Latest project to scrap plans to reboot via bigscreen

The reintroduction of “Voltron: Defender of the Universe” will begin with an animated series on Nicktoons and a new toy line from Mattel rather than leap straight onto the bigscreen.

That’s the plan from rights holders World Event Prods and Classic Media, which are attempting to relaunch the massive robot, popular in the 1980s, to a new generation.

It’s the latest of several properties to scrap plans for an initial film in favor of relaunching the brand through TV and toys.

Warner Bros.’ animation aims to produce an anime-influenced version of “ThunderCats” for Cartoon Network to revive the ’80s property, which has had a feature treatment stuck in development.

Likewise billionaire Haim Saban bought back “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” from Disney last month for about $100 million to reboot as TV shows on Nickelodeon and toys.

Starting next year, Nicktoons will air 26 half-hour episodes of “Voltron Force,” about five space explorers who pilot robotic lions that combine to form Voltron, an invincible guardian sworn to defend the Universe.

Series will remain faithful to the old show, while introducing new recruits to fight alongside the original characters.

New episodes will be timed to the 25th anniverseries. It’s the first “Voltron” TV project in 10 years, although an iPhone game came out in December.

WEP and Classic Media (“Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “Where’s Waldo?”) will produce the toon with Kickstart Prods. (“Wolverine and the X-Men”). Classic Media is shepherding international distribution, merchandising and licensing deals.

Mattel will tie-in with the anniversary to launch toys based on the classic “Voltron” range, as well as action figures and playsets that revolve around an edgier, modernized robot. There is no date on when the toys will hit shelves.

“What’s paramount is getting the toys right,” Ted Koplar, president of St. Louis-based WEP told Daily Variety. “They’re pretty involved toys that have to transform and fit together.”

WEP and Classic Media had been developing a live action feature for some time but scribes, including Justin Marks, have yet to lock down the right tone, producers said.

Hasbro took the opposite approach with “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe,” relying on the first films in the franchises in 2007 and 2009 to introduce new toys for the lines.

The move to TV makes sense: “Transformers,” “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and “G.I. Joe” were introduced to kids via shows produced by Hasbro and Mattel to sell toys. “It’s an exciting way to introduce the brand to a generation that isn’t familiar with ‘Voltron,’” Koplar said.

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