So far this has been a heck of a year for losing awesome people, including Gary Coleman, Dennis Hopper, J.D. Salinger and the “Great Bird of the Anime Galaxy” Carl Macek. Now Peter Fernandez, who provided the voice of Speed Racer, wrote the famous theme song and directed all the episodes has passed away at the age of 83. Like Robotech creator Carl Macek, Peter was responsible for guiding a generation of young people towards Japan, although no one knew the word “anime” back in 1967. He single-handedly created the impression that dubbed Japanese animation sounded “funny,” with odd syllables tacked onto the ends of sentences to make the mouth movements fit better. My mother met Mr. Fernandez at an auto show and talked his ear off about her nutty son who learned Japanese and went to live in Japan all because of Speed Racer (there was a little more to it than that, Mom). Incidentally, Peter’s influence on the anime community wasn’t all positive. After the success of the first two seasons of Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato, the melodramatic anime series about the battleship Yamato being converted into a spaceship to save Earth from destruction, Peter was brought in to produce the third season, the Bolar Wars. Since he didn’t know the (excellent) voice acting staff that had done the first two seasons, he brought in all new talent, which unfortunately rendered season three unwatchable to old school fans like me, since the voices are all wrong.
Speed Racer reaches the finish line in the sky, uh-huh.