‘Voltron’ Tied up in Rights Problem
With every Hollywood studio trying to capture a little Transformers magic for themselves, most of the 70s and 80s anime series about transforming sentient robots has been optioned for live-action development. And of course, that means someone’s unhappy and ready to sue.
In a comprehensive report, the Anime News Network dissected the suit between World Events Productions and Toei Animation over Voltron. The film rights are currently being held by New Regency which began pre-production over the summer.
The suit alleges that Toei’s Hyakujuu Ou Golion (King of Beasts Golion) and Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV (Mechanized Fleet Dairugger XV) which was licensed to Koplar Communications, an American firm, which combined them into the syndicated Voltron: Defender of the Universe series in 1984. Later, Koplar licensed Dairugger XV and incorporated it into the series for domestic audiences.
As the deal evolved, Toei and Koplar signed numerous agreements and in 1998, when Koplar created the CGI-animated Voltron: the Third Dimension in 1998, Toei filed a lawsuit which was ultimately settled with a new agreement signed in 2000.
When Koplar sold live-action rights to New Regency and The Mark Gordon Company on August 9, 2007, Toei sent a note complaining of not being consulted. Ted Koplar reacted by filing suit against Toei in February. Part of the complaint states, "Through that investigation, New Regency identified an artist or author, Kazuo Nakamura, who may possess rights that encumber the Golion and/or Voltron properties and that interfere with World Events’ full and lawful enjoyment of the Golion and Voltron properties." Nakamura was a Toei employee who led character design on the properties.
In mid-August, New Regency said they were abandoning the project given the rights issues. The suit now alleges that Toei has cost Koplar “at least one development deal that would have resulted in a live-action motion picture."
As this works its way through the courts, other projects such as Robotech continue to move through the development process.