Travel consideration provided.
During my trip to DreamWorks Animation Studios, I had the chance to watch an advance preview of the new Netflix Original Series Voltron: Legendary Defender. This show re-imagines the classic 1984 cartoon for a new generation, and as a child of the ’80s myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Reboots don’t always hit the mark, and to be honest, not every cartoon from my childhood can stand up today. There are some shows from my youth that I still sit and enjoy as an adult, while others are just unwatchable now. So as I sat inside the theater at the Dreamworks campus to watch the first episode, I was eager to see what the new Voltron would be like. And as the theater darkened, I quickly found myself drawn in and wrapped up in the action!
Voltron: Legendary Defender
Voltron: Legendary Defender is one of those cartoons that can entertain adults just as easily as children. Between the writing and the fantastic voice talents of Rhys Darby, Steven Yeun, Kimberly Brooks, Josh Keaton, Tyler Labine, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Jeremy Shada, Cree Summer, and Neil Kaplan, this series is both funny and emotional. The series shows some influences from Japanese anime, which is no surprise, as showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery both worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, which some fans have referred to as “American anime”.
The new series has a very retro flavor, with an old-school animation style that gives it an ’80s feel without being clunky. After watching the show, Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos came out for a Q&A, and I asked them how they decide what to keep and what to change while working on a reboot.
“For us it’s just a matter of, first we have our own nostalgic needs,” said Lauren Montgomery.
“We’re very selfish!” laughed Joaquim Dos Santos.
“What will make us happy as fans to see again? And then beyond that, it’s just a matter of whether or not keeping the thing that we have nostalgia for really benefits the story,” added Montgomery. “So first we just kinda had to figure out the story we wanted to tell, [and] we had to make sure that story still worked. Obviously we’re not gonna be like, ‘OK, it’s Voltron, but we’re gonna tell a completely different story that has nothing to do with anything!’ We build our story, and then from there it’s just the little details like, OK, maybe this isn’t a huge part of what made Voltron what Voltron was, so if we just kinda diminish that or don’t nod to that, then people won’t miss it.”
Dos Santos agreed, adding, “There’s certain things that we’ll have gravitated towards for one reason or another, through childhood – you know, I’ll get obsessive over, ‘We have to see this’, and then ultimately, we can have a few story meetings where that’s not really servicing the story so, as much as I wanna see that, personally, it’s probably not gonna make it into the overall story. But a lot of it’s just using your gut: What would you like to see? I think we benefit from working in an industry where we’re still allowed to be kids, so we can kinda still play on that mental level.”
After the Q&A, we all headed to the Voltron-themed lunch, and Montgomery commented to me how cool the decorations were as I was standing there taking pictures of them, and got ready to snap a photo on her own phone. They aren’t just showrunners – they’re fans who truly care about the show, and it’s truly evident when you watch it.