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An iconic Japanese anime series is about to get its second live-action reboot, thanks to Apple’s eclectic taste in video programming for Apple TV+.
According to Variety, Apple has greenlit a Speed Racer live-action series that will be backed by J.J. Abrams as executive producer.
Speed Racer first came to prominence in 1967 when it was adapted into a U.S. anime series from a manga program created by Tatsuo Yoshida under the title “Mach GoGoGo.” The series followed the adventures of a young auto racer known only as “Speed Racer,” his car, the Mach 5, and his team made up of his father and car builder, Pops Racer, his little brother Spritle, his pet chimpanzee Chim-Chim, and his girlfriend Trixie.
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The original 1967 series is largely credited with popularizing anime in the west, with over 50 episodes produced. It returned in 2002 on Nickelodeon with an English-language version of a Japanese remake, and then as a theatrical 2008 live-action film written and directed by The Wachowskis of The Matrix fame.
That 2008 film, which starred Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer was the first time the series had been brought to the big screen with live actors rather than animation. Now, Apple and J.J. Abrams are looking to follow on that success with an ongoing live-action series in the Speed Racer franchise.
The series will be produced by Warner Bros. Television, where Abrams and his company, Bad Robot, re-signed in 2019, reportedly turning down a higher bid from Apple in exchange for the better exposure he felt he’d get with WarnerMedia. Nevertheless, Abrams is clearly still happy to work with Apple on a project-by-project basis. Bad Robot is also still working with Apple on My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, starring Jennifer Garner — a show that’s been in development since before Apple TV+ launched in 2019.
Variety notes that the series will be written and also executive produced by Ron Fitzgerald and Hiram Martinez, who will also serve as showrunners. Fitzgerald is best known for co-creating the Perry Mason series at HBO and has previously worked on Westworld, Weeds, and Friday Night Lights. Martinez has been involved with The Last Ship, the Get Shorty series, Shut Eye, the Snowpiercer series, and Snowfall.
As for Abrams, despite his overall deal with WarnerMedia, he’s clearly free to shop his work around under that banner. Variety notes that Speed Racer is only the latest high-profile TV project that Abrams has on the go, with other irons in the fire that include Justice League Dark, Constantine, and Madame X at HBO Max, a scripted series about U2 at Netflix as well as the high-budget sci-fi drama Demimonde for HBO.
It’s unclear when the new Speed Racer series will make its debut on Apple TV+. Variety notes that it’s in the works for “a considerable amount of time,” although Apple has only recently given the project a series order. Considering the number of other longstanding projects still floating around inside Apple’s walls, from the aforementioned Jennifer Garner series to higher-profile programs like Masters of the Air, it’s hard even to guess when a proposed series will see the light of day.