The Blue Racer.

THE BLUE RACER

Original Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: DePatie-Freleng
First Appeared: 1971
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"The Blue Racer" sounds sort of like it could be a name for a superhero. But it isn't. (This is.) Not only is it the name of a funny animal produced by the DePatie-Freleng cartoon studio (Super President, The Inspector) — the character's name was actually derived from something …

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… found in real life, a species of snake that inhabits the central-to-northern portion of America's Midwest.

Like his namesake, the animated Blue Racer was a carnivore, subsisting on anything from large insects to small vertebrates. In his first appearance, Snake in the Gracias, released to theatres January 24, 1971, his hunger objects were a couple of amphibians called Toro and Pancho, collectively known as The Tijuana Toads. He had a rival, Crazylegs Crane, who had already been established in earlier cartoons. Both predators' voices were done by Larry D. Mann, also heard as Mr. Wilson in the 1981 Dennis the Menace, and as one of the monsters in Daffy & Porky Meet The Groovie Goolies.

He appeared without the Toads in Hiss & Hers the following year, adding a foe of his own, a karate-using Japanese Beetle called Japanese Beetle. Mann again did the Racer, with Japanese Beetle voiced by Tom Holland (whose other credits include Slowpoke Rodriguez, one of Speedy Gonzales's supporting characters back in the Warner Bros. days.) Mann continued in the role, whether Beetle was there or not, except for one cartoon. In the second of his own series, Support Your Local Serpent (which some filmographers believe was made before Hiss & Hers but released later), he was voiced by Bob Holt, whose credits include Alley Oop in Filmation's Famous Funnies, Hanna-Barbera's Grape Ape and DePatie-Freleng's own Hoot Kloot.

Eighteen Blue Racer cartoons were made, including the one with The Toads, which isn't always counted. But for various reasons having nothing to do with the films' quality, theatrical cartoons were well into their waning years by the time The Blue Racer came along, with MGM, Paramount and other movie studios having long-since stopped producing them. The final Blue Racer cartoon was Little Boa Peep, released January 16, 1974. In it, he made a career change to sheepdog, providing an in-series explanation for the fact that the cartoons stopped, almost as convincing as Screwy Squirrel's suicide at the end of his fifth and last cartoon (except that Screwy continued to appear in comic books, and The Blue Racer never did).

Later, the cartoons were seen on Boomerang, the cable TV station specializing in old animation.

— DDM

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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DePatie-Freleng.