Otakon 2008
World Events Productions/VCI Ent.

by Mikhail Koulikov,

The first industry panel at the 2008 Otakon convention was also the first panel of the entire weekend. Hosted by World Events Productions, a company most anime fans are largely unaware of, it drew a full room despite the 9 a.m. start time and the long registration lines snaking around the Baltimore Convention Center. The main presenter was Jeremy Corray, World Events Productions' creative director, but he started off by introducing another panelist. Chris Rowe, the PR director for film distributor VCI Entertainment opened the hour by announcing that starting in November, his company will be releasing to DVD Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, the U.S. television version of the 1980's anime series Star Musketeer Bismarck.

Created by Japan's Studio Pierrot, Bismarck's 51 episodes aired on the NTV network in 1984-1985. World Events Productions, the company behind Voltron, acquired the U.S. license, and reworked the original Japanese series into Saber Rider. When the series was broadcast on American television stations, the episodes where shown in a different order from the original Japanese, and World Events created six that were entirely new, to replace five Japanese episodes that it decided not to dub. After that, Saber Rider also made its way to various European countries, including the UK, France, German, and the then-Soviet Union.

Although it has since been released on DVD in Europe, until now, the only American version available has been World Events' ten-episode Best of Saber Rider, Volume 1 collection. Now, VCI will bring the complete series out in three volumes, starting with the first on November 18. Only the English version, not the original Japanese series, will be presented, although the episodes may be reordered to fit the original chronological order, rather than the sequence in which they were shown on American television. The only clues to Saber Rider's Japanese origins may be clips of key sequences from Bismarck, included as extras. Another special feature that VCI is hoping to create will be set of interviews with some of the staff who worked on Bismarck's American adaptation.

With the Saber Rider portion of the panel wrapped up, Corray talked briefly about how World Events is continuing to handle Voltron. The original GoLion anime that Voltron has been adapted from is being released in English by Media Blasters, and so far, according to Corray, they have been a "great partner." World Events itself has also been in negotiations with Nicktoons regarding a possible new Voltron series that VCI would create to be aired on the cable television channel, and is also involved in the development of a Voltron mobile phone game.

Voltron is also joining the growing list of anime series that are being groomed for Hollywood adaptations. Mark Gordon (Saving Private Ryan, 10,000 B.C.) and Pharrell Williams are producing the film, with Justin Marks working on the script. The plan is for the film to emphasize the origins of the Voltron team, while also presenting a more adult-oriented, grittier take on the story. Corray calls it a "post-apocalyptic, Mad Max Voltron" that "keeps the essense of the original series, but takes all the cheesy out of it." No director has been selected yet, but one name World Events was able to specifically mention is Ryuhei Kimura, the helmer of Azumi and Versus in Japan as well as Midnight Meat Train in Hollywood. Finally, to further expand the availability of the Voltron series, its first two volumes can now be purchased on XBox Live. The remaining five will be placed on the service in the near future, and all five can also be purchased through iTunes.

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