World Events Productions Office Visit and Interviews
WEP Vice President Robert Kopler Talks VOLTRON's Past, Present, and Future...
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I recently had the opportunity to check out the world headquarters of World Events Productions, the owners of Voltron. Originally created in the late 1984, Voltron and the Voltron Force became a hit with children thanks to its cool characters, exciting battles, and awesome robots. After all, who’s not a fan of five robot Lions who combine into one massive sword-wielding robot and battle evil?
Now, almost 30 years later, Voltron is still near and dear to collectors and fans, especially now that those fans who grew up with Voltron are the credit-card wielding consumers looking to add to their collection.
Now, with a number of new comic series on the shelf, a new animated series on TV, and an impressive new series of collectible action figures from MattyCollector.com, Voltron continues to excite both children and adults today.
L to R. WEP Vice President Robert Kopler, Head of Licensing Tiffany Ilardi, and Creative Director Jeremy Corray
WEP Vice President Robert Kopler (above, left) handles the day to day business and legal ventures of the company. While not directly involved in the creative aspects of the Voltron property, were it not for Kopler and what he does, realities like the latest animated cartoon series, the character's two current comic series, and the fan-favorite Mattel collector line of figures wouldn’t be happening. We thought it important to sit down with Kopler and ask him a few questions regarding Voltron, why the series is so popular, and what’s in store for the future.
FIGURES.COM: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few of our questions.
KOPLER: You're very welcome.
FIGURES.COM: Generation X grew up with Voltron and now has the ways and means to both make the decisions creatively about the property as well as buy the collectibles which are made. How do you here at WEP keep the line authentic for both original fans who grew up with the license while introducing a new generation to the property?
KOPLER: That’s a funny thing you bring up because when you were a kid, you wanted that Matchbox die-cast Voltron – that was the gold standard. But you were lucky if your mom went out and bought you the Green Lion. And then you had to tell your mom “What good is the Green Lion without the other four Lions?” A lot of times you had to make friends just to form Voltron! God forbid we’d have had credit cards at that age, we’d all probably have five complete Voltrons! Which would have been a good investment considering those things now sell on eBay for like $1,000 a pop!
Now that we’re adults, we have Mattel – who’s our current toy licensee. Mattel has done this incredible interpretation of Voltron on their MattyCollector website for real hardcore fans of classic toys. They’ve never really done robot stuff, but they grabbed hold of it and ran with it and put a lot of care into it. You could really make the case this is the most spectacular Voltron toy ever made, including those which came out years ago. It’s plastic, because if you made it out of die-cast it’d weigh like 500 pounds, but it’s really incredible how accurate this is when it’s complete.
To think they’ve made a figure that’s screen accurate and you can put the figures inside the Lions is impressive. Mattel has found a way to incorporate the cockpits and enable fans to put the figures in the cockpit without altering the proportions. Voltron has never been done this big before and if you want to put a decently sized figure (3 ¾”) inside a Lion, it’s gotta be a big Lion. This is really what we’ve been looking for…
FIGURES.COM: It seems the Voltron property has been carefully guarded and, unlike some other 1980s properties, hasn’t been exploited. This, in turn, has given Voltron a certain amount of “street cred” because it’s authentic, true to its roots, and has stayed real. This has obviously given it popularity with many rappers, artists, and other decision makers.
KOPLER: I think what people picked up on with Voltron is it’s one of the few independent productions that really permeated pop culture. There’s a huge swath of people who remember Voltron and…this is it (looking around the office), we’re an office of 3 people and this is where all the licensing has gone on for the last 20 years or so.
Every licensee we’ve signed to a licensing deal is passionate about the property. We’ve only work with fans truly, which is great. Today we’re working with Mattel as well as with VIZ Media and Dynamite on the comic book side. Writer Brian Smith and artist Jacob Chabot over at VIZ and writer Brandon Thomas and artist Craig Cermak over at Dynamite are all fans and they’re working on incredible comic books that expand on the current TV show, Voltron Force, and tell more classic stories and reimagined stories in Voltron: Year One. They do a phenomenal job on the stories and the artwork. When you’re working with fans, it’s easy.
You know you're serious when you have an 8' tall Voltron in your office!
FIGURES.COM: With so much unlicensed stuff out there and with so many resourceful fans who will make their own stuff; how do you encourage this passionate creativity without allowing bootleg items to be made?
KOPLER: Yeah, I don’t want to sit here and encourage people to appropriate our intellectual property, but our initiative - headed by Creative Director Jeremy Corray – has been to find these people, these fans who have these cool visions through various projects – artwork and more. If it looks cool, instead of sending them a cease and desist letter, our goal has been to find these guys and ask them “How can we work together?”
Jeremy just did that with a guy from Dave’s Geeky Ideas, who came up with this awesome design for a Voltron hockey jersey (held by Jeremy Corray, below). It was such a cool product and instead of sending him a letter saying “Hey, quit selling this because this is our IP!” we said “Hey, how can we work together to get this out there because this is such a cool idea?” It’s lead to a great product.
We’ve had fans from time to time ask us to for permission to use Voltron. We just last week had a guy email us asking us for permission to make a giant Voltron stained glass window. We were like “Sure, just be sure to send us pictures!” We love seeing the great stuff fans put out.
Voltron hockey jersey and new plush hat
FIGURES.COM: We’ve heard rumors for a long time of a Voltron live action movie. With technology where it’s at today and the amazing special effects available to film makers, the only real question now is “Where’s the Voltron movie?”
KOPLER: Yeah, it’s in development with Relativity with producers being Atlas Entertainment, which is headed by Chuck Roven, who’s releasing a small film this summer called “The Dark Knight Rises” (laughing). They’ve just been great people to work with and we’ve been working close with them. We’re working with our writers - Thomas Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer – who are working on a script. They’ve shared some really cool ideas. What we’re looking to make is a big summer action film; a film you can take your family to that’s a big fun, action-heavy movie. And from what we’ve seen, Tom and Josh are working on just that.
Like you said, with the technology today, you can do some really cool stuff with the CGI technology. We’re so excited to see what stamp a director can put on this property. We’d really love to see a director give it their own vision and their own unique take. Voltron has a really unique story to tell. It has a great mythology. In the end - it’s got these awesome robot Lions and really cool robots, it’s got the eye candy – but in the end it’s a story about people and that’s going to differentiate us. There are a lot of really cool directions a live-action Voltron movie can go and it’s going to be really cool to see on the big screen.
A variety of Voltron collectibles from yesteryear.
FIGURES.COM: Where would you like to see Voltron in 3-5 years?
KOPLER: We’d love to see the movie out there, that’s for sure. And to keep Voltron alive and going with licensees that put love and care into the product and property that they’ve done for years and years.
FIGURES.COM: And more Voltron Force?
KOPLER: That’s what we’re working on (laughing). We hope to have an announcement about that pretty soon (smiles).
Ironically, in a way, it seems Voltron is more popular now than it’s ever been because people who’ve grown up with the show are in their 30s and there’s this huge nostalgia factor. You hear the theme music and you see the robots come together and it harkens back to your childhood.
Voltron is constantly being referred to as a synonym for coming together; especially in athletic contests. When you see Kobe Bryant referring to the Miami Heat coming together like Voltron or Kevin Garrnet saying Rajon Rondo is the Black Lion or the head of Voltron on the Celtics…what an amazing thing! It sends chills when we hear Voltron referenced like that. And we want to continue to put love and care into the property and make sure it’s treated the right way by those we license it to and to keep the energy a live! Great things are to come!
Be sure to check out the images from our WEP office visit HERE and watch for more interviews from our World Events Productions office visit as we also spoke with Jeremy Corray, Creative Director at WEP, and Tiffany Ilardi, Head of WEP Licensing.
Again, a very special “thank you” to Mr. Robert Koplar; we look forward to chatting with him again in the future!
- Jess Horsley
Last edited by JeffSaylor; 08-29-2012 at 05:21 PM.
"Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"
Jess C. Horsley