Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Revenge Of The 80’s presents Voltron: Defender Of The Universe

The story goes that there were evil forces at work trying to enslave the good people of the universe. In order to protect them an alliance was forged between the righteous and they devised a force that would police the wide expanses of space called the Galaxy Alliance (sounds like an old school Rap group). There were two teams formed, one was in charge of defending the near reaches of the universe and the other was in charge of defending the farther reaches of the universe. They were called the Voltron least that was the story cooked up for the American version of the Japanese cartoon series’ that was liscenced and heavily edited by World Events.

In actuality, there was no Voltron Force. What we American know as Lion Voltron and Car/Vehicle Voltron are known in Japan as GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. Armored Fleet Dairugger XV actually aired in 1982 in Japan, two full years before GoLion while in America we saw the Lion Voltron show (commonly known as Voltron) a full year before Vehicle Voltron first aired. The Vehicle version of Voltron completely failed to capture the imagination of North American children and was largely ignored in Europe as well.

It’s ratings for the show were pretty anemic and in many cases parents would go out to buy Voltron toys for their kids, not be able to find the Lion Voltron toys (because they were usually sold out) and had to settle for purchasing the 15 piece vehicle version. Kids all over the US were not amused.

The Lion version of Voltron just seemed so much cooler. He started out as five lions and then transformed into a big ass robot with growling tigers for hands and feet. Then to top it off, when he wanted to kill his Ro Beast (which quickly became a slang term for ugly people...don’t act like you didn’t use it!) enemy he formed the Blazing Sword and used his tried and true finishing move that was emblematic of most Japanese giant robot shows.

The Lion Voltron toy was so popular that there were multiple licenses floating around Asia, Europe and North America producing official, semi official, and just plain ol’ bootlegged versions of both robots. The Americanized versions of the Voltron toys were made of lower grade material (sometimes even plastic) and were far inferior to the imported versions. When the holiday season rolled around a lot of money was made for Bandai, the original owners of the Voltron rights from selling the toy options to several companies all over the world.

Once the Vehicle Voltron show began airing, World Events had the idea to possibly option the rights to a third Japanese robot series and to develop a third show featuring another Voltron team comprising of three different robots, Alpha, Beta and Gamma. It was to be called Gladiator Voltron and air a year after the first full run of the Vehicle Voltron series aired. The Gladiator Voltron appeared for a brief time on a view screen during an episode of the 2nd Voltron series. Since no one watched it, no buzz was generated for it at all. Those plans were crushed by the underwhelming response to the 2nd Voltron series received in North America and Europe.

The kids and teens couldn’t get behind a team of 15 vehicles flying in space that formed Voltron, why in the hell would you need a car or an airplane in space? It’s fuckin’ space! Plus, the cars could fly which made no sense to American didn’t help that Voltron had these cars for feet. He looked like a robot on roller skates with a big ass red plane on his chest.

Not only was the series panned by Lion voltron fans, but no one was really feeling the toy. It had too many pieces and in many cases the stoppers that were supposed to be on the two foot cars would come off first, meaning that the fully transformed Vehicle Voltron would roll right off displays/tables/dresser drawers (usually when he was holding the heavy ass hard plastic sword), hit the floor and parts/vehicles would shoot off every which way never to be found again or just break. They did help keep Krazy Glue in business back in the 80’s...not a good look at all.

Even after the Vehicle Voltron series had aired, the prevailing fan sentiment in North America was that “Voltron” just meant the lions. Even to this day, when some one mentions Voltron the first image that pops in their heads is five different colored lions linking together ending with the classic line “and I’ll form the head”.

World Events scrapped their plans to produce another Voltron series and bring the Gladiator Voltron toys (pictured below) to North America and Europe. They instead decided to option other Japanese properties like what ended up becoming “Saber Rider And The Star Sherriffs”. The original GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV series’ in Japan had considerably more violence and in some cases death and blood, before they were brought to America they were heavily edited.

The end result was that the Voltron series appealed mostly to young children. After about 2 years on syndicated television, Voltron began getting it’s ass kicked in the ratings by more sophisticated shows like Robotech, G.I. Joe and Transformers as well as other more popular new cartoons like The Adventures Of The Galaxy Rangers and World Events new show Saber Rider And The Star Sheriffs. Voltron had a nice run and everyone involved made Medellin cartel money.

Recently, a Voltron movie was optioned and greenlighted. A spec script is currently in develop as I type this blog. Is there a fuckin’ 80’s cartoon that ISN’T going to end up on the silver screen? Damn! Anyways, the original unedited GoLion and Dairugger episodes are all now available on DVD as both Voltron episodes and the original Japanese anime series. If you feel like watching another cartoon from your childhood that really wasn’t as good as you originally thought it was when you watched it as a kid (I’m looking at you He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe...word to Teela’s cartoon thighs) than rent them from Netflix or Blockbuster.



What It Is said...

You are an uber nerd for this post and that's why you keeps it real!!!

Anonymous said...

Good work on Voltron. I remember throwing a tantrum for 45 minutes in a very public place until my grandmother broke down and bought me the toy to shut me up. I was wildin', son! Anyway, could you please put the song player at the top of the screen so people don't have to listen to it if they don't want to. Everytime I check out your blog people are gonna think I'm watching some porn.
In other news, Joba Chamberlain is the truth. I told you so. I think Gagne will be fine, but Joba's untouchable right now. He has very bad hygiene.

c0dec said...

fuck! nostalgic. i'm nigerian. ask anybody that grew up in nigeria in the 80s what their favourite cartoon is.

"and i'll form the head!" classic.

The Humanity Critic said...

Man, this post definitely brings me back. I can't believe they are going to bring Voltron to the big screen.

Hatch said...

Yeah this blog rocks - and not just because of the voltron post - keep at it!!