In 1968, Mattel Toy Company rolled out a line of collectible cars and orange track that came in sections and could be assembled in a number of configurations. At the time, no one knew the collection bug would bite adult males as well as the pre-teen male market they were after.
The Hot Wheels brand spawned a kids’ cartoon show with the same name in 1969. The FCC later banned the cartoon, though, insisting it was a 30-minute long commercial and not really entertainment. (Maybe it was a pioneer infomercial?) I remember watching it and thought it was pretty cool, but I was just the right age for it at the time. I also collected the DC Comics series.
Racing into the 21st century, the Hot Wheels brand seems to be bigger than ever. More adults (many of them the same kids who grew up collecting them) are buying the new releases every year, including the Treasure Hunt limited release version of the cars that were specially detailed and colored. The original Treasure Hunt cars came out at ten thousand units and then quickly went to twenty-five thousand to meet the demands. Today, the exact number of Treasure Hunt cars isn’t released.
Warner Bros partnered with the Hot Wheels brand to produce direct-to-DVD features starring the latest models Mattel was releasing. Hot Wheels: World Race came first, and it was a full-length movie. It was quickly followed by four shorter films under the name Hot Wheels Acceleracers, detailing the adventures of the two opposing teams – Teku and Metal Maniacs.
In the original movie (World Race), there were five teams gathered to challenge each other in the Racing Realms. Dr. Peter Tezla created gates (along the familiar orange racing tracks no less!) that took the racers into other worlds to face all kinds of dangers.
The four-movie set that currently comprises the Acceleracers takes a riff off the original movie and downgrades the teams to two. Vert is still the main character. In this version, Teku and Metal Maniacs have to race the Drone to keep them from using AcceleChargers and reaching the end of the Racing Realms. Whoever gets to the finish line first will get a lot of power.
Throughout the movies, there have been various obstacles the teams have had to face. Nolo’s brother died while racing Tork, making them bitter rivals. Kurt’s brother Wylde is lost somewhere in the Racing Realms. Lani and Taro end up kind of falling for each other.
The movie is pure computer generation and the work is superb. The colors are rich and vibrant. The action is swift and extremely detailed. The cars are beautifully rendered. The aspect of the DVD that reaches out and grabs viewers most is the sound. Presented in Dolby Digital, the movie sounds fantastic when pumping through a surround sound system. The walls quake if the volume gets boosted.
The various storylines accelerate through the sixty minutes of film and they dart back and forth between the characters like a racer running the needle through a spread-out NASCAR field. Viewers have to pay attention to all the twists and turns to keep up.
The Hot Wheels Acceleracers series is geared primarily toward the pre-teen male market and definitely scores big in that demographic. However, these are DVDs that parents can watch with their kids without zoning out because there’s plenty of action and characterization to keep their attention. The manga style will probably draw female interest in the same age group as well.