The Art Of Speed Racer

Distributor:  Random House

Author:  n/a

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  19.99

Number of Pages:  256

ISBN-10:  0789318237

ISBN-13:  978-0-7893-1823-7

Reviewer:  Tom (Webmaster)


Whatever you think of the box-office flop that was Speed Racer, it cannot be denied that the film was stunning to look at.  The visuals were inventive, rich and were successful in creating a live-action cartoon.  For a film full of eye-candy then, an art book is essential into providing an insight into its making. 

The Art Of Speed Racer opens with introductions by VFX supervisors John Gaeta & Dan Glass, discussing the film and VFX techniques in general.  Both talk about techniques deployed to make the film in general (Gaeta more so), most of which are explained in simple terms as these are short introductions after all.  They are relatively interesting though and you do feel that both of them really did enjoy working on the film, relishing the solving visual challenges which it presented.

  After the introductions comes art from the film, in a section entitled 'scenes'.  This section compares the storyboards, conception art and final film visuals and shows how close the final result was to the original vision.  The conception artwork is impressive, with a complete arial view of the Fuji Helexicon race track and the ice caves of Casa Cristo being particularly impressive even before being compared to the final film stills.  The storyboards truly look thrilling, giving a real sense of action which is quite close to the final result.  They are also well detailed and the quality of them could easily be mistaken for a manga. 

Unfortunately none of the conception art or storyboards contain any information as to what inspired them, and there is no information accompanying the final film stills as to what techniques were used to produce them.  The wording instead describes what happens in the film, either through a very brief description or an excerpt from the script.  This is disappointing to say the least, as many people purchasing this book will no doubt want more of an insight into the film's visual creation. 

The next section covers the vehicles of Speed Racer, with still of each of vehicle and a small amount of concept art for a few.  This section is a huge letdown as the creation of real, drivable Mach Five for the film is not mentioned and no specifications given.  Instead we get a description telling us it is Speed's street car and a description of what each of its 'special feature' does, something which anyone who watched the film would know anyway.  The Mach Six, created for the film, is even more disappointing as it was designed for the film specially, but this isn't even mentioned.  Also this section is the smallest one, which is highly unusual for a film which features no end of racing cars! 


Next the characters of the film are covered and again this is disappointing.  Although it is interesting to see the retro fashions and the costumes of more minor characters, there are no comments from the wardrobe supervisor(s) or comparison to the original manga designs.  Instead we get a brief description of each character, which is pretty unnecessary if you have already seen the film. 

The final section is probably the most interesting as it is a gallery of the brands and logos which appear throughout the film, either in the city scenes or on the cars themselves.  The logos are colourful and undeniably cool when viewed when separated from their respective vehicle, largely due to their pop art styling.  Many of the brands are humorous as well as stylish and its interesting to see how they seem more inspired by the 90's rather then the 60's when the original Speed Racer manga was created.  Images of such as a surfing toilet roll, a steakhouse named Angry Cow and a happy baby promoting the business Stem Sellers, seem very 'Nickelodeonesque' in their appearance.  It is certainly interesting to see that directors the Wachowski Brothers may have been inspired by more then just the original manga.  No descriptions accompany  

this gallery at all though, so I guess we won't  know what did inspire them.  Another disappointment. 

The biggest disappointment has been saved for last though and that is the final two-thirds of the book are just the film script!  Um excuse me?  Hello?  Wasn't this book called The ART Of Speed Racer?  Film scripts should be released separately and not take up more of an art book then the actual art itself!  It might not be so bad if the script was accompanied by story boards, artwork, etc. but I'm afraid it isn't.  The artwork only takes up the first 78 pages of a 256 pages book, which is absolutely shocking.  Combine this with the lack of insight into the artwork mentioned earlier and you have an art book that is more of an overpriced visual companion, with a script tacked on to bulk it out, then an actual art book. 

Quite simply, there is no way this book is worth shelling out the RRP of 19.99 for.  Even if you see this book cheap it is hard to recommend, since I only paid 1 for it and even I'm disappointed, despite being a big fan of Speed Racer

If you want more of an insight behind the inspiration behind the film you are better off buying the original manga, which is available in a complete box set.  It is certainly a damn sight more entertaining and a lot more interesting then this overpriced film script art book. 


A forward by producer Joel Silver is included, who talks about the dynamic of the original anime as well the manpower which went into creating the film.  Hilariously he says 'of course, we couldn't fir every piece of art tacked on the walls of our production "war rooms" on these pages' Well no you can't Joel, because the majority of the book is taken up by the bloody script!!


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