Michel Vaillant is a 1990 French animated series that consists of 65 episodes, each 26 minutes long, produced in France by la Cinq. It was released in the U.S.A as Heroes on Hot Wheels, produced by Jetlag Productions and the former Family Channel, sponsored by Mattel's Hot Wheels franchise (hence the title) and distributed by France 3 Video and Pacific Media Ventures. This is despite the fact Michael Vaillant was a long-running famous French comic series that had nothing to do with Hot Wheels. Michel's name was anglicized to "Michael Valiant". It was broadcast again in France in 1993 and 1998 by France 2, and sold in more than 30 countries.
The show's premise is Michael and his family-run team are going around the world competing in various races, only for their rivals in Team Leader to show up to cheat. The team is often prone to making fantastic modifications of their vehicles that their rivals are always trying to steal or sabotage.
Heroes on Hot Wheels also released 12 cars, in VHS tapes.
Michel Vaillant provides examples of:
- The Ace: Michael Valiant is not only the world's best race car driver but handsome, intelligent, and charming.
- Adapted Out/Decomposite Character: Several of the characters from the French comics are nowhere to be seen on the show, such as Michael's older brother and team mechanic Jean-Pierre Valiant. Instead, Quincy serves as the team's mechanic and Michael now has a younger brother, Frank Valiant, who is also a racer.
- Adaptation Name Change: In the comics Bob Cramer's chief teammate is named Dan Hawkins. Here he's simply named Fox
- Always Someone Better: Michael Vaillant causes this reaction in most of his colleagues as well as his brother.
- Anti-Hero: Frank Vaillant leaves Team Vaillant after he was too hot headed to participate in an important race. He joins "Team Tiger" which is really a front for Team Leader. After realizing this, Frank rejoins Team Vaillant at the end.
- Artistic License – Physics: In the episode 'The Speed Record', Michel drives a car with a rocket attached and exceeds 1,000 mph. This would introduce many problems in a real setting, including but not limited to: tires peeling off, car flipping over at the slightest turn.
- Big Bad: The Leader is this. He looks and acts like a Bond villain.
- Bifauxnen: Ruth definitely qualifies with her short hair, racing interests, aggressive demeanor and large male (as well as female) fanbase.
- Broken Aesop: In one episode in which the eponymous Michel and his family racing team compete in a special exhibition race showcasing environmentally-friendly fuels/transportation technologies. The resident baddies try to cheat by using higher performing regular gas. It's animated as thick, sooty, jet-black smoke and causes bystanders to notice by making their eyes water. You know, the same fuel used by the Vaillants and everybody else in all other episodes...
- Cool Car: Michael Vaillant's cars and most of his antagonist's vehicles.
- Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Not quite every episode but the antagonists usually end up screwing themselves over by cheating versus competing fairly.
- One episode had a Southern-Fried Genius who had invented an engine which was specifically designed to make maneuvering incredibly easy even if it wasn't as fast as the Vaillant engine. His son, fearing the Vaillant engine was faster, replaced the two and almost got his father killed in the resulting crash. If he'd just left it in, it's probable his father would have won.
- In "Race to the Future", its particularly noticeable as not only did they eliminate all the other cars in an exhibition of non-polluting technology (which they didn't bother to compete in anyway) but their use of high octane fuel was picked up on IMMEDIATELY once they passed by the judge (who, of course, smelled it) and they were disqualified.
- The Dragon: Ruth generally serves this role to the Leader.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: Team Leader is determined to win the "Race to the Future" event by cheating with high octane fuel despite the fact it's a scientific exhibition rather than an actual race.
- Dub Name Change: For “Heroes on Hot Wheels”, Michel Vaillant was renamed Michael Valiant.
- Even Evil Has Standards: In "Highway Pirate", Team Leader actually joins forces with Team Valiant to lure out the Villain of the Week so he can be arrested. They may not be such good sportsmen, but a psycho who crashes cars for fun is something even they're not willing to tolerate.
- Green Aesop: A couple of episodes were devoted to this despite being a show about carbon burning fuel powered vehicles.
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: A common running gag in the show.
- Red Right Hand: The Leader has a metal right hand.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Many of the inventions the team makes could have revolutionized automobiles as a whole, let alone racing, but almost never get seen again.
- "Race to the Future" has Team Vaillant create magnetically powered non-polluting floating cars. We never see this wonder of science again.
- Rivals Team Up: Team Vaillant and Team Leader join forces after a highway pirate causes crashes. Even the Rivals share the trophy by literally spliting it in half.