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Peter Fernandez, Voice of Speed Racer

Everett Collection

Fans of anime and manga owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Fernandez, who helped bring "Speed Racer" to American audiences in the 1960s.

Fans of the hugely popular Japanese exports anime and manga owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Fernandez, who helped bring Speed Racer to American audiences in the 1960s.

Early in his entertainment career, Fernandez appeared on Broadway, radio, and in soap operas. Later in life he was a voice actor in all sorts of productions, but it’s his work in Speed Racer that he is best remembered for.

Titled Mach Go Go Go in its native Japan, the franchise began as a serialized manga in 1958. In 1967, syndicator TransLux brought the series to the U.S. and producer Peter Fernandez was charged with the nebulous task of “Americanizing” the show. To do so, Fernandez became a sort of one man band – writing lyrics for the theme song, giving characters new names, and writing and performing rapid-fire dialogue for both Speed Racer and the mysterious Racer X.

As the first Japanese animated show to become popular in the U.S., the series – along with Astro Boy – would lay the ground work for future imports like Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball-Z, Robotech, and Naruto.

Fernandez had a cameo role in the 2008 live-action version of Speed Racer and enjoyed appearing at anime and manga conventions to meet fans of the show.

Fernandez died of lung cancer July 15, 2010, at his home in New York state. He was 83.

For more, you can read his obituary in the Los Angeles Times. Here’s the debut U.S. episode of Speed Racer, in its entirety.