An Exclusive "Q and AA" with Art Asylum’s Vice President Adam Unger
By Jeff Cope
Q. So, why Speed Racer and why now? It’s been some years since Speed Racer has had an impact upon pop culture. What’s the appeal?
Like you, I grew up with Speed Racer. It just had an amazing appeal to me with all the drama that was involved. There were some real tense situations in the old series. We wanted to bring some “oompf” to Speed Racer, doing something new while, at the same time showing total respect to the classic. We wanted to do something that had more of a team effort to it, so we created these new characters that are on the racing team with Speed Racer Jr and his sister Velocity.
Q. Did Art Asylum pursue the license, or did Speed Racer Enterprises seek you out?
A little of both. We’ve had a pre-existing relationship because of some other projects. We thought the time was ripe for Speed Racer to make a comeback. There wasn’t much going on with the property. But, with it being the 40th anniversary and with the popularity of racing, we thought Speed Racer would make a great oportunity for Art Asylum.
Q. You’re taking a new approach with Speed Racer. How did the decision to produce a new online animated series come about?
It’s all about driving the sales of the toys. We looked at different ways to market and promote Speed Racer. TV Commercials and print ads are expensive, so we thought maybe there was another way to go about it. We felt creating a more organic experience using the web was the way forward.
Q. What’s your target demographic with the new series?
It’s for fans of the classic series, and through them we hope to reach kids as well. One of the niches out there is Dad’s who are trying to connect with their kids, but they don’t get Pokemon or Yu Gi Oh…but they get Speed Racer. It’s something they can share with their kids and enjoy the new stuff together.
Q. Are the online webisodes out there as a testing ground? Are you looking to bring the new adventures of Speed and his family to television or straight to DVD movies (beyond the DVD pack ins)?
No, we don’t see the webisodes as a testing ground at all. We want to see if an online driven can sell toys. It’s a new way to connect with fans and potential fans. The web is our “tv”. It’s a perfect medium to get your product in front of the consumers eyes. And, if this works, we’d love to take the same approach with other Art Asylum properties. It’s something of a pioneer effort. It’s not easy. The pioneers are usually the ones who get the arrows first!
Q. Any plans to bring the new series and characters into other media such as comic books and video games (beyond the online game, of course)? I know Seven Seas Entertainment has plans for new Classic Speed Racer comics in 2007.
Sure, why not? I talked with Jason over at Seven Seas and they’ve got some great stuff planned for Speed Racer. So, down the road maybe we can do something there and explore the characters backstory through comics.
Q. Will there be any synergy between www.speedracerlives.com and www.speedracer.com? They seem to each stand alone right now.
I sure hope so! It just makes sense to promote each other and the property. There’s a lot of talk and rumors about Speed Racer going on right now, from the possible movie with the Wachowski brothers at Warner Bros. and other stuff we’re hearing about. We’ve got a sponsorship deal with CHAMP racing and are partnering with the Urban Youth Racing School where underprivileged kids learn to fix and race cars. We’re doing what we can to get Speed Racer name back out there.
Q. From a product stand point you are mixing a little of the old in with a lot of the new. That’s great for old-school fans like myself who grew up watching the original series on TV. Was that done just to launch the property or can we expect more ‘Classic” product to be mixed in with the new stuff?
Oh, there’ll definitely be more Classic stuff. We’re working on the Deluxe Shooting Star with Racer X figure right now. It’s amazing. It’s really going to be cool. As we move forward we’ll continue to mix in Classic with the new. There’s a fan base out there so we’ll plug in stuff as we go.
Q. The first two Speed Racer SKUs (die cast figure w/car and Minimates w/car) have just started hitting Toys R Us around early September, with other product to follow around October/November. Is the Speed Racer line exclusive to TRU or will other retailers also be carrying the new product?
Right now TRU is it for mass market. Specialty retailers will be carrying the product as well. We’d love for more mass market retailers to get on board with Speed. Hopefully down the road…
Q. I know that with any new product launch (especially in today’s toy market) there needs to be a “wait and see” approach, but are there any plans for more figures and vehicles, either classic or new? The new Mach 10 seems like a “must make” item!
Definitely. Like I mentioned, we’ve got the Deluxe Shooting Star with Racer X coming and there’s another wave of the action figures planned. Plus there’s more Minimates coming, both Classic and new.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Adam!
You can check out all of the new Speed Racer product at www.speedracerlives.com and the rest of Art Asylum’s fantastic products at www.artasylum.com or at the official Art Asylum MySpace page.