If you grew up in America in the 1980s, chances are your first experience with anime was through Robotech, a syndicated cartoon that weaved together several existing Japanese series into one massive space opera that launched a successful merchandising empire of toys, comics, books and games that are still very much in demand today.
Carl Macek, the man who made it all happen, died this week of a heart attack at the age of 58.
As a producer and story editor for Harmony Gold, he fused and redubbed the disparate Japanese shows Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada into a cohesive tale of devastating alien invasion, human ingenuity and the ultimate rebirth of civilization. This synthesis opened the door for more widespread appreciation of anime in the U.S. — but the repurposed nature of Robotech also drew lingering criticism.
Macek was also a co-founder of Streamline Pictures, which was responsible for the U.S. distribution of Japanese classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Akira and Fist of the Northstar, and is credited with helping to sell the unabashedly vulgar cartoon Ren & Stimpy to the kids’ network Nickelodeon.
A live-action adaptation of Robotech has been in the works for several years, with former Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire attached to the project. The Shadow Chronicles, an animated sequel to the original series, is now available on DVD and iTunes.
Whether the adventure continues on the big screen or not, Robotech’s impact on pop culture will endure. And whether it was wholly original or not, Macek deserves credit for opening the minds and wallets of a nation to a genre that may never have got far without him.
Thanks to Comic Book Resources for the tip.