We talk to the team behind the 2013 Robotech movie and find out why it ended up being mostly a recap of past events.
After Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles was released in 2007, hopes for the future of Robotech were once again in doubt. Famous for having stalled attempts at reigniting the franchise, The Shadow Chronicles was supposed to lead into a sequel that never materialized. Tthis was attributed to continuing development on the Robotech live action movie at Warner Bros. which meant any animated Robotech movie would be nearly impossible to make.
“It took a lot of talking. A lot of phone calls and a lot of e-mails” to get any new Robotech made, remembers Billy Davis, Executive Vice President of Harmony Gold.
Then in 2011 a new project was teased at the end of a bonus features on the 2011 complete series DVD boxset, Robotech: Love Live Alive. Unlike Shadow Chronicles which featured brand new animation throughout, Love Live Alive would return to Robotech’s root in adapting footage from a Japanese series with a bit of new animation sprinkled in.
Specifically this film would adapt an OVA (Original Video Animation) from Genesis Climber Mospeada, the source for Robotech’s New Generation. Adapting the OVA (also titled Love Live Alive) was a project Carl Macek, the creator of Robotech, had planned to work on before his death in 2010.
A Robotech version of Love Live Alive had been in high demand from fans for a long time, as Kevin McKeever, Vice President of Marketing at Harmony Gold, remembers.
“A lot of fans at conventions and in e-mails asked, ‘When will we see Love Live Alive?’ That was one thing we were constantly asked since like 2005,” McKeever says. “We knew there was a demand there.”
The Harmony Gold team learned the Mospeada OVA had never been licensed for a very understandable reason. It was mostly a clip show of music videos strung together with a bit of new animation.
Tommy Yune, President of Animation at Harmony Gold takes us through the process of figuring out what they could do with the OVA, revealing that it wasn’t always their plan to make Love Live Alive feature length since the OVA itself only runs around fifty five minutes.
“At first we thought okay, perhaps we can just follow (the OVA’s format), but if we just followed it as is there wouldn’t be that much content,” Yune says. “So what we did was we actually contracted more animation and added it to the bookends (of the film).”
This new animation included a flashback to the New Generation’s Lancer defending the Earth along with a brief appearance from Dana Sterling, lead character of The Masters saga of Robotech. This was particularly noteable for fans since The Masters saga and characters have been fairly underserved in any attempts to bring back Robotech.
Along the way Harmony Gold restructured the style of the special and removed the music video aspect of it.
“We brought in one of the lead writers from the original Robotech series, Greg Snegoff, to adapt it,” Yune says. “He did a fine job and now it was telling Lancer’s story arc instead of just being loose music videos.”
Some fans may wonder why the special needed to be a clip show at all, but Vice President of New Media at Harmony Gold, Steven Yun explains that clips shows in Japanese are seen in a better light than in the US.
“We (in the US) have this attitude of ‘oh they were lazy, they just tried to save money on this’. Whereas in Japanese culture if a TV series is successful they’ll add on what they call a ‘bonus episode’ and it’s usually a clip show,” Yun says. “Ninety percent reminiscing but instead of being seen as something that was slapped together to be lazy it’s seen as an extra cherry on top.”
Tommy Yune also adds this wasn’t the first time this had happened with Robotech, pointing to the clip show episodes “Gloval’s Report” and “Dana’a Story” from the original series.
“Gloval’s Report was a clip show that had been assembled by the Japanese,” Yune says. “It was half way into the Macross saga and was to get people up and running with the story. Dana’s Story however was done by Carl Macek and that was for fans who had missed even more episodes and they were jumping in during the Masters saga.”
Knowing that the special would be easier for Lionsgate, the DVD distributor, to sell as a ninety-minute feature the team at Harmony Gold added in more material from the classic series to hit that run time. There was no way they could release a shorter version of the special as bonus feature or in any other capacity and still make it a viable project.
Making the special feature length was the only way for itl to get released but that means well over three fourths of the special are clips you’ve already seen if you’re a Robotech fan. In the age of Netflix and DVD boxsets, clip shows are absolete so it makes the viewing experience a slog, especially if you’ve already seen the series multiple times.
Even with the clip show nature of the film, the team did try and introduce something new to the Robotech universe. At the end of the film it was reveled that former enemies Sera and Lancer were expecting a baby. This explained why Lancer wasn’t present in the plotline of Shadow Chronicles, which many fans had questioned.
When the movie was released in 2013 it received a fairly negative response from fans. While a few praised the movie’s additions to the Robotech lore, while others were put off by its clip show nature. Speaking in 2016, Kevin McKeever said the film generated more interest in the Robotech franchise overall. “We kept getting questions, ‘I just saw Love Live Alive. Is there a prequel movie I can watch?” Well yes, there are eighty-five episodes!”
The idea that someone got a hold of Love Live Alive without ever seeing Robotech and enjoyed watching a clip show is a little suspect but anything is possible. Even clips of Robotech are better than a lot of what’s being made today.
With the live action Robotech film now at Sony and relations between them and Harmony Gold being much better than they were with Warner Bros., getting a project like Love Live Alive released in the future will hopefully be smoother.
Looking back on the film overall, Tommy Yune concedes that Robotech: Love Live Alive was much smaller in scope than Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles but, “fans got to see Robotech’s spin on Love Live Alive and a lot of fans liked that.”
Join Shamus Kelley next time for another thrilling chapter in the amazing saga of Robotech! Follow him on Twitter!