SDCC12: Voltron Fan Panel
Creative Director Shows Off Current State Of The Lion Force...
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Voltron, simply put, is one of the most iconic cartoon series of all time. Airing in the United States in 1984-1985, the show depicted the adventures of a group of heroes piloting robot lions that could combine into a giant humanoid robot: Voltron, the Defender of the Universe! Since then there have been various Voltron products and incarnations, including the Nickelodeon show Voltron Force. For lots more information on what’s going on with the Voltron brand, check out the recent interviews Figures.com did with the World Events Productions office HERE.
Creative Director Jeremy Corray Address the Crowd
At Comic-Con this year attendees were treated to a really fun panel called Voltron: Form Blazing Fans! Creative Director Jeremy Corray welcomed the fans with a cool intro video featuring the giant robot appearing all over pop culture. Next he introduced three current Voltron partners; Crunchyroll offers streaming uncensored episodes of “Go Lion” (the Japanese animation Voltron was based on), MyxTV is a sort of Asian-American MTV that plays Voltron, and Skinit has cool Voltron wraps for your phones and mobile devices.
The first panel guests were the guys behind the fan film Voltron: The End. Writer/director Alex Albrecht was joined by star Timothy Omundson (Psych) to talk about the filming process and his love for Voltron. The End captures the final moments of Lance and the Red Lion after some sort of catastrophic accident. Omundson recalled wanting to do the project just to grow a beard, while Albrecht recalled he signed on once he heard there would be Diet Coke. The actor admitted that he wasn’t familiar with Voltron, but quickly got up to speed and appreciated it. Omundson further described why The End is so good, referring to its story and the stakes involved. The pair went on to talk about how they managed the short film on such a low budget with only half a costume, cheap instrument panel, etc. Meanwhile, a fan volunteered to build a 3 foot long Red Lion model for the final shot!
Next up on stage were Voltron toys! Scott “Toy Guru” Neitlich from Mattel came out to show off the current series of Voltron Classics lions. While the blue and black lions are still on their way, Scott had the entire set on stage to show the fans. Along with him were the ladies of Team Unicorn who got to play with the toys and assemble the individual lions into Voltron. It took them a few minutes, but in the end they were succesfull! Scott described the Voltron Club Lion Force and how popular it’s been, finally bringing collectors large, high quality lions with accessories, weapons, and even pilot compartments for the figures. While anyone can buy individual lions, only subscribers will get the exclusive Sven figure that comes on a cardback reminiscent of the '80s.
The latest animation has been Voltron Force, the first season of which aired from June 2011 to April of this year. The show can be seen in reruns on Nick Toons as well Netflix Streaming. On hand to talk about the show was Toplessrobot.com’s Rob Bricken. A super fan, Bricken described how the show really spoke to those of us who enjoyed the original while also adding new elements to attract kids today. Another really cool thing about Voltron Force is that it digs deeper into the mythology and answers a lot of question like where do Robeasts come from, why does it take so long for the lions to form Voltron (and why don’t they do it right away), etc.
While you can catch Voltron Force on TV, it also appears in comics from VIZ. Senior Editor Traci Todd and artist Jacob Chabot arrived next to talk about the youth/young adult series. Todd described it as “for kids, but with plenty to make older fans excited. It definitely pays homage to the original show.” There will be 6 volumes of the comic and each one features a different artist except for numbers 1 and 6 done by Chabot. He explained that in preparation he watched a lot of the cartoons, both old and new, then filtered the stories and characters through his own style. Volume 3 hits stores in August, with the remaining books coming out every other month.
For those of us a little older, Dynamite has two Voltron comic series that are creating a big splash. Brandon Thomas writes both of them, and was on hand to share his incredible enthusiasm. He describes the mainline series as the Voltron series he wanted to see as he grew up, the “high school version.” It takes the original cartoon as canon and builds vastly upon the characters and mythology. Other than the main series he also writes Voltron Year One which tells the story of Sven’s group of Space Explorers just months before the start of the cartoon. Craig Cermak, the artist, described it as “a cross between Mission Impossible and Ocean’s 11.” That book revolves around special ops missions undertaken by the team led by Sven with cool action, covert assignments, and political conspiracies.
A live action Voltron film has been rumored for a while, and Jeremy confirmed that it is in the works. He described a couple “minor” companies they’re partnered with... like Atlas and Relativity. On the panel were the film’s writers, Josh Oppenheimer and Thomas Donnelly (Sahara, A Sound of Thunder, Conan the Barbarian, upcoming Uncharted). Naturally, they couldn’t reveal much about the film at this early stage but did say that they were huge fans and remembered the cartoon, promising to stay faithful to Voltron’s legacy, characters, and storyline while updating it for a modern film audience. Oppenheimer described the project as a huge opportunity to bring a cult classic to new audiences, saying “there’s only one shot to do Voltron.” Donnelly talked about working with Atlas on Uncharted and said that all of the guys are amazing.
With that the main panel presentations were done and all that was left was for Jeremy to give out some awesome prizes including the full Mattel Voltron! Audience members even got to see a young child dressed up in a pretty amazing Voltron costume. All in all there was a lot of excitement for the brand and fans were pumped up about their favorite cartoon thriving in 2012.
After the main fan panel I got a chance to talk to some of the panelists directly. Scott Neitlich of Mattel talked about the amazing success of their lions and reiterated that these were limited editions and once they are all sold they will never be made or offered for sale again. If you don’t have a subscription keep your eyes out for the final two lions; Blue Lion goes on sale next month in August. When asked about Voltron Force toys (you may remember that the Mattel booth had some early prototypes on display last year), Neitlich admitted that Matty is ready to go; they just need to get retail partners on board and toys could be on shelves in as little as three months. If you’re a fan, get the word out and build awareness so we can these cool toys!
Brandon Thomas was eager to talk about his Voltron comics at Dynamite, especially about the deeper mythology he’s delving into with the next story arc (starting with issue #7 titled “Ten Lions”) and the different versions of Voltron existing in “different dimensions.” Thomas revealed that the licensors gave him lots of freedom to develop his stories based on a comprehensive outline he created that covers the first few years worth of stories. We’ll continue to see more of that as Lotor takes the place of his father in this next arc leading to a very interesting situation involving politics and conspiracies. Lotor advertises his desire to join the Galaxy Alliance, but what about the new “evil Voltron” that shows up and causes trouble? Thomas also revealed that he’ll be bringing back other fan favorite characters including Haggar, who he described as appearing “cool, creepy, and sexy!”
A new artist, N. Steven Harris, will be taking over Voltron in this new arc as well, further differentiating it from the initial storyline. We’ll see Sven come back into the fold and a new focus back on Voltron. The first arc was in essence a long-form story of Dr. Elliott/Zarkon, a character who shows the balance and relationships between the three great geo-political entities of the Voltron universe: Earth, Arus, and Doom. His allegiances and enemies added layer upon layer to the overall story. Going forward the series will address such questions as: is one Voltron enough and what is the real history of Arus? Meanwhile, it was announced that issue six will be the final chapter of Year One, though Thomas would like to come back to it to tell one more storyline that he’s already prepared. It has a “natural conclusion,” the beginning of the Voltron cartoon story. The comic has a more kinetic feel with lots of action, and that was reinforced by Thomas’ different method of writing it (more book by book instead of a long plan for the series). The next issue will see Sven’s team confronted with another group of Space Explorers that includes some current (and future) love interests on the Voltron team...
From the live action movie to comics and everything in between it’s clear that the Voltron brand is in good hands. Fans have a lot to enjoy right now and the future looks bright for the Defender of the Universe!
For a Voltron Panel photo gallery tour, CLICK HERE!
Story and Photos by Scott Rubin