NECA's Pacific Rim action figures.
I love stories that involve giant robots, especially the ones where humans are piloting the gargantuan machines. Unfortunately, the only giant robot franchises that appear to do well in the U.S. are ones that are imported (either in parts or whole) from Japan, franchises such as Transformers, Voltron, and Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Thus, if someone wanted to make a giant robot franchise succeed without any direct connections to Japan, how would one do it? Thanks to Guillermo del Toro, we'll soon find out.
In a recent interview with Wall Street Journal, del Toro confirmed that Pacific Rim 2 is scheduled for release in April 2017. Between now and then, del Toro aims to do much more than just a movie sequel for his big battle 'bots epic--he'd also like to do an animated series and a comic book series. According to del Toro:
"We are talking about all the possibilities in terms of networks. We're formulating ideas that are, again, interesting and not the usual route, but the series tackles the stories that happened to pilots working in the Shatterdome, but also cadets learning how to become pilots. All of this happens prior to the first movie, and it gives you a little more depth into the background of certain characters that will appear in the second movie. So it's really expanding the material. I was incredibly happy with the comic book series that came about from a graphic novel called "Tales From Year Zero," and we are continuing the tales for the next three years. So by the time the second movie comes out, you will have probably one year of the animation airing, and you will have three years of the comic book series ongoing, so we are trying for all these things to be canon, to be in the same universe, to not wing anything, so that if anyone ... a lot of kids, for example, have discovered "Pacific Rim" through the toys. They come in through the toys, and then they watch the movie, and then they learn this, they learn that through the movie or the comic book series, so we're trying to make it canon so we can expand the universe. And by the time we come into the second movie, you have a good feel for the world, and we can dedicate ourselves to character and ideas and spectacle."
This is exciting to hear from del Toro, who clearly understands the concept of "world building" in the context of establishing a franchise. When I watched Pacific Rim, it felt like it was one of del Toro's passion projects, something he made because he really, really wanted to make it. If he can keep the excitement going throughout future Pacific Rim projects, giant robot fans everywhere will be in for a spectacular treat.
In another corner of the giant robot multiverse, Harmony Gold has started a Kickstarter campaign for Robotech Academy, a sequel series to the 1985 anime series Robotech that was an American mash-up of three different Japanese series: Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Century Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. According to the official Robotech Academy Kickstarter page:
"Carl Macek, the (late) producer of Robotech, was recently working with Harmony Gold on Robotech Academy. This new series set in the Robotech universe follows several new cadets in their adventures around the universe. ... The Robotech Academy Kickstarter will allow us to gauge how much of a new Robotech series we could actually produce based on Carl's original premise. We are setting our initial goal at $500,000 which will allow us to create an entire 24 minute pilot episode. This will help us cover character design, mecha design, 3D modeling, 3D animation, 2D animation, screenwriting, sound engineering, music composition, casting, voice acting and recording. This will also afford us a foundation on which to build future episodes."
I have many fond memories of Robotech, and I hope this project succeeds in spite of the franchise's long, agonizing history of failed and incomplete sequels and spin-offs. Yet what is particularly baffling is that unlike del Toro's approach to Pacific Rim, where he plans on using different mediums to build momentum and fan interest for his franchise, Robotech Academy only has a Kickstarter campaign to its name and nothing else. Dynamite Entertainment currently publishes a Robotech comic book series, but it is currently in the middle of the Voltron/Robotech crossover story arc that won't end until August--after the Robotech Academy Kickstarter campaign ends.
If Harmony Gold had played its cards right, it would've already used the Dynamite Entertainment comics to introduce Robotech Academy ideas, locations and characters to the fan base and promote investment in this new project. It also should have mentioned somewhere (either on the Kickstarter page, the official Robotech website, or somewhere else) if there are any connections between Academy and Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, a sequel movie from 2006. Without more active support from Harmony Gold, it's likely that Robotech Academy will wind up lost in space like so many other Robotech projects.