Voltron: The Legend Begins
by Jef Burnham
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On August 16, 2011, Classic Media takes us all the way back to 1984 with Voltron: The Legend Begins on DVD. Collected on this disc are the first seven episodes of the iconic, 1980’s animated series, Voltron: Defender of the Universe, digitally remastered and packaged with a handful of all-new special features. These seven episodes chronicle the arrival of space explorers Keith, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, and Sven on the planet Arus, where they first encounter the evil King Zarkon; the resurrection of the Defender of the Universe himself; and the formation of the permanent Voltron Force, including Arus’s own Princess Allura.
Revisiting this staple of my childhood for the first time as an adult, I find myself no less amazed by Voltron. After all, Voltron is a giant, fighting robot made out of other, smaller, lion robots— how cool is that? I mean, his friggin’ hands and feet are lion heads! You don’t get more hardcore than that. Now I’m not trying to lead you astray here. If you haven’t seen Voltron since you were 8-years-old or so, know that your memories of the series are but marginally accurate, and that, with the exception of the climactic battles, it’s a downright dorky show. The cheese is piled on thick in Voltron, with everything from your typically hammy 80’s voice work to cancanning space mice complete with the traditional long skirts and petticoats.
Moreover, there are things about the series that seem very odd to me as an adult that I never questioned as a child. The thing that sticks out most to me is that Voltron Force, at least at this stage in the series (I don’t recall if this continues or not), pray to the spirit of Princess Allura’s deceased father, King Alfor, when they are desperately in need of assistance. And when I say pray, I’m talking eyes closed, head bowed, palms together, the whole shebang. Then Alfor miraculously appears to them as a God before mortal men with the answers to their prayers. While this provides the series’ writers with a very convenient deus ex machina, it raises far more questions than it answers.
For a release with so very few episodes, the bonus features in the package are actually quite good. “The Art of Voltron” is a slide show-style image gallery featuring various artists’ rendering of the Defender himself. And “Voltron 101” provides a brief history of Voltron and the Voltron Force all the way through the end of the original series and into the Nicktoons’ follow-up Voltron Force, set five years after the conclusion of the original Voltron. The “Voltron Force Preview” builds upon the information presented in “Voltron 101” to give you a pretty fair idea of what Voltron Force has to offer. And even though it’s obvious through these special features that this DVD is intended, at least in part, as a promotional tool for Voltron Force, I still maintain that it’s a solid buy. At 7 episodes, it’s not so short that you’ll feel you’ve wasted your money, and it’s just long enough to satisfy your appetite for the Defender of the Universe if you want to add some Voltron to your collection without feeling obligated to buy the entire series. As for my part, however, I’m hoping this release marks Classic Media’s testing of the market preceding a more complete release of the series. In the meantime, pick up Voltron: The Legend Begins and keep those fingers crossed!
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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