Trying to escape to a better adaptation.

In the summer of 1998 World Events Productions repacked their homemade season of the Lion Force Voltron as The New Adventures Of Voltron, igniting hope that more Voltron adventures would be forthcoming. Even though I recognized some of those episodes despite years after the series left the air I was hoping for more. What we got instead in the Fall was Voltron: The Third Dimension. It was not quite what I had hoped for. But was it bad?

It’s been five years since the events of Voltron: Defender Of The Universe. Peace has truly settled across the galaxy after the Voltron Force finally took down King Zarkon and Prince Lotor. Damaged when his ship crashed, Lotor had to be rebuilt as a cyborg, but not before sending Castle Doom and Hagar far away. Now Zarkon claims to have reformed, even becoming the Minister Of Peace for the Alliance. However, the bad guys are up to their old tricks and Voltron will be needed to battle again!

There are some oddities in this playlist I should warn you about. These appear to have been taken from the original recordings. Each episode will start with a test pattern and the information usually reserved for the guy running the broadcast equipment at the TV station, plus some odd bits of animation at the end that I don’t understand. There is also a new intro by episode 3. This playlist, as of this writing, contains the first five episodes of The Third Dimension, which should give you a good idea as to what WEP did with this series.

Okay, let’s talk about the CG elephant in the room. The animation is not very good. Like the current Legendary Defender this show is not produced by WEP but by Mike Young Productions (now Splash Entertainment), the same company that remade He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe in the early 2000s. Doing the animation was Netter Digital, the company that took over the final years of the Babylon 5 franchise. You can tell because the mechanical animation, special effects, and “sets” were good…for their time anyway. They don’t really hold up. However, the people are just awful, like they motion captured action figures. (And there were action figures via Trendmasters, which even led to a powered-up form for Voltron called “Stealth Voltron” so they could sell more toys.) The characters never had any civilian clothes (the most you get is the Voltron Force having removable helmets) and everyone is wearing some kind of armor now. Their hands can’t actually grab anything unless they do it Muppet-style, where you have to cutaway to have the item in their hands. It does really hurt the show.

However, the writing is where this show excelled. The most important addition is that there are more to the Lions than just being robotic vehicles. Now the Lions have their own spirits, and are almost alive. There is also a close bond between pilot and Lion. These have continued into every version of Voltron going forth, including the Devil’s Due comic run we’re currently looking at and the current Legendary Defender, both of which expanded on this concept. And it could be considered an expansion itself of ideas vaguely hinted at in the GoLion footage but that’s just Japan. You’d be surprised how many Zords are supposed to be living creatures in Power Rangers’ Sentai origins.

There is also more exploration of the personal relationships of the Voltron Force members. Lance has gotten the most development with the addition of a backstory that wasn’t in the original series, involving Zarkon attacking his colony when he was a boy. It’s not totally without precedent since they attacked Pidge’s homeplanet in the original series (or at least the American version), but what it lacks in continuity it makes up for in giving Lance more character. There’s also an episode where Hunk gets tired of Pidge making dumb jokes, when this version is shown to be mechanically inclined. Pidge liked to tease Hunk in the original series and I guess someone wanted to come out against that practice. They must hate Yo Mamma jokes. Keith is by the book to a fault, and Allura seems to be studying magic in connection with the Lions. However, their romance from the second season appears to have been dropped, and I don’t think any other version has tried to put them together either except for the Devil’s Due comic.

Even the villains get some bonus. Lotor is almost insane, and not just because Tim Curry is voicing him now. Considering what’s happened to him you really shouldn’t be surprised. Hagar is now after the mystic secrets of Voltron, but in a later episode we learn that the reason Zarkon was able to corrupt her (as seen in Fleet Of Doom) was that she was in love in Alfor, who rejected her for Allura’s mother. That same episode has her even trying to possess Alfor’s spirit the way Lotor keeps trying to do with Allura, which I’m not sure was needed but it is an interesting addition. And nobody’s buying Zarkon’s reform, right? That shadow Lotor was talking to in the final episode isn’t a red herring, it’s Netter’s inability to create a new character model to throw us off. His true colors show through before season 1 is out.

In the final analysis, Voltron: The Third Dimension is a show that is blessed with darn good writing for a 90s kids show, but suffers from terrible animation. For a story-interested person like me the former makes it worth seeing both seasons, if you can get past the animation. World Events and Mike Young would also try a more traditionally animated Voltron series, but it never got past the proof-of-concept, which I would offer but I can’t find it. I’m wondering if Dreamworks had them pulled down to not draw connections to their version? I put nothing past Hollywood these days. However, we do have one more alternate Voltron series to look at next week, so there’s more to come.

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About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

4 responses »

  1. Sean says:

    So far, I’ve just watched episode 1. I admit that the CG animation threw me off a little at first because I’m used to traditional cell animation of Voltron. Even so, I got more used to the CG animation as the episode progressed. The story line is great. It has me wanting to watch the second episode to try to find out how Lotor could have escaped. Did you notice that the droid like robots sound like C-3PO in this episode. In the end credits, I saw Mike Swanigan’s name. He was heavily involved with Filmation. I do recall seeing him being interviewed in a documentary that is on my Blackstar DVD. This CG animated Voltron looks different from what I’m used to, but I love the story line, and I don’t mind the computer animation. I look forward to watching the other 4 episodes this week. I know what I’ll be watching tomorrow night! One last thought…..it’s a little mind boggling that Zarkon is now a “peacemaker”. For some reason, I don’t trust him. Let’s see if my suspicions have any merit to them. I’ll only know by watching the other episodes.

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  2. Sean says:

    I just finished watching episodes 2 and 3. I really like this Voltron Third Dimension! The story is very compelling, and the computer generated animation (odd looking at times) really doesn’t bother me. In fact, I like how the doom ships look on this show. The writers are very clever. I say this because they named the two green space pirates as Quaqueg and Lafitte. Quagueq was one of the characters in Moby Dick. Jean Lafitte was a real pirate in early 1800s Louisiana. In fact, he assisted General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. It’s very clever that these two alien space pirates were named after a maritime character from a fiction novel and a real genuine American pirate! Also, I think that Hagar looks quite scary in this version of Voltron….much scarier than in the current 21st century Netflix Voltron toon. I still can’t figure out how Lotor escaped from the prison planet (Bastile-12…named after the famous French prison). Maybe I’ll get an answer to that burning question when I view episodes 4 and 5 tonight.

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  3. Sean says:

    After watching episodes 4 and 5 and reflecting upon the other four episodes of Voltron: Third Dimension, I can say that I consider this series in the realm of excellence along with the 80s Voltron shows. I plan to watch more of these along with the Vehicle Voltron episodes and Votron II. It’s great that many of these episodes are available on Youtube. Thank you for posting episodes on your site as a starter to hook peoples’ interest in seeing more. Episode 5 proved my suspicions…..Zarkon is not to be trusted! I laughed when Zarkon’s voice was altered, but you could still tell from the shadow that it was him!

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