Peter Fernandez, the English Voice of the Original Speed Racer and His Brother Racer X, Passes
Peter Fernandez, an American actor, voice actor, and director, died today of complications from lung cancer at his home in Pomona, New York (not California). He was 83. Before his death, Fernandez was acknowledged for his work as the voices of the youthful race car driver Speed Racer and his elusive older brother, Racer X (or Rex Racer), as well as his work on early anime imports like Astro Boy, Marine Boy and Gigantor.. But this did not occur until Fernandez had had a long career on radio, Broadway and in Hollywood, starting as a child. From Wiki:
Born in New York City, Fernandez was a child model for the John Robert Power Agency. He then appeared on both radio and Broadway until he was drafted into the United States Army at age 18, late in World War II. His radio appearances included roles on Mr. District Attorney, Let’s Pretend, Gangbusters, My Best Girls, Superman, and Suspense, as well as on many soap operas. After his discharge from the Army in 1946, he became a prolific writer for both radio and pulp fiction. He is the author of a children’s book, Bedtime Stories from the Bible.
Fernandez is known for his voice work, and has been heard in English adaptions of many foreign films. He was the voice director for Courage the Cowardly Dog, which he has said was his favorite. He made cameos credited as “additional characters” in several episodes, besides his role as the voice of Robot Randy. He was also the voice director for Robert Mandell’s Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers series.
Fernandez had a small part in the 2008 film Speed Racer as a racing announcer. He had a bigger role as the voice of Spritle in the 2008 animated spinoff, Speed Racer: The Next Generation, and the original Speed Racer character, as seen in the episode, “The Note”. Fernandez was interviewed in 2008 on his activities and voice over work. His last major public appearance was at the 2009 Seattle, Washington Sakura-Con Anime Convention.
I liked Speed Racer, Astro Boy, and Kimba the White Lion (aka Simba, Disney’s The Lion King) in the early Seventies, when I was a freshman in California–all those anime classics. After a crazy day trying to negotiate the social as well as the intellectual pitfalls of high school, watching these cartoons with my brother and sister were rather calming. This despite the objections some parents and administrators began to level about the inherent violence–the battered and burning cars; cars hurling over cliffs to their demise, for example, but with no drivers in them–in the cartoon. (It wasn’t until I was an adult that I acknowledged to myself why I liked them–they were simply good, escapist stories. And from Japan. And the dispassionate way I would gaze at burning cars? The cartoon people weren’t real people. Now, if they were…or if I had imagined one of my tormentors in the cars…) By then, Speed and Astro Boy were reruns bought from NBC and televised by the once-independent UHFstation, KBHK TV Channel 44 in San Francisco.
With his death, Corinne Orr, who voiced girlfriend Trixie and Sprytle, the puckish Racer baby brother, becomes the last surviving member of the cartoon cast. (Orr was also the voice of Snuggle the Bear for the Snuggle fabric softener commercials.) From Anime News Network:
Fernandez not only voiced Speed himself, but also his brother Racer X and several other characters in the English-dubbed adaptation of Tatsunoko’s Mach Go Go Go anime series. He also directed the voice cast and even wrote the lyrics to the signature theme song. He later played Lupin III, Daisuke Jigen, and President Jimmy Carter in the JAL dubbing of the Lupin III: The Secret of Mamo film. His voice can be heard in such dubbed anime titles as Astro Boy, Gigantor, Marine Boy, Star Blazers: The Bolar Wars, and Superbook. He made a cameo appearance as an announcer in the 2008 live-action Speed Racer film.
Corinne Orr […] spoke with Fernandez as recently as last week. The two had worked together on 200 productions, and she noted that he was a big star on radio and Broadway and had starred in the 1949 film City Across the River “where Tony Curtis only had a bit part.” […] Orr told ANN, “His great joy was doing all these conventions and receiving the acknowledgement and accolades from all his fans at the end of his life.”
Rest in peace, Mr. Fernandez.