Anime Expo 2011 ROBOTECH Panel
New projects on the horizon, seriously...
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I don’t know about you, but I’m a hardcore Robotech fan. I grew up on the cartoon in the 80s, and kept up with everything since from the comics to the novels, toys, cell phone content, video games, RPGs, etc. 2006’s all-new animated film Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles was pretty cool, and at the next couple of convention appearances the Harmony Gold crew announced that a sequel, Shadow Rising, was in the works. Then the bombshell came: a live action Robotech film is being developed by Warner Bros. It’s been years now since that news came out, with not a whole lot of forward momentum. Even worse, Robotech creator and guru Carl Macek passed away in 2010, leaving several projects up in the air. And so it was that I was eager to attend this year’s Robotech panel at Anime Expo. Read on for some actual news!
With a packed theatre on Saturday afternoon, the three Harmony Gold panelists took their places. Leading the presentation would be Kevin McKeever, Marketing Director. Sharing the stage were Tommy Yune (Creative Director, Co-Director and Producer of Shadow Chronicles) and Steve Yun (Producer, Writer, and Robotech.com Web Master).
First up on the agenda was a reminder that the live action is still in the works. Warner Bros. has the rights, and various people are attached to the project: Tobey Maguire, Akiva Goldsman, Jason Netter, etc. There was no other news at this time, only that as before, Warner is watching the success of other live action films based on 80's cartoons, notably the Transformer franchise. Whether that bodes well or ill for your idea of a Robotech film is a matter of personal preference I suppose. Similarly, Kevin showed one frame with the "Shadow Rising" title, indicating that this project is still alive as well. It’s common knowledge that with their involvement in a live action film Warner Bros. essentially took over what Harmony Gold could do with Robotech in major segments, and they probably aren’t looking for animated films to come out and confuse their potential audience.
Merchandise was a topic a lot of us in the audience were looking forward to! The latest Robotech releases from Toynami have focused on the 1/100 scale Zentraedi Battlepods, which have been strong sellers with multiple variants. The Light Artillery version (with dual multi-missile pods) IS coming, it’s just stuck in the shipping process from China due to the economic slowdown. As soon as it gets moving again Robotech.com will notify its members. Even better, an Officer’s Pod toy is in the works as well! Hopefully by the time it’s ready for sale Toynami will have its pipeline flowing again. Kevin also brought up the Masterpiece Cyclone lineup. Currently the Scott Bernard version is sold out, with only a limited number of Rands left as well. More are on the way!
Comic books are another medium where Robotech has done well, including the recent Prelude to Shadow Chronicles that coincided with that film. Robotech comics are apparently huge in China, and that country is getting a major dose of DC’s Robotech reissues in new trade paperbacks with new cover art and supplemental material thanks to Xinhua Winshare. A small number of these new Chinese editions will be available in the states via Robotech.com.
Next on the agenda was the “Future of Robotech,” introduced by a screen with a big question mark. As noted earlier, the sudden death of Carl Macek threw some longstanding plans into chaos, and for a time it seemed as though all of Robotech might stagnate. It was then that Frank Agrama, CEO at Harmony Gold, decided that in Carl’s honor Robotech would return bigger and better than ever. To do that, they needed new animation... and it’s a lot closer than any of us would have guessed.
In 2010 Carl and Harmony Gold began work on a new Robotech series that takes place during the New Generation era, and which ties into Robotech: the Shadow Chronicles. In a commitment to Carl’s memory and the lifeblood of Robotech, Harmony Gold has already increased the amount of animation ordered, and expects it to be completed later this year or early in 2012. Of course, there’s no distribution yet, but that will come as the project is finished.
As a special treat, the audience was shown a brief trailer. It went by very quickly so I can’t tell you a lot, but here’s a tidbit. Most of the action centered around space combat, with green and white Garfish-class Cruisers making up the heroic fleet and nimble mecha resembling the VF-4 “Lightning” Veritech piloted by military in CVR-type armor. Though some parts were still rough it was exciting, and any new Robotech is definitely a good thing. This project has no title yet, though Kevin joked that because the final frame says “Robotech Coming Soon” that they might just stick with that.
Another side project at Harmony Gold is another Robotech soundtrack release. Originally slated for the 25th anniversary (2010), it has been delayed. While cleaning out the vaults in and around Los Angeles, the Harmony Gold guys found previously unknown audio recordings of Robotech music. Not only that, but these tapes are in outdated reels that includes way more information than most modern systems incorporate. There are even individual instrument tracks on these reels, complicating the duplication and clean up processes but allowing for the most control and perfection. At the end of the panel Steve played some samples of the new tracks in which he could drop in and out different instruments and voices; it was pretty cool! The new Robotech soundtrack will feature 100% digitally remastered music, and it will come in a 3 disc set. Release date to be announced by the end of the year (and Kevin made a firm promise on this).
Finally on the agenda was a discussion of the Robotech Documentary. Last year the guys at Harmony Gold had the idea to film Carl Macek and others talking about the history of Robotech for short clips. In doing so, they realized that there was so much to tell, and that brief snippets would never do it justice. So, a larger documentary was planned. Unfortunately, Carl passed away early in the project, but his segments will be the centerpiece of the film. Many other Robotech people from voice actors to crew are also involved, and it looks to be a great memento for the lifelong fans. The documentary has been completed, and once again there will be a distribution announcement before the end of the year.
With that, Kevin opened up the panel to questions from the audience. Prizes were given out to good ones (I got a wall scroll for asking about Robotech cell phone content and the day to day activities of Harmony Gold), and those topics discussed included the ongoing Robotech Roleplaying Game series by Palladium Books, Robotech on Blu-ray, the desire for new toys, why the Sentinels series won’t be completed, and much more.
While Kevin and the panelists didn’t offer any concrete release dates or price points for anything, there was a lot of excitement stemming from the new animation series trailer and hopes for the future of Robotech. I’ll be sticking around to see what happens. How about you?