411mania.com Interviews: Robotech Creative Director Tommy Yune
Recently, I got the chance to speak with Tommy Yune again. Tommy is the creative director of Robotech franchise for Harmony Gold. Yune was also co-director for the hit Robotech feature, Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. The Shadow Chronicles has now been re-released on Blu-ray alongside a new installment for the Robotech Universe in Robotech: Love Live Alive. Love Live Alive is actually an adaptation of a previously unreleased Mospeada OVA. Mospeada is the anime series that was re-written in the Robotech franchise into the third segment of the show dubbed The New Generation. The new version from Harmony Gold and released by Lionsgate features brand new animation footage, and also new dialogue and recordings featuring some of the original voice cast and writers from the 1980’s Robotech series.
Jeffrey Harris: So what is the Robotech: Love Live Alive project and what has Harmony Gold done to revamp it for the Robotech fanbase?
Tommy Yune: If you’re familiar with Robotech, it’s three different Japanese anime series: Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada that back in 1985 were in and each of themselves too short for broadcasters for syndication. And Carl Macek, the producer of the series, came up with a solution where he had inter-written the storylines into one another to create one 85 episode series to market Robotech for daily broadcast syndication. And the fans bought the story hook, line, and sinker back then. And then eventually they found out the backstory the production decision on joining the series together. It proved to be a big success. Harmony Gold had licensed out in its entirety licensed all the original episodes of Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada. But there was one OVA of Mospeada that formed the last segment of the original broadcast series which was called The New Generation, the third generation of the Robotech series that had not been licensed. And there was this OVA which was the Japanese anime term for Direct-to-Video that had been released in Japan, and it was called Genesis Climber Mospeada: Love Live Alive. And for all these years, for some reason or another, no one had picked up the licensed rights for it. And a few years back when I traveled to Japan to meet with Tatsunoko, I asked them, “What was the status of the rights?” They said it was actually available. And they had mentioned no one had ever gotten around to licensing that. And it was a no brainer that this was definitely something that we should pick up. There is a great amount of nostalgic reverence for Robotech, especially when ‘80’s anime continues to hold strongly with the fans. One way we could bring a lot of that nostalgia back to fans is by Love Live Alive and making it a part of the Robotech Universe.
Jeffrey Harris: In the OVA version, it had the original Mospeada character, Yellow Belmont (Lancer in Robotech), reflecting on the series. Will the Robotech version follow a similar pattern?
Tommy Yune: No it’s very different. It’s the same visuals, but it’s an alternate retelling based on the same visuals. In anime, what will happen if a series does well, they will do a bonus episode at the very end. But in this case, Tatsunoko went ahead and created a 45-50 minute long OVA of Love Live Alive of which there’s a lot of concert material with the Yellow Belmont character. He has cast aside his cross-dressing persona because the war is over and he doesn’t need to step out in high heels anymore. Maybe he does, but as a man now. In between the concert sequences, there are a lot of flashback sequences. And one of the things we noticed in our viewing and examination of the materials, this is me and Gregory Snegoff – he was one of the original writers of the Robotech series who worked on adapting this – it was light on plot. There were a lot of good scenes in it, but when it went into flashback sequences, it was just simply structured like a long succession of music videos. And the decision we had made here was let’s add some narrative to the flashback. And we gave it some story structure, so there is some purpose to all the flashbacks. I guess if you will, if you’re a hardcore Robotech fan that knows all the episodes, it is in a way like a long version of Dana’s Story, but for the New Generation Universe. Or if you’re not familiar with that reference, the storytelling structure is somewhat similar to Forrest Gump.
Jeffrey Harris: I got to see some of the new sequences at Anime Expo. So what is the story now within the Robotech Universe, and what is the current status of the story at the time?
Tommy Yune: What we’ve done here is because it focuses a lot on Lancer – because he’s the main character in the concert portions of the footage – we’ve decided to flip around the narrative framing. In the original presentation of the Robotech series in the New Generation segments, the narrative framing is from Scott Bernard’s point of view. He’s first character you are with when he arrives on Earth. He’s the last survivor of the 21st Mars Decision. And you get to experience the events of the Third Robotech War from his shoes. However here, what we’ve done is that we’ve changed the narrative structure so that you see Lancer arrive on Earth years before Scott Bernard did. And you see the war unfolding even earlier from the POV of him arriving from the 10th Mars Division, prior to Scott Bernard. We’ve also sprinkled in some cameo sequences where you see some sequences from the very end of the Southern Cross era leading into the beginning of the Third Robotech War. Fans that followed some of the comics will be treated to some new sequences that were added to transition from the Southern Cross into the New Generation storyline. There’s a mix there. There are some sequences that are completely, and some sequences that were licensed from Tatsunoko which were animated in 1985 but have never been presented in the Robotech Universe.
Jeffrey Harris: You also announced at Anime Expo that you were resuming production on the long-awaited sequel to The Shadow Chronicles movie, Shadow Rising.
Tommy Yune: Yes. We said that we are resuming development work on it. We haven’t started primary production. But we resumed work on Shadow Rising.
Jeffrey Harris: Do you have a ballpark on when we might see these new stories?
Tommy Yune: No. With Love Live Alive and with Shadow Chronicles, we’ve kind of stuck to our policy where we will not speculate on a release date until we’re ready to announce it. I think what we are going to do, we’re going to narrow the window, and once we’re pretty far along and we have a good idea when our release date is, that’s when we are going to announce it. We don’t speculate until we’re pretty far along into production.
Jeffrey Harris: Is there a roadblock here with financing or do you want to jettison this project idea and do something completely different with the franchise?
Tommy Yune: No, the one criteria that’s important for us when we do Robotech is that we want to do it right. It’s important that we do a good job. There is one thing that is a huge challenge that is presenting itself to us. And this is something that happened starting with Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, is that we have another major format change coming. And this is not even another physical disc on the horizon. This is the rise of internet streaming. What is the best presentation going on into the future? And this is something we might visit going on into the future. And this is something we might visit after Shadow Rising or we’re not sure we might apply some of these principles to Shadow Rising. When we present Robotech over the streaming medium because Robotech is doing so well on Hulu and it’s done so well for us on Netflix, do we break it up and try to create the equivalent of a television series over streaming. Or do we stick to the movie format? Or do we move even shorter to a short format because attention spans on the internet medium are very different from a physical media where people have a watchable movie. Rather than a roadblock, it’s a challenge for us to explore how we would fit into a new format of presentation through the internet.
Jeffrey Harris: Director Nic Mathieu is also the director currently attached to the live action movie. How positive this is your guy to do the movie?
Tommy Yune: This guy is really, really talented. Warner Bros. has set out to find someone who has excellent visual style and this guy definitely can do that; and also versatility and storytelling. The film has not started shooting yet. We’re not going to speculate on what the release date is of this live action film yet. That is something that Warner Bros. is going to do when the time is right. But we are very optimistic about the project.
Jeffrey Harris: So what is the time frame WB has to make the movie?
Tommy Yune: All I’m going to add is this is something we have great faith in Warner Bros. working on it. We’ll cross that bridge with you when we get there.
Jeffrey Harris: Is there any message you’d like to share with the Robotech fanbase?
Tommy Yune: Projects like this are only possible because of fan support. We appreciate them very, very much. We really would like to thank them for all their support of Robotech over the years, once again.
The two-movie collection featuring Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles and Robotech: Love Live Alive is now available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate.