Why did the Robotech Academy Kickstarter fail?


They’ve thrown in the towel… let’s talk about what went wrong.

First and foremost, I appreciate the fans of Robotech, Macross, Mospeada, and other anime that visit this site and check out my reviews.  In no way is this post an attempt to antagonize anyone.  I do find what just happened with the Robotech franchise very intriguing though and think it deserves a pretty close look.  Investors have different strategies of picking the projects they want to buy into.  Sometimes investments are philanthropic and I think Kickstarter does a good job tapping into that.  Most investors though are looking for something more.  So, in no particular order, here are the questions I felt the Kickstarter campaign failed to address:

1) Why didn’t HG fund the show from their own purse or traditional means?  Harmony Gold is an established company, not a start-up.  Potential investors are rightfully weary of established companies looking to crowd-fund new projects.  Established companies have access to lines of credit (generally at reasonably attractive terms) and  investors (yes, even private companies often have numerous investors).  When it seems like your own company should have the $500K investment you’re attempting to crowd-fund it’s going to give people pause.  Does HG not believe in its own project enough to fund it?

2) Can we trust Harmony Gold or is Harmony Gold a company we would want to give money to?  HG has an image problem.  First, this crowd-funding initiative was hot on the heels of the Palladium Robotech Tactics Kickstarter campaign that made way more than anyone ever expected and was certainly part of the inspiration for HG’s own campaign.  However, as HG launched their campaign Palladium was simultaneously pissing off its backers by releasing the game after numerous lengthy delays at a convention to the general public after promising it to backers first.  It was safe to say that Palladium hadn’t generated a lot of goodwill.  Goodwill is not an asset that HG has much of due to the publicity around its numerous ‘cease and desist’ orders to retailers and fan projects (to mention nothing of the trademarking of the word “Macross”).  HG has also done an excellent job of ostracizing the fan base on their own website-related forum where fans are continually chased away or banned for alleged indiscretions that are generally tantamount to ‘disagreeing with an overly involved moderator’.  Banned fans aren’t likely to thank you with an investment in your crowd-funding initiative… though they still might watch whatever you produce for free on Youtube.  Since we’re on the topic of ways HG has let the fan base down, might I also add: Toynami… search my site if the name alone isn’t enough for you to understand that merchandising letdown.   While some of these issues are beyond HG’s control the Kickstarter campaign did nothing to address them.

3) What was HG’s plan to make sure this pilot would develop into a full season of animation?  The Kickstarter campaign doesn’t adequately describe HOW HG will make the follow-up episodes to this $500K pilot.  One assumes that they would shop this pilot to networks but did anyone believe a network would be eager to pick this show up? Were they planning more crowd-funded episodes?  Did something related to a previous effort give them confidence a network was interested?  The fanbase is already sick of false starts so outlining a feasible goal to completing a new series was a huge hurdle that needed to be cleared and they never approached it.

4) Speaking of false starts, what happened with Shadow Chronicles?  At one point we heard that if Shadow Chronicles was successful it would receive sequel OVAs.  Then we were told Shadow Chronicles was a runaway success.  Allegedly the follow-up, Shadow Rising, was about to go into production when Warner Bros acquired the live action rights to Robotech.   Shadow Rising was put on hiatus as the team at HG reasoned that if WB pursued a movie the franchise would draw more attention and be better suited to release a higher quality follow-up to Shadow Chronicles.  It’s now clear WB will not be making a live action film but we were told Shadow Chronicles was successful so we should still be expecting Shadow Rising right?  At Comic-con Tommy Yune stated that Shadow Rising was still in the works but for some reason now was the right time to start a completely different story and pinned that on Carl Macek adding that this was a secret Carl Macek project before his death.  In the end, the question of why the next Robotech project isn’t a continuation of the most recent project needed to be addressed by the Kickstarter campaign and saying “Carl really wanted to do this” doesn’t adequately explain the abrupt change since we all know the dead are very patient.

5) How would Robotech Academy grow the Robotech fan base?  It would seem sensible to expect an explanation from HG as to how the this new project would have broad enough appeal to lure in a whole new generation of fans, after all, that would be the first thing HG was going to need to explain to any networks as per bullet 3.  Instead, Robotech Academy sounds like The Hangover II of the Robotech universe.  Tell me if I’m talking about Robotech or Robotech Academy:
An unsuspecting group is suddenly hurled into conflict because, unbeknownst to them, they possess a relic of Zor.  To escape this danger they attempt an experimental space fold which transports them to momentary safety but far from where they expected to go and with limited resources.
It got a little more original from there, and there was suggestions of tie-ins with the Sentinels storyline  which excited some Robotech fans, but too much hinged on the prerequisite that the intended audience was steeped in Robotech lore.  The majority of Robotech fans don’t even know about the Sentinels and those who do want The Sentinels, not a side-story of what happened to the children of the Macross Saga.  We needed to know how this show would work for a new audience.

6) Instead of making a Sentinels spin-off, why not make The Sentinels?  HG needs to stop pussyfooting around the rights issues and this would have been the perfect place to do this because they might have actually been rewarded with cash for their efforts!  Had HG come out and said “Look, the original designs and characters from Macross, and the original mechanical designs from Southern Cross are a legal minefield that we need to avoid so this is our best opportunity to depict the Sentinels arch” they may have been rewarded for their candor.  Fans would stop asking about why there won’t be Valkyries in the new show or why the designs from a story that happens during the Masters arch look to be based on Mospeada. (edited, thanks for the comments guys to set me straight).

7) Robotech is an adaptation and generating brand new content is a very different beast; who was going to be responsible for the new character and mechanical designs?  What were their qualifications?  Rather than teasing some designs to be picked apart on the Internet, HG needed to tout the abilities of the team that would be working on this show.  What had they done previously?  Saying “From the team that brought you Shadow Chronicles” was bound to get a lukewarm response.  If they could have said “Look, this is an expensive pilot episode because we’ve hired Mikimoto to do our character designs and Kawamori to do our mechs” that’d be another thing entirely.  Yes, those may be unrealistic names to drop but certainly they could have put some names out there that would have inspired a lot more confidence.

Backers: 2284, pledged: $194,574

So, from my perspective, these were the issues that HG did an insufficient job of tackling and thus did not get the investment dollars they needed.  Were there other issues that were important to you that I didn’t cover?


14 Replies to “Why did the Robotech Academy Kickstarter fail?”

  1. “Had HG come out and said “Look, the original designs and characters from Macross, and the original mechanical designs from Southern Cross are a legal minefield that we need to avoid so this is our best opportunity to depict the Sentinels arch” they may have been rewarded for their candor. Fans would stop asking about why there won’t be Valkyries in the new show or why the designs from a story that happens during the Masters arch look to be based on Mospeada”

    Except that Harmony Gold has the UNCONTESTED rights to use ALL of the Southern Cross designs. Courtesy of Yui Yuasa (an honest-to-God Japanese fan of Robotech):

    ‘ Is located in the “Studio Ammonite”, Southern Cross rights of its design,Tatsunoko Productions is the design orderer is managing the license

    To the extent that it is broadcast in Japan in the story of the original film , only needed the permission of the Big West.

    : Therefore, the release to develop models or toys as “Robotech Masters,” they (manufacturer) do not have any problems.

    Also, if Harmony Gold USA product the sequel as “Super Dimension Cavalry,Robotech: Southern Cross”, with the permission of “Ms. Hasegawa Naoko”, is not used to the original film at all , if Harmony Gold USA animate “all newfilm” , Big West claim can not insist on.’

    Her English is mangled, but understandable. There are no rights problems with SDC: Southern Cross designs. The simple fact is that the “Creative Team” (and I use that term very loosely) has repeatedly spit in the faces of Masters War/Southern Cross fans. Robotech Academy did this writ large. This is especially true considering the godawful Takeru design instead of using a Tristar-class Heavy Cruiser or Battlecruiser or Light Cruiser that all appeared in The Masters War. Furthermore, if there were design rights issues they could not have reused Rolf Emerson, nor the misidentified Tactical Air Force Eagle nor Supreme Commander Leonard. The simple fact is the Pissant-in-Charge has done his level best to ignore The Masters War. His brother snidely quipped once that there were only a dozen Southern Cross fans, which tells you how much an a-hole he is….

  2. I’m afraid I’m not familiar with Yui Yuasa but the statement makes sense with my understanding of how the series was put together. The only thing that makes me weary are that the mechanical designs appear to be copyrighted by (or somehow otherwise require the license of) BigWest. I don’t see any problem with using the character designs at all. If we ignore the potential copyright issue, it sounds like HG might have one more hurdle to clear in using or modifying those designs in that they would need permission to do so from Ms. Hasegawa Naoko (who is that?). The cynic in me would suggest maybe this person would want a dime for agreeing or worse, ‘consulting’, so the HG team is keen to avoid going that route.

    EDIT – To the point of the article, it would have been nice if HG was just up front on all of this sort of stuff in the Kickstarter campaign. They’re fools not to use Southern Cross mechanical designs if they could and if they intended to they should have said so. Even if they’re not wildly popular, Robotech has always lacked (due to the way it was created) cohesive elements so not injecting them now when the opportunity presents itself would be foolish. The fact we didn’t see a single AGAC or VHT in space station liberty in Shadow Chronicles really makes me think there is a copyright issue with BW although it also could just be evidence that they didn’t have the budget for another couple 3D models…

  3. 1) Don’t get stuck in the oversimplistic viewpoint of Kickstarter = “I just need the money.” In cases like this, I suspect the amount of money HG raised would probably be the least of their concerns. As you say, they’ve got their own purse. And to be honest, $500K is kind of a paltry sum for producing a TV series these days anyway. Even if they made that book, they’d still be funding most of it themselves

    So why did they do it? My guess is, it was meant as a way of judging the amount of potential fan and public interest in the show. If people were willing to pony up $500,000 to see it, then they could be sure there’d be enough of a potential paying audience for the whole thing that it would be worth throwing gobs of their own money into it, too. Sure, you can survey fans until you’re blue in the face, but if you really want to know whether they’re going to put their money where their mouth is, then you…well, give them the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. Since the Kickstarter fizzled, now they know potential viewers aren’t that enthusiastic about the idea. So now maybe they try another idea, or retool it in such a way as to cost less money.

    And, of course, it would also be a way they could connect with those fans by way of the rewards they were offering. Which is probably also why Robert Woodhead of AnimEigo used a Kickstarter to fund a Bubblegum Crisis Blu-ray production. AnimEigo could probably have afforded to do the release on its own, but letting fans kick in funding not only gave them an influx of money prior to the actual release of the product to help cover costs, it showed them fans were interested in them going the extra mile—and so they did.

    2) No disagreement here. Harmony Gold and Palladium have both had a history of annoying fans in various ways—not to mention the way fans have felt jerked around by the various attempts to get sequels off the ground (as you address in later points).

    3) HG probably didn’t even have a plan for that themselves yet. I imagine it was contingent on how the Kickstarter went. If the fans showered HG with money like rose petals, they would probably have had different options available than if they didn’t want to kick in. Even now, they’ll probably still make it in some way, just not go as grand as they were planning. In that way, you could say the Kickstarter actually fulfilled its purpose—it kept HG from squandering money it might not make back.

    4) Yeah, the failure of shadows to rise is another big knock against Harmony Gold. They really have this big history of making mistakes like that, don’t they? After all that buildup for Shadow Chronicles, they then go and squander the momentum on the off chance a Robotech live-action movie makes it out of development hell. Seriously, they should have kept on making stuff; having new content keep coming out would have been the best way to build interest for a live-action movie and keep that project from sinking, too.

    5) I’d be more likely to call it the, I dunno, “Muppet Babies” of Robotech. Or perhaps more aptly the “James Bond Junior” of Robotech. (Anyone remember that cartoon?) It’s what TVTropes called “Spin-Off Babies”—attempting to pander to the audience by making the characters the same age as the audience. How sad that the owners of Robotech, a series that made kids empathize with adults and gloried in it, are reduced to this. They should take a lesson from Pixar; you’ve got to have a good story first.

    6) The sense I’ve gotten when I spoke to Robotech people on my podcast is that the Sentinels has already been depicted in so many different ways (novels, comics, RPG) that coming out with an animated version of it would be anticlimactic. They want to continue from where they left off.

    (Oh, and the Southern Cross mecha would not be problematic. Harmony Gold has the rights to Southern Cross and Mospeada sewn up tight. It’s just Macross, and the legal wrangling among Big West, Tatsunoko, and Studio Nue, that’s the problem—and also probably why they’ve taken such pains to downplay any Macross elements in the Robotech sequels. They don’t actually have the rights to make Macross-derivative works other than the Robotech TV series.)

    7) Shadow Chronicles actually had mechanical designs by Mospeada’s mecha designer, Shinji Aramaki (who has also worked on about a zillion other projects, both for Japanese and western animation, through the years. Ever wonder why that one supercar from the old Pole Position cartoon looked so much like it was designed by the same person as the Cyclone and the Alpha fighter? That’s because it was). I imagine they’d have gotten him for this new show, too. Though I agree, they probably should have said so.

    It could be that they hadn’t even finalized the creative team yet, and were waiting to know how much money they’d have to hire them with. In which case they probably should have been more up-front about that, too. But then, Harmony Gold has very rarely ever been up-front about anything; it would be odd to expect them to start now.

  4. No, its because Tommy Yune is a pissant. Besides, they did use the 15th ATAC battalion laager and coat-of-arms very briefly in Robotech: Love, Live, Alive for a brief 2 seconds before its blown to kingdom come. They also used the MAC III Thundercracker Destroid which means The Sentinels designs should be clear territory as well.

  5. The Sentinels designs would be free and clear with the caveat that they would not be construed as derivative works from Macross. I think that means there’s a few designs they would want to steer clear of but several more that would definitely be safe.

  6. Thank you for the response! So it seems like there’s a consensus that Southern Cross mechanical designs were/are available and that the HG team is just avoiding them. I’m not the hugest fan of Southern Cross or its mechanical designs but I question the logic of excluding them. When you say that Shadow Chronicles had featured work from Aramaki, you’re referencing work he did for the original Mospeada show, like unused designs, right? I know HG has access to lots of pre-production Mospeada material and I wasn’t under the impression they had asked for anything new from him. I did hear they were trying to hunt down the designer of the Tread/Beta before the Shadow Chronicles was made but that he’s the kind of guy who seeks you out, not the other way around, so they never got a hold of him.

  7. I’m not sure now, actually. I know Harmony Gold had talks with Mospeada’s original creative staff, including Kenji Terada and Shinji Armaki. But now that you mention it, I’m not sure whether they did any original work on the show. When I spoke to Tommy Yune, he seemed to imply they did…or it could just be my faulty memory playing tricks, as it has been years. Or it could just be, as you say, they used his preproduction designs from the original show. Does seem odd they could get him to work as a mecha designer for the show, given that he’s now directing Appleseed movies and Halo shorts.

  8. Regarding SDC Southern Cross, I believe the confusion began because Big West is credited as one of the production companies involved, and Big West stickers appear on some of the Japanese Southern Cross model kits. But just because Big West was a production company, doesn’t necessarily give them full or permanent rights to SDC Southern Cross. Big West’s rights appear to be limited to the plastic model kits, and those rights may well have expired decades ago.

    For example, Mainichi Broadcasting Station (MBS) was one of the production companies behind SDF Macross. MBS and Big West jointly held the Japanese merchandising rights to SDF Macross, and as such, you can see both of their logos on classic Macross merchandise from Japan. However, MBS’ rights were only for a limited period of two years, which is why their logo no longer appears on modern merchandise. I suspect that Big West’s rights over SDC Southern Cross were limited in a similar vein.

    Furthermore, SDC Southern Cross characters (ie: Claude Leon\General Leonard) and mecha (ie: the Bioroids) appeared completely unaltered in Robotech II: The Sentinels, indicating that Tatsunoko Production and Harmony Gold hold unfettered rights to their animation. In contrast, all the SDF Macross characters had to be altered in order to legally appear in The Sentinels.

    I believe Harmony Gold’s reluctance to reuse Southern Cross designs stems more from vanity rather than legal restrictions. Southern Cross’ designs were mostly unremarkable and have aged poorly.

    Anyways, excluding the Southern Cross controversy, that’s a great article that everyone shoud read!

  9. Thank you, excellent points about Southern Cross and the relationship with BigWest TLW. I really appreciate having such an informed readership and that you, Chris, and David took the time to help clarify the issue. Thanks for your comments guys!

  10. “I believe Harmony Gold’s reluctance to reuse Southern Cross designs stems more from vanity rather than legal restrictions.”

    Steve quipped once in chat YEARS ago that there were only a dozen Southern Cross fans. That shows you how narrow they think.

    “Southern Cross’ designs were mostly unremarkable and have aged poorly.”

    Eh, I think that with some logical touch-ups (armor options, new paint schemes etc), much like how the Valkyrie was given a spiffy upgrade in DYRL, the various Southern Cross mecha could be made more than viable. Of course, I know not many agree with me, but this could have been a great opportunity to go ahead and make the Sylphide a fully realized Veritech Fighter. Hell, they did it for the YVF-4 for the Robotech Tactics Kickstarter. Of course, Tommy Yune would have to actually care for that to happen…..

  11. What we need is to get the rights away from HG and make something of Robotech. It seems as if the Robotech franchise is in the hands of people who can care less, just as long as they can keep pushing DVD’s of the same series from some 30 years ago. Out of disapointment I have started my own kickstarter for Robotech Take Over. Will it be sucessfull? Of course not, but that is not the point. And if you can not figure out the point on your own, well then may god have mercy upon your soul.



  12. According to HG, when they introduced the kickstarter at Anime Expo, they went with a kickstarter rather than outside investors because if they went to get money from the Syfy channel, or Cartoon Network, or someone else along those lines to produce the pilot for them, they’d want to have their say over it, and be able to influence the production, but by funding it that way, they could keep it free of outside tampering and just make it with the elements that fans have been telling them they loved about the show for 30 years.

    They’re never going to animate the Sentinels. Carl said so himself. … Actually he may have said “in our lifetimes”, and since he’s gone now, maybe that means they’re one step closer. But HG, may have been Tommy Yune, have said that it’s just been produced too many times already. The book is always better than the movie or the tv series based on it, right? And the comics are always better than the movies based on them, right? So it’s guaranteed to be a let down, right?
    But seriously, they said that the reason that fans kept tuning in originally was always to see what happened tomorrow. Any long-time fans already know what happens tomorrow, so there’s no urgency to it. There’s no reason to rush home and put it on as soon as you get through the door, because you can’t wait to see what happens. Serialized tv shows don’t have a big life in syndication. Robotech ran through a couple of times, but not for decades, like Tom and Jerry, or Looney Tunes. Soap Operas are HUGE, but they don’t really rerun them. After you know the whole story, there just isn’t as much interest anymore. They aren’t going to do it, because they don’t think it would succeed. Giving us a kind of side-road into the Sentinels story that covers some of the events and uses some of the characters, like ‘Academy was supposed to, is as close as we’re ever going to get to seeing the Sentinels animated.

    The “12 fans” is quite an exaggeration, but Southern Cross was never anywhere near as popular as Macross or New Generation. Tanks just aren’t as cool as fighter jets, like the other two series had, and though New Generation didn’t use their jets nearly as much as Macross, motor cycles that turn into jet packs are pretty high up on the cool scale, too. Southern Cross had jets, but they weren’t much to look at, barely transformed, and they weren’t used by the main characters. For whatever reason they decided that they didn’t want to use the Southern Cross mecha in the Sentinels and other projects, they explained it in the Sentinels novels. As I recall, it was something along the lines of splitting the military forces in half. The “Air Force”, commanded by Admiral Hayes-Hunter went off to find the Robotech Masters and make peace with them, if possible, and they took the latest developments in fighter technology, where as General Leonard was going to stay behind, not liking jets anyway, and control the “Army” that was being left behind. It doesn’t make a lot of sense as far as military tactics go, but it was fine for explaining why they didn’t have any Alpha fighters in Southern Cross.

    Personally, I wish HG would make all the production and pre-production material they have access to available on Robotech.com, or something. I’ve recently found myself with a fair amount more free time than I had, and want to spend some time on my long neglected artwork. The first thing that came to mind was a series of Robotech works, meant to be something like a war correspondent with Time magazine, or something, would take. I was starting with the New Generation, and decided to go with Rook in her riding armor, next to her cyclone. I’ve discovered though that there is VERY LITTLE visual reference material out there for Rook’s cyclone or her riding armor. All the good pictures/diagrams/models, etc, are of the Scott/Rand type (which are identical except for the missiles and laser). There are a couple of the Lancer type, here and there, but almost nothing of Rook. There are a few decent pictures of the toys/models, but they aren’t as angular as the other three types, and the red plastic doesn’t reflect the light the same, so I have no idea what shape her boots are supposed to be. The pictures that I can kind of make out conflict with each other. It was hard to find good references for the bike, too. I spent a few days just doing a google image search before it occurred to me to check Robotech.com, to see what kind of image gallery they have there. It was a total waste of time. They have almost NOTHING. I think they had one picture of a cyclone, and it was only a thumb nail. I finally found (searching “mospeada”) a picture of the black version of the armor which was worn by … Sue Graham? The videographer who showed up at some point in New Generation. It looks like the same thing, and the black picks up the light better, but it seems to conflict with all the others! So I’m still looking. … The point that I took a really long time getting to here is that the website hasn’t been updated in something like 8 years. Not even the message forums. Not their convention schedule, nothing. Not even an update to announce the kickstarter. That really doesn’t make it look much like they care about the show.

  13. “Southern Cross’ designs were mostly unremarkable and have aged poorly.”

    Doesn’t apply to the alien Bioroid designs at all. Doesn’t apply to the arming doublet designs either in fact.

    Whoever made that comment was lost in space.

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