine guns, and lots of ’em.

After that, it all got a bit insane. Racer X led the freed delegates out of the underground complex, then went back to blow it up with a time bomb. Spritle and Chim-Chim stowed away aboard the dragon sub. Speed and Trixie raced off in the Mach 5 in hopes of intercepting the remaining assassins before they could reach the Peacemeal Conference.

Then, because no Japanese adventure series was complete without a flying submarine, the dragon lifted off and began pelting the fleeing Speed with fireballs. Once again, Spritle and Chim-Chim saved the day by sabotaging the sub and parachuting out as it made a final, fatal power dive smack into the highway, demolishing the killers’ cars. Suck that, assassins.

“Aieeeeeee! I dishonor my ancestors!”

The fate of Professor Anarchy was unrevealed, but I believe that surely his sinister eyepatch would once again endanger world peace.

This brings me to the end of my less-than-comprehensive retrospective of Speed Racer. The movie opened today, and I’ll be seeing it this evening. While it’s being savaged by the critics, their descriptions make it sound as if it’s exactly what’s promised in the trailer: an eye-searing visual display that’s relatively faithful to the cartoon in both tone and level of sophistication. (Make of that what you will.) Fortunately for me, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

Getting ready for tonight.

He’s A Demon And He’s Gonna Be Chasin’ After Someone

May 8th, 2008 No comments

While most Speed Racer bad guys suffered the indignity of such names as Zoomer Slick and Splint Femur, some never received so much as a proper noun. Such was the case with the unidentified ninja bat boys who bedeviled the gang in the episode “The Royal Racer.”

I was never quite sure what in the heck these pint-sized killers were supposed to be. I suppose that they were agile midgets, but their mugs were oddly monstrous.

A face only a ninja bat mother could love.

In addition to cool costumes and mad acrobatic skills, they had frightening metal claws on both hands and feet. Great for opening cans; lousy for digging change out of their ninja pockets.

The bat boys were employed by Omar Offendum of the Kingdom of Saccharin, who was out to steal the throne by having the dimwitted (and pig-nosed) Prince Sugarin crowned instead of the rightful royal heir, Prince Jam.

Prince Sugarin was the ugly stick with which the bat boys had been beaten.

Wouldn’t you know it, Prince Jam just happened to be a dead-ringer for Spritle. And before you could say “Mark Twain,” the two became mixed up. Spritle was welcomed into the palace, where he gorged himself on sweetmeats and prepared to drive in the “Baby Grand Prix.” Meanwhile, the real prince was locked in a bathroom by the Racer family as they practiced their usual “tough love.”

Over the course of the two-part episode, the ninjas went first after Spritle and then after Jam once they recognized the latter’s tell-tale royal birthmark.

Eventually, the little killers captured both the prince and Speed, but one of their own was caught by the reunited Spritle and Chim-Chim. In order to make the ninja talk, Chim-Chim went Gitmo and unsheathed his hitherto-unsuspected razor-sharp talons.

Let me repeat that: Chim-Chim had razor-sharp talons. And he would cut you.

The monkey sidekick wound up being the real hero of this story, even disguising himself as a bat boy to untie Speed and Jam while Trixie pulled out the heavy artillery.

Seconds later, in berzerk bloodlust, Chim-Chim ripped out Speed’s jugular. Stone cold Trixie.

In the end, Prince Jam was crowned and both he and Spritle raced to a tie in the Baby Grand Prix.

Still later, unknown to the Racers, Chim-Chim began a secret double life as a master ninja monkey. But that’s a story for another day.

Categories: Speed Racer Tags: , ,

And Now, A Monkey Interlude

May 1st, 2008 No comments

Categories: Speed Racer Tags: ,

Meet The Racers

April 17th, 2008 No comments

Before I delve any further into the world of Speed Racer, I want to acknowledge my primary information sources:

  • Speed Racer: The Official 30th Anniversary Guide by Elizabeth Moran, published 1997 by Hyperion. It’s a handy reference guide, though I’m finding that its spellings of character names aren’t necessarily accurate.
  • Speed Racer, an unofficial but highly informative website that gets much deeper into the series than I intend to do myself.

Now that we’ve met some of Speed’s rivals and foes, let’s look in on his family and friends.

One thing you may not have known about the Racer clan is that they really weren’t named “Racer” at all, at least not in Japan. Speed’s original name was Goh Mifune, with “Goh” intended as a bilingual pun on both the English word “go” and the Japanese word for “five,” as in “Mach 5.” (The series’ Japanese title was Mach Go Go Go, making clever use of all three meanings.) The embroidered “G” on Speed’s shirt referred to his Japanese name, and the big “M” on the Mach 5 was for Mifune Motors.

Pops Racer is seen above in his natural state: shouting. It was his stubborn belligerence which caused his son Rex to take to masked vigilantism, and it initially caused a rift between him and Speed when the latter wanted to follow in his brother’s tire tracks.

Before he became a race car designer/builder, Pops was a champion wrestler. Woe to the unfortunate thug on the receiving end of Pops’ moves.

Trixie (whose embroidered letter “M” stands for her Japanese name Michi) was Speed’s girlfriend. Her favorite outfit involved a pink, shapeless blouse which appeared to be a potato sack tied at the shoulders. I believe that Trixie’s lack of sartorial confidence may have explained why she became fiercely jealous every time a pretty girl showed up.

On the other hand, Trixie owned her own helicopter, which was useful when Speed needed an eye in the sky. She was also good in a fight. Still, too bad about the potato sack.

The youngest member of the Racers was Spritle, whose bottomless pit of an appetite served a sugar-fueled penchant for mischief that quite often got Speed out of a mess. His constant companion was the family monkey Chim-Chim.

It still nags me: why did they dress their youngest son and their monkey in the same outfit?

Spritle and Chim-Chim had a habit of hiding in the trunk of the Mach 5, in complete violation of both child restraint laws and inertia. When Speed’s back was against the wall, they provided valuable support.

Such as recruiting a squad of rock-throwing monkeys.

There’s not much to say about the final two members of the team. Sparky fixed the car. Mom Racer baked cookies.

Mom Racer will be played by Susan Sarandon in the movie, and she can bake my cookies any time.

Categories: Speed Racer Tags: ,

I Am SO There

March 12th, 2008 No comments

Two new international trailers for Speed Racer. An entire squad of overall-wearing monkeys couldn’t keep me away from this one.

Don’t Forget To Check The Trunk For Children And Monkeys

December 7th, 2007 No comments

This could be very cool or very, very awful: the Wachowski brothers (the guys who brought us The Matrix, for better and worse) are doing a film adaptation of my all-time favorite cartoon series, Speed Racer. USA Today has posted the first production photos, and I’m guardedly optimistic about them.

This is one of those films shot mostly in front of greenscreens (ala 300 and Sky Captain), and if the photos are any indication, the Wachowskis appear to be going for a gaudy hyper-reality. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; what I liked most about the cartoon was its excess.

In the world of Speed Racer, it wasn’t enough to have a cross-country road race. The course had to involve bottomless chasms, active volcanoes, or be at least partially-underwater for it to be worthy of the Mach 5. It was a given that all but a handful of racers would die in horrible, fiery wrecks, and that Speed would win the day by tearing through the pack in the last few seconds before the finish line. Speed Racer ruined real race cars for me; who wants to see cars maneuvering politely around a flat oval?

Certainly, it’s only now that this gravity-defying speedway insanity can be properly depicted in live action. If there’s at least one scene in which the Mach 5 rips through a forest at 150 mph tearing trees to shreds with its rotary cutters, I’m there.

Plus (and this is why Vic will be there with me), it has a monkey in the trunk.

Update: And here’s the trailer! Fuck, yeah!

Categories: Speed Racer Tags: , ,

What I’ve Been Up To

October 18th, 2007 No comments

The last week has found me gone more often than not, due to my involvement in several WILL events. I’ve spent most of that time in costume, as either a monkey or an 1850s lawyer. Unfortunately, my attempt to merge the two–for a proposed pilot entitled Antebellum Monkey Law & Order–was met with skepticism.

Last week, the Curious George costume returned to WILL for another round of personal appearances at local events. Of all the various kids’ show characters I’ve inhabited over the years–Cookie Monster; Purple Panda; Arthur the aardvark; Clifford the big, red dog–Curious George is my favorite. That’s partially for the practical reason of having fingers instead of paws. George is also highly recognizable among the younger set, and I enjoy the unconditional love. Finally, as everyone knows, monkey = comedy gold. Pretty much anything one does in a monkey suit is going to be funny.

I spent a couple of nights last week at Decatur’s Scovill Zoo for their Halloween-themed “Boo at the Zoo” nights. I’d never been to Scovill before, and I was surprised to find such a charming, little zoo tucked into Central Illinois. By the time I got out of the George suit to take a look around it was pretty dark, but the wolves and owls were active and that was pleasantly creepy.

For the past several days, I left behind the monkey shines and traveled back to the 1850s for a WILL documentary project on Abraham Lincoln’s time working the 8th Illinois Circuit Court. We’re shooting a number of segments for our Prairie Fire series, set to air in February 2009 to coincide with the Lincoln bicentennial, and I was asked to portray one of his fellow lawyers in the historical recreation sequences.

The location shoot took place at Funks Grove, a historic park a little south of Bloomington, with an old church standing in for a court house. We had a semi-professional Lincoln portrayer (a viable job here in Illinois, whose state motto is “Lincoln! Lincoln! Lincoln!”) for the man himself, and every body we could dig up to stand in for the various lawyers and townspeople.

When the producers told me I’d be riding a horse, I was concerned. I’d been on one precisely twice before, excluding pony rides, and the first time did not go well at all. As a teenager, my dad and I tried one of those riding ranches during a Colorado vacation, and between my utter lack of horsemanship and my mount’s stubbornness, it was either full stop or full gallop.

Fortunately, on this occasion the trainers took my reluctance and inexperience into account, and paired me with an easygoing Arabian. I had trouble steering her, but as long as she was following other horses I had little trouble. Well, there was the time when Lincoln got way out in front and she took off at what was probably a modest canter but felt like full steam ahead while I clung on trying to remember the word “whoa.”

After three hours on horseback the first day–my stay atop her extended so that I could appear more comfortable in my riding posture–I was in a fair amount of pain that evening. They’re really not kidding about “saddle sore.”

Yesterday I wound up with a different horse, one which I found much easier to steer. We had to do a number of group passes in front of the “court house” for a crowd scene. By the time I had to dismount, I was surprised to find myself rather comfortable and even disappointed that I was done riding. It was a good feeling to know that I had done something well outside my comfort zone and even managed to do it pretty well.

I’m back in the office today, but I enjoyed my time in land of Lincoln. Maybe next time we can find a way to work in Curious George.