I haven’t written about current events in a while (for good reason), but something unique happened today on the Internet that inspired me to speak about it. When I was a wee lad growing up in New York in the ’90s, there was a televised cartoon show that I was particularly fond of. I was so fond of it in fact, that I taped episodes off the TV and bought whatever VHS cassettes of it I could find. I even went as far as collecting toys. I was very captivated by the story, the characters and the mythology of it, and it wound up being very influential on me as I moved into screenwriting.

I speak of “Voltron: Defender of the Universe.” The pitch is simple: Big towering creatures aptly nicknamed “robeasts” are unleashed by the evil King Zarkon on the planet Arus to harm innocent people, and each time a robeast goes on the warpath, five brave space explorers must pilot five robot lions to defeat them. At a certain point, the lions come together and form Voltron, who then whips out a huge badass sword and slices the robeast in half. And so it goes over and over again.

“Voltron” proved that Japanese manga will beat American animation any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I loved “The Transformers” when I was a child also, but “Voltron” wins in my book. The reason I bring this up is because there was a development on the ’Net today regarding a long in development film adaptation of the property. Some concept art was released onto all the movie Web sites – a move that I think is a very interesting way to go about getting feedback from fans.

The project is not greenlit and apparently is being shopped around by a company called Atlas Entertainment. I’m assuming that releasing the images is an attempt on their part to stir up interest for a feature film, which I think is smart. The images depict the design and the vision for the film version of a fully formed Voltron, and as a lover of the design of the original animation I would have to say I’m actually kind of digging it.

However … there was something that, as a fan, did bother me. In the image, Voltron is standing next to the Statue of Liberty. What that means is that their version of the Voltron story takes place on Earth. A contemporary Earth from the look of it. That concerns me because the original “Voltron” took place on a planet called Arus, which had a look and a vibe to it that doesn’t resemble contemporary Earth at all. It was futuristic while at the same time having a colonial look to it. It most likely means that they’re messing with the original nature of the storyline and the characters.

Now, obviously they own the rights and it’s their prerogative to do with it what they want. I hope they do a good job because I’d rather them make a good film than not. But this echoes a trend in film adaptation that I don’t care for. More often than not, the producers and/or filmmakers make really big changes to the essence of the stories that they’re adapting, when they already have a perfectly awesome story to begin with. Making the story work as a film is an art, but it’s not impossible when you are given a lot of great stuff to work with.

I’m not saying it breaks your chances at success, but I firmly believe that when adapting something like “Voltron” into a film, it’s completely possible to do a faithful adaptation of the original story while making a commercial film that can connect with audiences. Will this chess move work out for Atlas? Time will tell, but either way I think their tactic of releasing concept art to stir up fan support is a good one. Whatever happens, seeing “Voltron” up on the big screen will make even me geek out.

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