Finding a box of promotional swag in one’s mailbox is a common event here at EW, kinda like writing about American Idol, or playing with dolls. Last month, however, I received three boxes stuffed with tie-in toys for three prospective May blockbusters, each more elaborately packaged than the last: Iron Man, then Speed Racer, then Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. With 20 separate items of swag inside my office, I realized I had to do something other than pick out my favorites and give the rest to the office-mates who, um, have kids.
So last week I began reviewing each box as its respective movie is released, rating them in categories of packaging, bounty, the coolest toy, the lamest toy, and the general feeling of swag overkill. Last week, of course, was Iron Man. So let’s all hit the gas over the jump for a rundown of this week’s toy box: Speed Racer.
Packaging: A sleek, white case — with a helpful carrying handle — decorated with the iconic Speed Racer“M” calls to mind the old Hot Wheels cases of yore, and, whaddaya know,there be Hot Wheels inside! But I’m zooming ahead of myself here. Uponopening said case, you’re greeted with a diorama of sorts of an EmileHirsch cut-out next to a Mach 6 cut-out, and, magically, a voice playsas if over a raceway loudspeaker: “All drivers to your cars, please!All drivers to your cars!” Then engines rev, tires squeal, and with a Vrrrrrrrroooooommm! Screeeeeee! Zzvvvrrooooo! we’re off to the swaggy races.
Bounty: The box is smaller, so the pickings are a bit slimmer. Beyond the items listed below, we’ve got two classic Hot Wheelscars: The “Racer X Race Car with Spear Hooks,” featuring snap on, er,spear hooks that are almost as big as the car itself; and the “Mach 6with Saw Blades,” featuring snap on, er, saw blades that…you get theidea. Their packaging touts their size at “1:64 scale,” which ticklesme since A) Figuring out the exact measurements of CGI vehicles strikesme as the height of silliness and the height of awesomeness andB) If those saw blades and spear hooks are really to exact scale, thenthese cars would have an especially difficult time parallel parking. There’salso the “Pullbax Mach 5” with the “Pullbax motor for extra speed,”which just made me wonder what driving would be like if all cars onlyhad Pullbax motors in them. (Highway on-ramps would be a lotlonger, that’s for sure.) Finally, we gots two of those Lego dudes — onethat looks like Speed Racer and the other like Racer X — but no Lego kitsto go with them.
Coolest toy: I’ll see your 1:64 scale and raise you2.6666666667 times to 1:24 scale! (What? Too geeky? Does it help that Ihad two colleagues help me figure that out? No? Makes it worse? Ishould just get on with it?) Seriously, though, the “Hot Wheels SpeedRacer Mach 5” is exactly the kind of car I would obsessively play withfor hours upon hours all over my grandparents’ back porch when I was akid, vrooming it up, over and through couches, chairs, thefloor and probably my grandpa’s tummy. There’s no need for a “Pullbax”motor, or button-activated headlights, or a motion-sensitive speakerfilled with car engine noises, to do the pretendering for me. The doorsopen, the wheels roll, and that’s it as far as fancy “interactive”features go; it’s the little details — like the metal body, the finelypainted dashboard, the textured bucket seats — that make the differencein captivating the imagination. This is what toys used to be all about.
Lamest toy: Um. It’s a shirt. A girl’s shirt. The cotton’s soft and all, and the design’s cool enough — until you catch the Speed Racer logo on the back. But. It’s. A. Shirt.
Overall swag factor: The presentation’s nice without beingover-the-top, and if you’re into cars, and especially Hot Wheels, thenyou’re kinda golden. But then there’s the wholeLego-figures-but-no-actual-Legos thing. And that shirt and its whole”you can’t play with me, you only can wear me” vibe. So on a scale of 10 swags, where 1 is a plastic Speed Racer key-chain and a 10 is an actual, drivable Mach 6 (complete with saw blades and spear hooks), I’d give this box a 5.