Today marks the official revival of beloved 1980’s animated series, Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Audiences are anxious to see what Netflix and DreamWorks Animation have cooked up, and judging from early promotional material and the latest sizzle reel, the buzz around this reboot is well deserved. The new franchise, titled Voltron: Legendary Defender, appears to be packed with high-energy battles, sinister villains, intelligent humor, and engrossing story lines, and was executive produced by The Legend of Korra‘s Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos.
The latest installment in a long and storied franchise, Legendary Defender is available now on Netflix for your binge-watching pleasure. The official synopsis reveals that the reboot will run a similar course to its source material, though it will unquestionably take artistic liberties to create a more immersive and well-rounded franchise:
Five unsuspecting teenagers, transported from Earth into the middle of a sprawling intergalactic war, become pilots for five robotic lions in the battle to protect the universe from evil. Only through the true power of teamwork can they unite to form the mighty warrior known as Voltron: Legendary Defender.
1984’s Voltron: Defender of the Universe was created entirely out of edited and re-purposed clips from Japanese cartoons Beast King GoLion and Fleet Dairugger XV. The low-budget series – slapped together by John Teichmann and Peter Keefe – ran between 1984-1985 and proved to be a hit with American audiences, earning top-tier rankings for two consecutive years. But for those who are a little too young to remember the original series, or simply missed out on watching it, we’ve put together a handy guide to get newcomers up to speed on the basics of the Voltron universe.
What is Voltron?
In the most general sense, Voltron is an epic, gargantuan robot warrior made up of several smaller weaponized vehicles. The original ’80s cartoon introduced two variations of the mighty mechanized defender: the Voltron Lion Force and the Voltron Vehicle Force (non-canonical names), although the show was always marketed as a single series. Regardless of form, the Voltron super robot is designed to protect the innocent and perpetuate peace throughout the galaxy, only taking the battle to the enemy when absolutely necessary. Voltron’s signature weapon is a giant, flaming sword that no one really wants to mess with.
The more widely-recognized Lion Force is, unsurprisingly, comprised of five smaller lion robots controlled by five individual pilots (and eventually a princess). These brave pilots protect the planet Arus from the power-hungry King Zarkon and his evil minions on Planet Doom. Lion Force is the first Voltron introduced, though its story arc is considered Voltron III as it is set the furthest away from planet Earth. This is the story that Netflix has chosen to adapt, though it will introduce modern twists and updates.
Vehicle Force, the series’ second iteration of Voltron, is assembled using three teams of five all-terrain vehicles – 15 pilots in all. Each team specializes in some form of combat and are broke into three squads: Land, Air, and Sea. Each squad of five can unite to make a larger mechanized fighter, though all 15 pilots are required to create the legendary Voltron. The heroes of Vehicle Force seek new planets capable of supporting life while battling evil Galra invaders from the Drule Empire. Vehicle Force is the second Voltron introduced, though its story arc is referred to as Voltron I as it is set closest to Earth.
Meet The Pilots
Netflix and DreamWorks have created their own version of the Lion Force story arc, so we’ll focus on Voltron III’s pilots. In the 1984 cartoon debut, the five pilots that controlled each segment of Voltron were relatively empty characters without much backstory. The new adaptation will change that, as the five teenagers are intrepid Earthlings thrust into the middle of an intergalactic war, not willing and able space adventurers. Many details from the original series will remain the same, though the showrunners have guaranteed that the heroes will be much more humanized and relatable in this adaptation. Teamwork is the name of the game in the new Voltron, and each pilot will have to rely heavily on their squad-mates to survive the coming war.
Roles and personalities have been tweaked, so here’s a look at the new roster:
Shiro (Josh Keaton) – De facto leader of the group, pilot of the Black Lion. Adapted from original character Sven, pilot of the Blue Lion. Appears to have an awesome cybernetic arm.
Keith (Steven Yuen) – Resident tough-guy and ace, pilot of the Red Lion. Loyal, hot-headed, and impulsive.
Lance (Jeremy Shada) – Goofy and cocky, pilot of the Blue Lion. Known to drop cringe-worthy pickup lines and flirt with anything that moves.
Pidge (Bex Taylor-Klaus) – Young and tech-savvy, pilot of the Green Lion. Searching for clue about his missing family.
Hunk (Tyler Labine) – Gentle giant with a heart of gold, pilot of the Yellow Lion. Insecure but secretly brilliant.
Princess Allura (Kimberly Brooks) – Last surviving member of the planet Arus’ Royal Family. Seeking revenge against King Zarkon. Not yet known if she will eventually pilot one of the Lion bots, but set to play a massive role in the new adaptation.
Throughout the original series, Voltron’s heroic Paladins battle evil aliens from the sprawling Drule Empire. These invaders, of the Galra race, originate from several planets and are ruled by Emperor Zeppo, an enigmatic and scarcely-seen antagonist. Zeppo’s right hand and primary enforcer, King Zarkon of Planet Doom, is the most well-known enemy in the Lion Force Saga; audiences will probably meet an even more fearsome version of Zarkon in the Netflix reboot. Keep your eyes peeled for the laughably-inept, gray-clad grunt warrior of the Drule Empire, as they generally serve as cannon fodder in battles with Galaxy Alliance forces.
We’re willing to wager that Legendary Defender‘s showrunners plan on introducing additional villains from the iconic 80’s series, like Zarkon’s son Lotor, the sinister spell-caster Haggar, and the powerful Drule schemer known as Viceroy Throk. These nefarious characters are constantly battling Voltron’s pilots and the rest of the Galaxy Alliance, and would provide fans of the original series with some much-needed links to their beloved franchise. Also expected to appear in force are Robeasts, the dreaded and ruthless archenemies of the Voltron crew. Some Robeasts are created entirely by Haggar’s black magic, while others are fully mechanized (like Voltron) and piloted by Drule soldiers.
Are you watching Voltron: Legendary Defender on Netflix? Let us know in the comments what you think of the show.
Volton: Legendary Defender features the voices of Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead), Bex Taylor-Klaus (Arrow), Jeremy Shada (Adventure Time), Tyler Labine (Reaper) and Josh Keaton (Green Lantern: The Animated Series) as the five brave souls destined to pilot the titular mech warrior. The much-anticipated reboot was created by DreamWorks Animation and World Events Productions, and animated by Studio Mir (The Legend of Korra). The entire first season is available now on Netflix.