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Courtesy of World Event Productions
VOLTRON! DEFENDER OF THE UNIVERSE! Sound familiar? If it does, you can probably practically feel the pastel-colored cereal milk dribbling down your chin. As the top-rated syndicated kids' show circa 1984-1985, Voltron: Defender of the Universe held a prominent place in the TV lineup, and made an even bigger impact on Christmas lists. How did a show with such a short shelf life become embedded into pop culture? Was it the groundbreaking fusion of genres? The GenX introduction into anime? Maybe it just hits that sweet spot of what makes science fiction magical, while keeping what has been cool with boys for centuries: lions and swords.
Voltron made its comeback to the small screen as the highest-rated premiere on Nicktoons in June of 2011, with the debut of Voltron Force!, and now airs Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. The first three 30-minute episodes combine to make a feature film, Voltron Force: New Defenders Trilogy, which will screen at the Tivoli Theatre August 18 at 7 p.m. as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. Accidentally imported from Japan as a result of a miscommunication, Voltron was known in Japan as Beast King GoLion. The shows weren’t translated from Japanese to English; the dialogue was simply made up to fit the individual episodes. (There is an interesting list of plot changes available on Wikipedia.) And although Voltron doesn’t have a star in the U. City Loop yet (look out, Nelly...), it does have St. Louis roots: Koplar Entertainment was the distributor of the original Japanese show. Now, the company's current iteration, World Event Productions, is invovled in every aspect of the current series. On Sunday, WEP's Bob Koplar and Jeremy Corray (fresh from the Voltron Panel at Comic-Con), will be on hand to answer questions after the screening. Joining them will be Dan Powell, a Comedy Central writer/producer with a long list of credits including Voltron Force!.
As a refresher, Voltron is a cartoon about five robot lions piloted by humans. The robots combine into one super-robot known as Voltron when evil forces become too great to combat individually. In Voltron Force!, three new characters, Daniel, Vince, and Larmina, have been added to the cast. Voltron has also been delicately updated to reflect the sensibilities of a new audience. Jeremy Corray observes “The days of writing down to kids is over. There aren’t many problems that can’t be solved by a giant robot, so we have tried to throw in some curveballs to take the show in some unexpected places.”
With graphic novels, a Twitter feed, a video game (out in October) and a live action movie, Voltron is being positioned as the next big thing. More quietly, it's becoming one of those inherited entertainment classics, passed down by dads to the next generation. At the same time, it has been updated to be fresh and relevant for both generations to watch together. For those of us who remember the L.A. Olympics, “We Are the World” and New Coke, Voltron is back, for our kids, as they dribble pink and lavender cereal milk down their chins.
Drew Davis tweets at twitter.com/svo1905.