In the 1980s my dad was going to Japan on business a lot, and sometimes he’d bring us back some of the cool toys he saw there.
As we discovered more than 20 years later, often the toys would be from a TV show, but without any way of seeing the source shows in question, everything was very mysterious. We got some Valkyries from Macross, and years later when Robotech came out, we knew they were from “Robotech.” Actually this was inaccurate, there was no show “Robotech” in Japan, just three totally unrelated shows all spliced together in an American dub.
There were little catalogs that came with the toys showing all the other related toys. We never conceived of trying to find these other toys, they just seemed a glimpse from a mysterious universe. However this was sort of irrelevant – since dad only went to Japan once every few years, by the time he went back, these toys were no longer for sale.
But the coolest toy we got was the “vehicle Voltron,” which I have since learned was actually called Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. The catalog for this was very confusing – we knew this thing was called “Voltron” here in the US. I saw it on TV once.
Then the “lion Voltron” aired on TV, and was much more popular. This was another combination robot, but instead of 15 vehicles, this one was made of five lions. Whenever someone referred to “Voltron,” this was the cartoon they were talking about.
This was appalling for a number of reasons. First of all, I knew for a fact that my toy was the “real Voltron.” I had seen it on TV, and I had the toys. They were right there, hard evidence of Voltron.
Secondly, this lion thing wasn’t even in the toy catalog! The only other Voltron (we called it “the second Voltron”) was a combiner robot in three parts (three robots combined into one) that I now know was called “Lightspeed Electroid Albegas,” (aka “Gladiator Voltron”). I never saw the cartoon.
The third toy had a lion, it’s true – but it wasn’t five lions. No, this “third Voltron” had a lion head for a torso. I’ve since learned this was “Mirai Robo Daltanious.” There was no cartoon. Why?
The Japanese Mirai Robo Daltanious series was originally planned to be adapted by World Events Productions as one act of the Voltron: Defender of the Universe series in the United States and abroad. The intention was for Voltron to have 3 series components made up of Daltanious, Dairugger XV (the “Vehicle Voltron”), and Albegas (“Gladiator Voltron”). When requesting master tapes from Toei Animation for translation purposes, the World Events Productions producers requested the “[The] ones with the lion.” Mistakenly, Toei then proceeded to ship World Events copies of Beast King GoLion, another “combining-robot” anime featuring lion-shaped fighters. However, the World Events producers greatly preferred the GoLion series over Daltanious, and the GoLion episodes went on to become the most popular portion of the original Voltron run.
I dug a little deeper, and found this saga of the US release of Voltron, St Louis station KPLR, and owner Harold Koplar and his son Ted Koplar.