Robotech is a science fiction franchise that was launched by an 85-episode adaptation of three different anime television series. Within the combined and edited story, Robotechnology refers to the scientific advances discovered in an alien starship that crashed on a South Pacific island. With this technology, Earth developed giant robotic machines or mecha (many of which were capable of transforming into vehicles) to fight three successive extraterrestrial invasions.
Robotech was one of the first series released in the United States which attempted to include most of the complexity and drama of its original Japanese source material. Produced by Harmony Gold USA, Inc. in association with Tatsunoko Prod. Co., Ltd., Robotech is a story adapted with edited content and revised dialogue from the animation of three different mecha anime series: The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Harmony Gold's cited reasoning for combining these unrelated series was its decision to market Macross for American weekday syndication television, which required a minimum of 65 episodes at the time (thirteen weeks at five episodes per week). Macross and the two other series each had fewer episodes than required, since they originally aired in Japan as weekly series.
This combination resulted in a storyline that spans three generations, as mankind must fight three destructive Robotech Wars in succession over a powerful energy source and "lifeblood" of two different races called "Protoculture":
On some television stations, the syndicated run was preceded by the broadcast premiere of Codename: Robotech, a feature-length pilot.
According to director Carl Macek in Robotech Art 3: The Sentinels, the proposed 65-episode series was canceled after the crash of the dollar/yen exchange rate and lack of support by toy partner Matchbox. Efforts to petition the completion of this series have gone nowhere, but the pilot was released on VHS by Palladium Books and on DVD by ADV Films.
It should be noted that Carl Macek himself has never mentioned Robotech IV or V in any interviews or writings.
Drew Crevello also is producing through his Supercool Hollywood BigTime Productions Company. Craig Zahler ("The Brigands of Rattleborge") has been tapped to write the screenplay.
In an interview, Harmony Gold representative Kevin McKeever said that Warner Brothers had approached Harmony Gold about the project, that Harmony Gold would have "a say" in its creative direction, and that it was not expected to affect the production schedule for Shadow Rising. He was unable to confirm any details of budget, casting, expected release date, or storyline, explaining that it was too early in the life of the project for these things to have been decided.
During the Robotech Panel at Anime Expo 2008, the involvement of Tobey Maguire and Lawrence Kasdan was confirmed, with Kasdan writing the script for the live action movie. It was also revealed that the movie is planned as a re-imagining of the original Robotech universe (with new updated mecha and character designs) and will take place several years in the future, departing from the original cartoon's 2009 setting.
|Year||Generation / Saga (release date)|
|1999 - 2014||(1)||Robotech: The Macross Saga (1985)|
|2025||Robotech II: The Sentinels* (1987)|
|2027||Robotech: The Movie* (1986)|
|2029 - 2030||(2)||Robotech Masters (1985)|
|2042 - 2044||(3)||Robotech: The New Generation (1985)|
|2044 -||Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (2006)|
In 2002, with the publication of the Wildstorm (DC) comics, Harmony Gold officially decided to retcon the Robotech Universe. The following Robotech material is now relegated to the status of secondary continuity:
While these materials are not precisely "retired" or "removed" from the continuity, their events are subject to critical review, and are strictly subordinate to the "official" events of the 85-episode animated series. Although certain events in the new feature film (i.e., the final showdown at Reflex Point) proceed in a slightly different fashion from the original Robotech series, such disparities were intentionally introduced by the Harmony Gold producers, but are still considered canonical.
In 1986, Starblaze Graphics published Robotech Art 1, a reference book containing artwork, Japanese production designs, and episode guides from the original television series. This was followed by Robotech Art 2, which was largely a collection of art by various American artists and fans. In 1988, Carl Macek collected much of the unused designs from Robotech II: The Sentinels into Robotech Art 3: The Sentinels, which also included his story outline for the rest of the unfinished series, with an explanation behind its cancellation. In 2007, Stone Bridge Press published The Art of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles.
Robotech comics were first published in 1984 with DC Comics' short-lived Robotech Defenders and Comico's adaptation of the first episode of the Japanese version of Macross. However, the first adaptation of the Robotech television series did not arrive until 1985 with Comico's Robotech: The Macross Saga #2, which continued from the first Macross issue.
The various comic publishers include:
Since 1987, Robotech was adapted into novel form by "Jack McKinney," a pseudonym for the team of James Luceno and the late Brian Daley, a pair of writers who had been working with Macek since they had collaborated on the animated series Galaxy Rangers. Using fictitious epigraphs in the style of Dune, McKinney's novels fleshed out the chronology (including adapting the incomplete Sentinels source material) in far greater detail than the original animation. Many Robotech fans consider the McKinney series to be an unofficial canon of its own, despite notable divergences in the writing from Harmony Gold's current official animation-based canon. Despite no longer being considered core-continuity by Harmony Gold, the novels have been recently re-issued by Del Rey Books as Omnibus compilations.
In 1986, Palladium Books published a role-playing game based on the Robotech series. The successful run also included RPG books covering The Sentinels. Contractual issues in the wake of Harmony Gold's aborted Robotech 3000 project, as well as a general refocusing of the company on production of its flagship Rifts line, caused Palladium to eventually forgo renewing the Robotech license. The Robotech RPG line went out of print as of June 30, 2001. In 2007, Harmony Gold and Palladium Books worked out a new agreement to produce a Robotech RPG supplement to The Shadow Chronicles. A press release from Palladium Books addresses their recently (Sept 2007) renewed contract. Robotech The Shadow Chronicles RPG was released March 21st 2008.
3 3/4 inch action figures of the 3 Robotech generations were initially released in 1985 by Matchbox toy company, but then reissued in 1992 by Harmony Gold (Lunk and Corg were only released by Matchbox and Lynn Minmei was only released by Harmony Gold).
6" figures were released in 1985 also by Matchbox. All of these figures were from the first generation and were of Zentraedi characters only. These figures were supposed to represent the size difference between the Humans and the giant Zentraedi forces, but to be correct these figures would had to have been made about 20 inches tall. None of the figures came with weapons but the Armoured Zentraedi came with a removable helmet.
Also many toys depicting the vehicles and mecha from the series were released in 1985 by Matchbox , in 1992 by Harmony Gold and in 1994 by Playmates (under the Exosquad line). There were major differences in packaging, toy stickers and colors between the different releases. The vehicles were designed to be used only with the 3 3/4" figures. The SDF-1 Playset was only released under the Matchbox line in the 80s and could be used with both the 3 3/4" and 6" figures.
Robotech had a similar effect in other places of the world, including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Greece, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Serbia and the Philippines. In China, during the summer of 2004, it was awarded "Best Robot-themed Anime of all time" by the Cartoon Channel of China Education Television. It is highly likely that someone growing up in any of those countries during the 1980s watched at least some of its episodes (However, Robotech did not start its broadcast in China until 1991). As in the US, it helped continue a slow but continuous rise in the consumption of anime.
That said, Robotech is often an extremely polarizing subject amongst anime fans. Some critics consider the show to be an abomination that runs roughshod over its original sources by Westernizing character names, making some censor-appeasing edits, and changing the stories of three wholly-unrelated series (some compare it to Woody Allen's camp Japanese movie re-dub What's Up, Tiger Lily?) to pass them off as a cohesive whole. Series writer/actor Greg Snegoff did say in an interview on the now-defunct Shadow Chronicles News fansite that, "afterwards, we received compliments from the Japanese who thought our dialogue and stories were better than the original" and Protoculture Addicts magazine reports in a Robotech fifth-anniversary article that those compliments came from the production company Tatsunoko. However, Animag magazine (issue 11) and Animerica magazine (issue 9, volume 4) reports that the original Macross creators at Studio Nue and Artland, such as story creator Shoji Kawamori and chief director Noboru Ishiguro, expressed their concern over the Robotech adaptation, and surprise on its differences.
In an effort to combine the storylines of three different Japanese series, certain characters underwent drastic role changes, with little explicit character development or plot exposition. Notably, Rick Hunter (one of the main characters of the Macross segment) was changed — by a line of dialogue — from an ordinary-yet-pivotal fighter-unit commander into an unseen admiral, who is said to have ordered the destruction of Earth under the controversial rationale of saving it from the enemy. The line by General Reinhardt (unnamed in the original television series) in command aboard the SDF-4 in the episode "Dark Finale" was, "I've been ordered by Admiral Hunter himself to obliterate the planet completely."
In addition, the 65-episode minimum guideline cited as the reason to combine the episodes applied specifically to weekday syndication. Contemporary series such as Star Blazers and Transformers were initially syndicated weekly before reaching the 65-episode mark. The guideline also did not necessarily require a combined storyline; adaptations like Voltron coupled two unrelated Japanese series without directly combining the storylines. (A year later, 20 additional Voltron episodes and a crossover special were created for American audiences by Toei Animation, after the first daily run of 104 episodes.)
Shortly after completing Robotech, Carl Macek would make the less-well-known Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years in a similar fashion by combining two Leiji Matsumoto series, Captain Harlock and Queen Millennia, together and altering the storyline significantly. In this case, however, the two anime series were spliced together in a manner where the stories of the characters occurred simultaneously, not one after the other.
Robotech has been the subject of two parodies by the fandub group Seishun Shitemasu: Robotech 3: Not Necessarily the Sentinels, and Robotech 4: Khyron's Counterattack (using footage from, respectively, Gunbuster and Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack).