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Monday, July 20, 2009

Voltron comes together again

Source: RiskyBiz

Atlas Entertainment’s Charles Roven, Richard Suckle and Steve Alexander are ready to form "Voltron."

The producers behind "Get Smart" and "The International" (and Roven of course also produced "The Dark Knight) have acquired the rights to make a live-action feature based on the robot-lion property, pushing the project forward after several years in development with the Mark Gordon Company.

Roven and his partners acquired rights to the Japanese title from World Events Prods., a St. Louis-based company that has held those rights for more than two decades. “Wanted” producer Jason Netter of Kickstart Entertainment and World Events’ Ted Koplar are joining the Atlas trio in producing.

"Have Michael Bay's people call my people."

"Voltron," a television hit in the 1980’s that has retained a loyal fan following, features a “Transformers"-like conceit, in which a band of five robot-lions combine to form one super lion. A group of five pilots control the lions, which are charged with defending the planet Arus from villain King Zarkon, who dispatches evil creatures called Robobeats to fight the Voltron robots.

Based on Japanese anime properties Beast King GoLion and Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV, "Voltron” aired only for two years on U.S. television, in 1984 and 1985, when Japanese pop-culture had not yet penetrated the American mainstream.

But the title caught the same wave of interest that carried “Transformers," "Gobots" and other mythic stories about shape-shifting robots, and also prompted a popular line of toys.

In the nearly 25 years since it went off the air, the property has remained a favorite in diverse communities, from the fanboy to the hip-hop worlds. “It’s undeniably impressive that Voltron has sustained itself globally for a quarter of a century,” Roven said.

The family-owned television outfit World Events became involved with Voltron when it acquired rights to distribute the 80's program to U.S. television stations. The company has never made a feature from the title but did reboot an animated series in the 1990’s. New editions of the comic were also
published several years ago by the indie label Devil’s Due.

Mark Gordon, the producer of action-drama hits such as “The Patriot” and “Saving Private Ryan,” had been developing the project with indie producers James Young, Mark Costa and Ford Oelman. The group had made a number of inroads in the past few years, hiring writer wunderkind Justin Marks to pen a script (his draft centered on an alien invasion in an apocalyptic North America) and ensuring that a chain of title was clear. The group had also set up the project at New Regency.

"Tell Optimus he can grease my rod."

Last year, the Fox-based banner put “Voltron” into turnaround, and Relativity Media came on to finance the film as part of its single-picture business. But with the option from World Events set to expire, Atlas had the opportunity to step in and acquire rights.

Atlas' “Voltron” has not yet been set up at a studio. The company has an overall deal with Warners, which has been seeking an action tentpole to rival Paramount’s “Transformers” mega-franchise. Warners is already moving forward on “Robotech,” another robot-and-alien tale based on a 1980’s television series.

The success of “Transformers” has revived interest around Hollywood in similar projects (it’s likely that “Voltron” would blend in CG robots with live action in the manner of the Michael Bay hits).

In describing the property, Koplar compared it favorably to “Transformers, saying that “unlike other robotic action movies, 'Voltron’ is the personification of the human spirit, a quality that will set this movie apart."

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