When I first heard that Netflix was going to be resurrecting Voltron and bringing it to the streaming service as an Original, I was rather reserved in my glee. To date, the service has been pretty darn good at producing original series that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching but, bringing something back from my childhood? That’s a tall order. There are expectations to be met and, often our memory of a thing is actually better than the thing itself. Don’t believe me? Go back and watch a few of your childhood favorite movies and see how many stand up now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. A select few do (Goonies, I’m looking at you), but for the most part its hard to recapture that original feeling of enjoyment. In this case, those five lions – with the help of the folks at Dreamworks – came together to form Voltron: Legendary Defender of My Childhood Nostalgia and defeated the Robeast of mediocrity. Achievement unlocked!
When my son and I sat down to watch the first few episodes, the first comment out of his 18-year-old, anime-loving chops was, “this has really good artwork.” The show does, indeed, look great! Studio Mir is the company responsible for the visuals, which is a mix of anime style characters and backgrounds with CGI being used for Voltron’s action sequences. Studio Mir was started by Jae-Myung Yu who was the animation director on Avatar: The Last Airbender. They’re also responsible for much of the animation on The Legend of Korra, and the fourth season of The Boondocks.
As in the original series, Voltron: Legendary Defender follows a team of five people who stumble upon a giant lion robot, a princess in need, and wind up on a desperate race to find four other robot lions so they can come together to form the giant robot defender of the Universe, Voltron. There are some changes to the original formula though and I have to say that I didn’t mind them at all! Keith is no longer the leader of the pride and Princess Alura has a different role than the one she eventually took on in the original series. It all works though and as the series unfolds, the princess still plays a key role on the team. Zarkon is still there, as is his witch with her penchant for creating giant foes, aimed at destroying Voltron and cementing Zarkon’s reign over the known universe.
The first episode is a triple premiere with a run time of 68 minutes, while the remaining episodes in season one are 23 minutes long each. Episode 1, “The Rise of Voltron” really gets into the action pretty quickly and establishes who the characters are and where the show is going. As I sat in my living room watching, it all felt very familiar but in a good way. It didn’t feel like a droll rehashing but a modern retelling of one of my childhood favorites and it didn’t disappoint! One of the things which irks me most about cartoons updated for modern audiences is that they often seem to be dumbed down. Watch the Transformers cartoons of the 80s, then go and watch Robots in Disguise, Beast Wars or 2007’s Transformers Animated and you’ll see what I mean. Voltron: Legendary Defender has all the right elements, consisting of a few parts drama, a few parts anime histrionics, a few parts fun, all without being so adult that it’s inappropriate for younger viewers. For me, this is definitely a family show that moms, dads and kids alike can all enjoy together.
I’m still working my way through the show, having only made it to episode 8, but I can’t wait to get through the rest of the series and see what else Zarkon and his minions have in store for the lion force! Well done Dreamworks. Thank you for getting it right; so far.
Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I’ve received certain perks for my content. Not enough to compromise my integrity, so what you’re getting is the real. I joined the Stream Team because I already liked what they were doing, and fortunately, they keep putting out great content which makes my job easy.