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Anime Expo 2009
Harmony Gold USA

by Mikhail Koulikov,

The anime convention panels hosted by Harmony Gold Entertainment, the company that manages the rights to the Robotech animated series in the U.S. and worldwide are consistently low-key, without much in the way of advertising or promotion. And consistently, they are packed; Robotech fans may not be easy to pick out of a crowd, but there sure are a lot of them. This year's panel, taking place on the afternoon of Anime Expo's third day, was no exception, as Kevin McKeever and Tommy Yune spoke in front of a standing-room-only audience.

The bulk of the panel was taken up by answers to the attendees' questions, and by highlights of some of the numerous current and projected additions to the line of Robotech toys. But this is an exciting time for Robotech fans and for Harmony Gold as a company, and much more is in the works than just more toys. Up until recently, the biggest, most important project Harmony Gold was working on was the development of the Robotech: Shadow Rising original CG-animated movie. Since the summer of 2007, though, that has been put off, as it was revealed that Warner Brothers is now actively developing a big-budget Robotech feature film. Already attached to the project are an all-star team of producers including Academy Award winner Akiva Goldsman (Starsky & Hutch, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, I Am Legend), Jason Netter (Wanted), and Tobey Maguire. Screenwriters lending their skills and talent to it include Lawrence Kasdan, Alfred Gough, and Miles Millar. And, as just announced recently, the young British novelist Tom Rob Smith, whose first book, Child 44, was a New York Times best-seller, is also being commissioned to contribute to the script.

Answering an audience question, the panelists mentioned that with the exception of Netter, who previously produced the first Shadow Chronicles film, none of the producers or writers who have been brought on to develop this movie had previously been familiar with the Robotech universe. Since starting to work on the project, however, they all have spent time being introduced to the storyline and characters. Another attendee asked whether the fact that the film has now been in development for over two years, with almost no announcements made about its progress, was an indication of any kind of problem or difficulty with the process. The response was that it should not be taken as such; rather, Harmony Gold and Warner Brothers both recognize the value of the Robotech brand, and are aware of how easily it can be damaged by a shoddy, rushed script. As much time will be taken to develop one as will be necessary.

Details about the plot of the movie are still very limited, but conceptually, it will be similar to the approach taken to the latest Batman films - a "relaunch" or re-imagining, rather than a story that is a direct sequel or prequel, or one that is set at some point within Robotech's established chronology. And a related development is that as the production process moves ahead, Harmony Gold is beginning to regain control of licenses to create various secondary Robotech products, in particular videogames. The goal of this will be to capitalize on the film's launch and its attendant publicity, and put together a controlled and effective cross-promotion campaign.

Finally, another attendee asked whether Harmony Gold has any plans to mark next year's 25th anniversary of Robotech's premiere with a dedicated all-Robotech convention. To that, the answer is no, mainly because of how expensive something like that would be for a small company like Harmony Gold to put together. However, plans are definitely under way to mark the anniversary by special events held at various anime and science fiction conventions throughout the U.S.

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