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Robotech

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.

The original television series (1985)

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":

  • The First Robotech War (The Macross Saga) concerns humanity's battle against the Zentraedi, a race of giant warriors who are sent to earth to retrieve the flagship of the Robotech Master Zor. The ship contains the last known source of Protoculture in the universe.
  • The Second Robotech War (The Masters) begins when the creators of the Zentraedi, the Robotech Masters, attempt to take up where the Zentraedi left off, and capture the protoculture held within the remains of the SDF-1.
  • The Third Robotech War (The New Generation) occurs after the alien Invid have been alerted to the existence of Protoculture on Earth by events that transpired at the end of the Second Robotech War. The planet is conquered, then enslaved, and it is up to the Robotech Expeditionary Force (and the Earth rebels) to retake their ancestral homeland.

On some television stations, the syndicated run was preceded by the broadcast premiere of Codename: Robotech, a feature-length pilot.

Home video

Following the original broadcast, the series enjoyed popularity on home video in VHS and DVD formats from the following distributors:
For more information, see Robotech (TV series): Home Video Releases

Animated sequels and spinoffs

Harmony Gold has attempted to produce several follow ups to the original series over the years, but with mixed success to this date.

Robotech: The Movie (1986)

Also called Robotech: The Untold Story, this theatrical film was the first new Robotech adventure created after the premiere of the original series. It used footage from the Megazone 23 Part 1 OVA (Original Video Animation, or made-for-video animated feature) spliced with Southern Cross, and had only a tenuous link to the television series. The movie disappeared from the United States after a failed test run in Texas. Harmony Gold relinquished their license to Megazone 23 after director Carl Macek washed his hands of the project.

Robotech II: The Sentinels (1987, cancelled)

This aborted American-produced series would have followed the continuing adventures of Rick and Lisa Hunter and the Robotech Expedition during the events of The Robotech Masters and The New Generation. The feature-length pilot is comprised of the first three (and only) episodes that were produced. Being a sequel/spinoff to the combined series, The Sentinels featured characters from all three Robotech sagas and introduced the SDF-3 along with an overview of their new mission.

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.

Robotech III: The Odyssey (proposed)

Producer Carl Macek revealed ideas for another proposed series, Robotech III: The Odyssey, which would have created a circular storyline that would end where the original Robotech began in a giant 260-episode cycle to fill up all the weekdays in a year. According to Macek, The Odyssey would have revealed Lynn Minmei to be the mother of Zor, making Minmei the focal point of Robotech. After the failure of Sentinels, Odyssey never went into development, though its ideas were worked into the Jack McKinney novel The End of the Circle.

Robotech IV and V (planned)

Fan publication Macross Life interviewed Harmony Gold executive Richard Firth in 1986, where he revealed that Robotech creator Carl Macek had "plans through ROBOTECH 5, which would give us an episode for each day of the year for a year and a half." He also said that these two installments would have brought the series to 285 episodes. Regarding the plot, Firth mentioned a "retired Commodore Hunter, whom ever that may be, could very well be speaking at the graduation of the later day cadets or whatever, and they ask him to tell them the story all over again: it comes back [to the first episode of the series]."

It should be noted that Carl Macek himself has never mentioned Robotech IV or V in any interviews or writings.

Robotech 3000 (2000, cancelled)

Carl Macek attempted another sequel with the development of Robotech 3000. This all-CGI series would have been set a millennium in the future of the Robotech universe and feature none of the old series' characters. In the three-minute trailer, an expedition is sent to check on a non-responsive mining outpost and is attacked by "infected" Veritech mecha. Again, the idea was abandoned midway into production after negative reception within the company, negative fan reactions at the FanimeCon anime convention in 2000, and financial difficulties within Netter Digital who was animating the show. It now exists only in trailer form on the official Robotech website.

Robotech UN Public Service Announcement (2005)

A sixty-second public service announcement for the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, featuring Scott Bernard and Ariel, was animated during the production of The Shadow Chronicles. Although it did not use the original voice actors and the dialogue was somewhat out-of-character, it nonetheless marked the first fully-completed Robotech footage in many years.

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (2006)

In 2002, Tommy Yune announced development of a new sequel movie, which was not named until 2004 as Robotech: Shadow Force. The storyline overlaps with and continues from the unresolved ending of the original series. The title of the story-arc was soon changed to Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. The first trailers with finished animation were shown at Anime Expo and Comic-Con International in 2005. It was not until February 2006, when Kevin McKeever, operations coordinator at Harmony Gold, was able to confirm that the pilot movie had been completed. After a series of delays, FUNimation Entertainment was finally announced as the home video, broadcast, and theatrical distributor at the 2006 Comic-Con International in San Diego. Harmony Gold premiered the movie at various film festivals in 2006, and it was first seen by a public audience at MechaCon in August of 2006, where it was showcased as a charity screening to help raise funds for the ongoing Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita recovery effort. A limited theatrical run followed in January 2007, and the film was released the DVD on February 6, 2007. A 2-disc collector's edition was released in November 2007.

Robotech: Shadow Rising (2009)

On July 27, 2007, at their Comic-Con International panel, Harmony Gold and Robotech director Tommy Yune unveiled the second entry of the Shadow Chronicles production, titled Robotech: Shadow Rising. Pre-production has begun, and a projected release date of sometime in 2009 is currently expected.

Unofficial and Parody Productions

In the 1990s, Seishun Shitemasu, an anime fandubbing group, produced the parodies "Robotech III: Not Necessarily the Sentinels" and "Robotech IV: Khyron's Counterattack," using footage from, respectively, Gunbuster/Aim For The Top! and Gundam: Char's Counterattack, continuing the tradition of the original Robotech's adaptation of unrelated anime series into a single continuity.

Live-action film (proposed)

On 7 September 2007, the Hollywood Reporter stated that Warner Bros. had acquired the film rights to Robotech and would be producing a live-action film with an as-yet-unknown release date. Tobey Maguire is producing the film through his Maguire Entertainment banner and may be playing the lead role in what the studio plans on being a tentpole sci-fi franchise.

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.

In June 2008, it was reported that Lawrence Kasdan had been hired to write the film, with Charles Roven and Akiva Goldsman joining Drew Crevello and Tobey Maguire as producers.

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.

Robotech (Harmony Gold) chronology

The Robotech chronology, according to Harmony Gold, is illustrated below:
For a more detailed timeline, see Robotech Wars

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)
Note: Asterisked works are now considered "secondary continuity" — that is, that their events exist in the continuity of Robotech, but "don't count" when conflicts arise with the "main continuity" that are the three-part Robotech TV series (four, with the addition of 2006's Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles).

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.

The Robotech franchise

At the time of its broadcast, Harmony Gold also launched Robotech through a popular line of comics to be followed by novels, role-playing games, toys, and other consumer products. With the cancellation of Robotech II: The Sentinels, many of these licensed products were discontinued, and led to a drought of Robotech product through much of the 1990s, except for publishers who continued the The Sentinels storyline in print.

Robotech art books

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

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:

Robotech collectible card game

The first Robotech collectible card game was released in 2006 by Hero Factory, which had previously produced Robotech trading cards.

Robotech music and soundtracks

Various Robotech soundtracks have been released on records, cassettes, and compact discs since 1988.

Robotech novelizations

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.

Robotech role-playing games

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.

Robotech toys

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 video games

Robotech spawned five video game licenses, of which the most recent three were released:

  • Robotech: Crystal Dreams for the Nintendo 64 game system. This was aborted when its publisher, Gametek, went under in 1998. The game would have taken place during the period between the SDF-1's destruction and the launch of the SDF-3. The game had a Zentraedi invasion during what was scripted in the series as a period of peace.
  • Robotech: Battlecry (2002) for the Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation 2, and Nintendo GameCube. The gameplay takes place in the Macross era, and features a storyline running exactly concurrent with that era's historical events. Multiplayer support is limited to one-on-one. Several of the voice actors from the original series, including Tony Oliver, Melanie MacQueen, Dan Woren, and Cam Clarke, reprised their original roles, or voiced new characters in this game. The game was a relative success, even though many fans complained of the over-cartoonified look of the game.
  • Robotech: The Macross Saga (2002) for the Game Boy Advance, a side-scrolling shooter that resembles the Japanese Super Famicom game Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie.
  • Robotech: Invasion (2004) for the Microsoft Xbox and the Sony PlayStation 2. First/third person shooter. The gameplay covers the New Generation part of the story, with support for single player missions and multiplayer online matches. Features Cyclones, transformable body armor/motorcycles. As with Battlecry, several of the original voice actors reprised their roles.
  • Robotech: The New Generation (2007) for mobile phones. A top-down scrolling shooter that covers the New Generation part of the story, leading up to the Shadow Chronicles. The player can play as one of three characters (Scott, Rook and Rand), each with their own special weapons. The player also has the ability to change into "Battloid Mode" through the collection of Protoculture. Robotech: The New Generation features famous music from the TV series, as well as the most evil of all the villains.

Effect

While anime shows were brought to the US as early as the 1960s, such as Astro Boy, Speed Racer, and Kimba the White Lion, most were heavily bowdlerized for American audiences, with violence, deaths of major characters, sexual references, et cetera, completely edited out for what was assumed to be an audience of young children. Robotech, along with the earlier Star Blazers (1974), broke with this tradition by leaving in some of those elements, and they are frequently credited as the series that helped spur a greater American interest in Japanese animation, leading to the current anime industry in North America. Robotech is frequently among the top-ten anime lists of American anime magazines such as Anime Insider, Animerica, Newtype USA, and others. Cascadia Con gave Harmony Gold an award for Robotech's contribution to the science-fiction genre.

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).

References

External links

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