From Days of Long Ago...
April 2, 2012 9:22 AM   Subscribe

"From days of long ago... from uncharted regions of the universe, comes a legend: the legend of Voltron, Defender of the Universe!"

WEP, who originally created the show way back in the early 80’s, has released the full first season of the series (Lion Voltron) to Hulu and on their YouTube channel (official playlist / videos are unrestricted).

Only the first two-part episode of Voltron Series Two (Vehicle Force) is currently available to view for free online: 1, 2. However, many of the episodes are available for purchase at Amazon Prime and iTunes.

A Voltron: Fleet of Doom movie aired after the first series ran in the US (Parts: 1, 2, 3), to introduce viewers to changes to the show that would take place in series 2.


i09: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About the Big Cat Robot Voltron Includes a link to this fun fan vid on YouTube: Best Voltron Moments

In 1983, Ted Koplar and Peter Keefe (RIP - he passed away in 2010,) took footage he had licensed from from two different Japanese cartoons: Beast King GoLion (which can be seen in its entirety at Crunchyroll,) and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV (video clips), to create an entirely new show. The producers couldn’t translate the original Japanese shows into English, so they guessed at the plots, created completely new dialogue and storylines, and bowdlerized the more violent scenes (including all the character deaths) into a show they could release into syndication with minimal controversy. Wikipedia: Changes from the Japanese Version lists the differences in detail.

Caution: the GoLion show is not safe for young children.

Rebooting Japanese animation into American shows had been done before -- with Gatchaman / Battle of the Planets and others. But by carving an entirely new show from existing footage, Voltron paved the way for shows like Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Per Mr. Keefe's NYTimes obit, the show became one of the top children's programs in syndication in the mid-1980s.

Initially, there were supposed to be three "Voltrons": Voltron I of the Near Universe was the "Vehicle Force", which appeared in Series II. Voltron III was the "Lion Force" of the Far Universe. Voltron II, from the Middle Universe, was to be based on a Japanese show, Lightspeed Electroid Albegas (Footage: 1, 2), and would have featured three humanoid robots that combined into one multi-armed fighter; this version was never shown in the US (though toys based on this show were released).


In 1998, Voltron, The Third Dimension was released. (Wikipedia) The 3D, all-CGI show lasted only a single season -- 26 episodes, but starred Tim Curry as Lotor. Nearly all of it can be seen for free on YouTube:

1: "Escape from Bastille" 1, 2, 3
2: "Red Lion Breaks Loose" 1, 2, 3
3: "Building the Forces of Doom" 1, 2, 3
4: "Lost Souls" 1, 2, 3
5: "A Rift in the Force" 1, 2, 3
6: “Shades of Gray” 1, 2, 3
7: "Bride of the Monster" 1, 2, 3
8: "Dominus" 1, 2, 3
9: "Voltron versus Dracotron" 1, 2, 3
10: "Descent into Madness" 1, 2, 3
11: "Pidge Gets Iced" 1, 2, 3
12: "Dark Heart" 1, 2, 3
13: "The Big Lie" 1, 2, 3
14: "The Trial of Voltron" 1, 2, 3
15: "The Troika Moons" 1, 2, 3
16: "Biography: The Voltron Force" 1, 2, 3
17: Missing
18: “The Voltron Force Strikes Back” 1, 2, 3
19: "Stealth Voltron" 1, 2, 3
20: "Gladiators" 1, 2, 3 (Not Online)
21: Not Online
22: Not Online
23: "Consider the Alternatives" 1, 2, 3

A live-action feature-length film has been in the planning stages since 2005: Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Concept Art. Recent announcement from Relativity Media

In June 2011, for the 25th anniversary of the original series, WEP announced a new show: Voltron Force. Trailer. The last six episodes to air are available at Nicktoons. Video from before the show aired last year.


* The fan site Voltron Universe has some old Voltron games available to download. (Haven't downloaded any of these, so your risk and mileage may vary.)

There is a Voltron: Defender of the Universe game for XBox and PS3. Review.

* Earlier this year, MetLife included the big 'bot in a commercial that aired during the SuperBowl. They also released a fun "behind the scenes" video of him doing "the robot."

* Fan Film (Live Action): Voltron: The End (Previously on MeFi)
posted by zarq (30 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Guntron v. Skorpex.
posted by zamboni at 9:34 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

But what about Sven???
posted by Busmick at 9:37 AM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

A long time ago now, I wrote a bit about difficulties of complex organizational structure and the horrible embarrassment of being the wrong part of the Vehicle Voltron force.

The situation there is complex, and grim.

If you've ever tried to get anything done with mid-to-large group of people, you know in your bones that a small, focused team is a hell of a lot more productive than a legion of anything. One is not enough, but less is clearly better, and if you're on the five-person Lion Voltron team, you're there; your organizational hierarchy is two levels, "Torso" and "Limbs", with clearly delimited responsibilities: "You two grab things, swing the sword around and punch things, you other two kick whatever needs kicking and keep our ass of the sand the rest of the time, I'll keep everything together and handle the big-picture strategy stuff."

If you're one of the fifteen people on the extended Vehicle Voltron team, though, things are not so rosy - Your hierarchy starts with "Head", and has to trickle down through no less than eight other vehicles before you get to the Foot-Cars. They might have other names, of course, being Planetary Exploration Vehicles of some kind, but nobody would actually say that. They'd say "I drive the right knee" or "I fly the sword hand." And that's where the trouble starts, because one of those vehicles, an oblong black thing, is the part that connects the Voltron legs to the Voltron torso.

Put yourself in their armored space-boots for a moment. You start as an idealistic youngster, you train your whole life, get straight A's in school and eventually make the cut for this elite force of intrepid explorers, and somewhere in all that process, you've ended up piloting a big black robot ass. What the hell do you do then? They never covered this in the show, of course, but the morale in that vehicle must be miserable. What do you tell people at parties?
"I'm part of the Voltron Force, I... I pilot the... the lower torso. The hips".

"So they put you in charge of the ass, eh? Did you lose a bet?"

"I do not drive the ass. I fly the lower torso; It's a very important position."

"I'm sure it is. You can't slack off when you're driving the Ass Bus."

"I do not drive the Ass Bus."

"Are you well-equipped out there on the Ass Bus? Do you have some kind of long, robotic protrusion you can whip out? You know, for probing things?"

"Shut up."

"Maybe you could use that to fix the other Ass Bus on some other Voltron. How often do you clean that thing, by the way?"
Maybe they rotate that assignment or pay him extra, or something, because there's just no way to draw lots or assign it at random that won't be completely demoralizing. And God help the woman who gets that job; that'd be worse.
"How are we going to get this shipment to Cygnus Four?"

"Mary will take it in... *ahem.* Lieutenant Smith will transport it in the storage space in the lower-torso unit."

"I see."
posted by mhoye at 9:45 AM on April 2, 2012 [48 favorites]

A well-meaning relative bought me one of the robots from Volt ron II. It was really cool, but I only had one, never found any others at toy stores, the picture on the box of the assembled super-robot looked like a mess, and no one knew what the heck it was or what it had to do with the popular lion series.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:53 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just noticed this: Lego Voltron
posted by zarq at 9:59 AM on April 2, 2012

Flagged mhoye as having a fantastic comment.
posted by fijiwriter at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2012

fijiwriter: "Flagged mhoye as having a fantastic comment."

Me too. :D
posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on April 2, 2012

Since this is the fifth posted tagged with "voltron" can we now combine them into a single more powerful post?
posted by VTX at 10:14 AM on April 2, 2012 [15 favorites]

Since this is the fifth posted tagged with "voltron" can we now combine them into a single more powerful post?

He gets to form the head.
posted by curious nu at 10:19 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are those children's shows we saw growing up that, when we go back and look at them later, turn out to be as good as we remembered: The Tick, Ren and Stimpy, to an extent Thundercats. Voltron is not one of those shows. I'm pretty much convinced only nostalgia keeps up interest in it.

It had the advantage of airing at a time when anime was still fairly unknown in the U.S., and the show's positive artistic qualities, compared to stuff like the Street Frogs, gave it a certain allure. And there were certainly worse shows on at the time. But the show itself is pretty much by-the-numbers monster-of-the-week robot fighting, with lots of animation reuse and semi-anthropomorphic mice for mascots. The show's main gimmick was that the robot was comprised of five smaller robot lions, but we barely ever saw the lions operate on their own! Sure it's possible to salvage the old show with excellent writing and animation, like when they remade He Man in the 00s, but if you're going to do that then why not just make your own show inspired by the older shows?

(P.S. 1: Some shows are actually better than we remember. Earthworm Jim had better writing than it needed to have, EXO Squad turns out to have rocked, and The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin's production values were quite high.

P.S. 2: Did you know that Wikipedia has a list of TV shows that debuted in Japan organized by year?)
posted by JHarris at 10:24 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even when I was five, I couldn't watch Voltron without asking myself the following:

1. Why didn't those aliens just wait a couple weeks, then send 14 or so giant monsters all at once, given that they could apparently churn them out about once a day?

2. Why didn't they just form Voltron right away, kill the thing, and have an early lunch?

I must have been five or so, and didn't really get that the episodes were supposed to be happening weeks or months apart.

But the second point still holds – I remember that on Battle of the Planets, our bastardized Science Ninja Team Gatcheman, they had their "ultimate ship form" in the Phoenix, but that activating the Phoenix effect was both incredibly painful and possibly could result in their instant deaths by explosion.

But Voltron -- these guys could just form Voltron any time, right? So why were they always dicking around in giant cat robots?
posted by Shepherd at 10:32 AM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Since this is the fifth posted tagged with "voltron" can we now combine them into a single more powerful post?

No, we'll have to wait until Metafilter is threatened with extinction and we realize that the individual posts can't handle the threat on their own.
posted by weston at 10:33 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Re: yesterday's MeTa, I think that makes BoingBoing a Robeast.

Also, this may be entirely off, but in the original Japanese script, Voltron having to combine at all was a punishment - the thing was originally alive, and God split it into five smaller robots because, basically, it was a cosmic jackass. So having it spend any more time than strictly necessary in Asskicking Giant Robot form would defeat the purpose.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:45 AM on April 2, 2012

"these guys could just form Voltron any time, right? So why were they always dicking around in giant cat robots?"

Would you rather get around in a cool as hell lion robot or in a left-foot robot? I'm down with efficiency and all that, but I wouldn't want to be the left foot for any longer than absolutely necessary.
posted by oddman at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2012

I always wondered that, myself, Shepherd. The theory I came up with is that they had to have some sort of "rage" meter (like warriors in WoW). Otherwise, yeah the whole "let's try to attack as lions for 10 minutes and then say 'fuck it - VOLTRON!' was a bit ridiculous. Why not just go to Voltron right away?

I am very disappointed in the new Voltron Force. I kinda liked how Voltron is 3D without being that 90s style CGI stuff. But the animation quality is meh in general, and the characters! Oh dear god, why did they have to bring the kids into it? I really get annoyed when cartoon writers try to Poochify cartoons. The new Thundercats seemed to do it right, and I hear that Airbender is much more mature in that sense, too. I expect *some* "cool" stuff to happen in a kids show, but to make the main characters always have to have some snarky little comment like they're Sherriff John Bunnell, or a little catch-phrase just detracts from the whole thing.

I don't have a 3DS, but that's the same reason, despite how much the new Kid Icarus appeals to me as a game, that I would never purchase that game, because Pit does the whole "Yeah, that's right, I just kicked your BUTT!" 'tude thing...

posted by symbioid at 11:01 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My memory is fuzzy on this, but there was another level of inevitability beyond screwing around as lions before forming Voltron. Didn't Voltron basically fight ineffectually for a few minutes and then whip out its magic lightsaber and cut the robeast in half every time?
posted by skewed at 11:09 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hey, Zarq's doing 80s week. I am 100% behind this idea.

Speaking of 80s, yes, that is the voice of Optimus Prime narrating the opening credits of Voltron.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:10 AM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

My six year old daughter has been watching Voltron on Netflix. This is such a great time to be a parent, because through services like Netflix and Youtube I can share something of my childhood with her and we can have more common reference points than would be the case if all she watched were the latest offerings on Nickelodeon. And when she wants to play-act Voltron, and wants me to do the voices of Hunk and Pidge, and wants to wear matching Voltron t-shirts, I don't even have to fake the enthusiasm!
posted by Pistache at 11:20 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

One of the very first gifts I bought my then-girlfriend-now-late-wife was the reissue metal Voltron Lions set, in '98. She cherished it more than flowers.
posted by mrbill at 11:36 AM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh my god. The giant robot lions show and Voltron were the same show.

My brain just made the Inception noise and fell over.
posted by elizardbits at 11:43 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

And: me, 1984 8-)
posted by mrbill at 11:54 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

JHarris: "There are those children's shows we saw growing up that, when we go back and look at them later, turn out to be as good as we remembered: The Tick, Ren and Stimpy, to an extent Thundercats. Voltron is not one of those shows. I'm pretty much convinced only nostalgia keeps up interest in it.

And new generations of children, being introduced to them for the first time. Certain classic Disney movies and shows are like that for me. I liked them when I was little, but now they seem kinda terrible, even though they're considered classics. 101 Dalmations. Snow White. Barney the Damned Dinosaur. But my kids love them.

P.S. 2: Did you know that Wikipedia has a list of TV shows that debuted in Japan organized by year?)"

Whoa..... Whoa! Where has this been all my life? Thanks!
posted by zarq at 11:58 AM on April 2, 2012

@MrBill---sweet boom box. *wickiwickiwicki*
posted by stormpooper at 12:00 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tranzor Z or GTFO
posted by Mick at 12:21 PM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

you know zarquon one of the things that never fails to cheer me is that voltron is actually the punishment form of a robot who grew so arrogant that he tried to murder God. sentenced to the shame of being operated by filthy, filthy humans. it makes voltron 100% better and i am so angry and sad that i did not find out about it until after i stopped being medically stoned because man, slotting in Voltron: Shame Of Robot Nation between making my old housemates play final fantasy x so i could watch the sweet Sin battle on the boat would have been really good
really really good
posted by beefetish at 12:36 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ah, Voltron. How you completely seized my young brain. To this day, decades later, I still watch Japanese robot cartoons of dubious quality because of what you did to me.

My favorite bit of Voltron trivia is that when it came time for World Events Productions to order the materials from Japan, they asked for "that show with the lions", meaning Daltanious

When they instead got this GoLion thing my mistake, they said.. "Hmm.. you know what? We'll take this one instead after all."

This massive children's pop culture icon of the 80s came to us as a total accident. Cool, huh?
posted by Aznable at 3:50 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

True fact: I wear the same Voltron shirt about 3 days a week. Yes, I don't have many shirts. Yes, it is comfortable. Also? It's fuckin' Voltron! Though I feel kinda weird going into some of my more commonly visited haunts with the same shirt on. Perhaps I need a better wardrobe.


True story: In 3rd grade I had a crush on this girl named Cori. I decided I would compliment her with something wonderfully awesome. So I told her "Cori, you're a legend, just like Voltron."

I had completely forgotten about it for years. But in high school, she said to me "Do you remember..." So, apparently it worked well enough to stick in her brain, many years later (though not well enough to get her to like me in return).
posted by symbioid at 4:16 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love this place. Only here could I find a quality discussion about Verhoeven on one day and in-depth pondering about the strategies in Voltron the next. I could try to explain, but in any other facet of my life, trying to start a conversation about transforming robotic lions would just draw blank stares.

Also, Lion Voltron:Car Voltron = Transformers:Gobots.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:30 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I only vaguely remember Vehicle Voltron, but I seem to remember that the show was actually handled more realistically than the rather fanciful Lion version, and that I preferred it when I could get it. Of course this does nothing to counter Ghidorah's analogy, as you can probably still find people who prefer Go-Bots to Transformers to this day.

Although the shows had nothing in common in their Japanese incarnations, World Events Productions inserted a couple of connections between them, specifically making (going by memory here) characters Pidge from Lion Voltron and Chip from Vehicle Voltron into brothers.
posted by JHarris at 9:27 AM on April 4, 2012

I wish some adventurous soul would download these, edit them into their full episodes, and then torrent the hell out of them.
posted by jcterminal at 8:22 AM on April 5, 2012

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