If you were a kid in the 1980s, then you probably have fond memories of the animated series Voltron: Defender of the Universe - memories that no doubt have you excited for the upcoming live-action film adaptation Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Well, you may have to sit on that excitement for awhile according to the latest report from Anime News Network, who say that legal issues over the licensing rights to the series may complicate the production, release and distribution of the film.
The American series Voltron: Defender of the Universe has its' genesis in not one, but two different Japanese cartoons created by Toei Animation; Hyakujuu Ou Golion (King of Beasts Golion) and Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV (Mechanized Fleet Dairugger XV). These two series were translated, recut, redubbed and released to American audiences with a slightly altered storyline that merged the two series into the same storyline as Voltron: Defender of the Universe. The American company Koplar Communications was behind the series, and Koplar has since evolved/merged into World Events Productions (WEP).
Toei and WEP had a series of agreements which covered the use of Golion, Dairugger and Voltron: Defender of the Universe. There were some slight disputes that arose in the late 1990s when WEP produced a CGI spinoff series entitled Voltron: The Third Dimension, however these were later resolved.
So, where's the problem? Well, it seems that as far as Toei is concerned, licensing rights to films are different then the licensing rights for a live-action film. As Toei Managing Director Masayoshi Endo wrote in a letter to WEP President Ted Koplar:
Congratulations! We, however, were surprised with the fact that Toei has not been contacted in connection with this movie planning. As you remember, we had a dispute in the past and settled it in 2000, and now we have no dispute for the animation of Voltron or Golion, which are now all yours.
We, however, do not think that the settlement and the assignment made thereunder shall have given you an exclusive right for live-action movie for Voltron. As you know, in our business, animation and live-action are completely different products and traded separately.
We are especially concerned about the marketing of the possible live-action film in Japan, and we expect you would contact us in due course to deal with this matter.
Lawsuits have now been filed between WEP and Toei, and New Regency, who has been planning to distribute Voltron: Defender of the Universe has now stated they no longer plan to produce the project.
So, hopefully this doesn't mean the end for Voltron: Defender of the Universe, but at the moment, things don't look good.
In the animated series, five Galaxy Alliance pilots control vehicles shaped like lions that combine and form the massive sword-wielding Voltron robot in order to battle an evil menace. The film version of Voltron: Defender of the Universe was set to be directed by Max Markowski, from a script written by Justin Marks.