Eadweard Muybridge, Original Speed Racer

By Stephanie Murg Comment


For years, the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge were the subject of internecine feuds at Harvard, where the university’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and its Fogg Art Museum each claimed to be the rightful home of the eccentric photographer’s images of human and animal motion (like those pictured above). Today they can be found in various Cantabrigian collections, and soon Muybridge-inspired images will be seen in movie theaters worldwide. In making the film Speed Racer, based upon the classic anime cartoon series, the Wachowski brothers and their team of visual effects wizards looked to Muybridge when creating the racetrack set (pictured below).

“These zebra ads are inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s photos of a horse in motion. We took footage of a zebra running and made a more graphic version,” Speed Racer special effects guru Dan Glass told New York magazine recently. “In the race, when you see the car in profile, the images — actually a series of stills — move and you see a running zebra.” John Gaeta, another visual effects designer who worked on the film, noted that Muybridge was also “an inspiration for “ballet time,” which premiered in the first Matrix movie.” According to Gaeta and Glass, other influences to look for in Speed Racer, which opens May 9, include the anime of Hayao Miyazaki, Pop Art photographers such as David LaChapelle, Corvette Stingrays, and candy colors, which Gaeta says were chosen as “a palette that would be attractive to kids.”

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