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There was a point in time when Mattel used the Hot Wheels brand to do more things than toy cars. For those of us who grew up in the ‘00s, we remember the various video games like Hot Wheels: Velocity X, the absurdly ambitious Planet Hot Wheels multiplayer online game, and a movie universe that started with Hot Wheels: World Race. I was tidying my closet up recently and found an old DVD box of the Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers series, and I plunged deep into my childhood with a few YouTube videos.

The more I reminisce on the gaming side of Mattel’s efforts in the aughts, the more I realize it deserves an entirely separate blog. For now, we’re focusing on the absurdity of the animated work, a body of films that have actually cool moments and potential with classic writing tropes of a children’s movie. At least, World Race suffers from this most. AcceleRacers confronted more serious issues head-on, which made it much more interesting and watchable 15 years later.

Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers continues the story of World Race. A quick (and ridiculous-sounding) synopsis of World Race is that a slightly mad scientist called Dr. Tezla puts out a call for the best drivers in the world and attracts them with fast cars and the promise of heated competition against their peers. He is doing this so that he can find an all-powerful set of rings that has limitless energy at the end of a highway in a different dimension that is accessed via a special chemical-boosted blend of fuel similar to nitrous so he can research and harvest its unlimited energy as a source of undepletable power for humanity.

It’s probably best if you watch World Race because it’s genuinely entertaining and absurd.

Anyways, we carry on a few years from the end of the World Race, and the winners and some new drivers have split off into two factions of racers: the ‘00s import culture caricature Teku and the muscly Metal Maniacs. They’re all mad at Tezla because he dropped off the face of the earth after failing to control the magic omnipotent rings and started street racing against each other to fill the rush of not being able to race on Highway 35 (the aforementioned multi-dimensional highway), which Tezla has barred them from accessing. 

But as it turns out, there were killer robot drones in the other dimension that Tezla pissed off trying to recover more technology, so now he’s calling the drivers back to try to save him from the psychopathic bipedal computers, all the while dealing with the complex politics of two feuding groups of street racers with one group indirectly causing some to die in the other group. To defeat the drones, they need to race in several dimensions of racing realms and win special powers that they can use on their cars so that they can beat the “perfect” robotic racing drivers.

That is the shortest summary I could possibly write. I honestly have watched the full six hours of movies from this series at least once every four years since I was eight years old. I love them because they’re literally stupid but have a lot of cheesy quotes, subpar writing, interesting animation and character designs, and most of all, cool cars. 

Even that rivetingly twisty description can’t capture the weird, nostalgic magic of the series. Some of the visuals are amazing, and the storyline of AcceleRacers is relatively engaging and fun, if a little underdeveloped. There are moments I still can’t get over years later that I quote back to my friends for a good laugh. Taro saying “I’m gonna pass you,” in World Race comes to mind. Good lord, I howl in laughter every time I see Shirako say, “Let’s pump up the bassline,” in AcceleRacers. 

If you’ve never watched any of these films, give them some time. If you’re reminiscing like me, watch them again. You won’t regret the trip down memory avenue. Sorry, coworkers, you’re going to be hearing a lot of dumb quotes for a few weeks.

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