First, we’re so thrilled you picked up on our stance and are as invested in the original version of Season 8 as we are. (And 7, of course.) As far as catching up to speed – buckle up. Even as a tl;dr of the past six months, this is going to be a long post.
This includes all meta, Red Pen Series, the Season 7 Finale restructure and where our Season 8 reconstruction will be, as well as some guest posts.
As far as where to begin? Allow us to break it down for you!
We’re going to try and start from the beginning, bear with me. Before diving in, I’m going to highlight some key players because this is A Mess™.
TeamPurpleLion consists of five core members: @LeakingHate, @FelixAzrael, @Dragonofyang, @Voltronisruiningmylife and @CrystalRebellion on tumblr.
DreamWorks is, well, DreamWorks Animation. They are the overarching production company responsible for creating Voltron: Legendary Defender, and overseeing the process from start to finish.
WEP, LLC, formerly known as World Events Productions, is the current Intellectual Property holder of Voltron. This is critical because DreamWorks has contracted the rights to make new Voltron content, but they do not own the brand itself. WEP controls all past iterations of Voltron, including Defender of the Universe, Voltron: The Third Dimension and Voltron Force, as well as controlling the direction the many different comics took. If WEP was not the Executive Producer/Writer themselves, those who were had to run everything by WEP – including anyone involved with Voltron: Legendary Defender.
The current CEO of WEP, LLC is Bob Koplar, and before him, his father Ted Koplar, held the title. Tiffany Ilardi is the Head of Licensing.
Okay, keep a pin in those people, they’re gonna come up again. Let’s dive in.
We were all fairly incensed by what we saw as Season 8, and it didn’t take LeakingHate long to catch on to some pretty intense animation errors. TeamPurpleLion didn’t officially come together until February 23rd, but the members were far from silent before then.
LeakingHate was first out the gate with her “Chasing the Ghosts of Season 8” meta where she debuted the first round of “there were edits” evidence.
Independently, FelixAzrael dropped a piece talking about the structure of narratives, specifically Dark Youth/Light Youth and Anima/Animus storylines in their “Death of a Dark Youth” meta.
By December 19, the fandom has pretty much caught on that stuff is shady. FreeVLDS8 was created, the petition was well underway, including a signature from the wife of one of the animators from Studio Mir (and is currently well over 30,000 signatures) and CallVoltron on Twitter was advocating for angry fans to call or write letters to the people responsible and offered to send letters for those who could not.
There were several tweets/comments going around from VAs and animators, all seeming to indicate that the finished product either isn’t what was expected, or that the Executive Producers had their hands tied. Details can be found on this timeline created by Twitter User Eros. (Far too many examples for me to list here and have it be succinct.)
There was an interview with AfterBuzzTV on February 18 where a voice actor was the first to go on record stating “I’m pretty sure like the toy company that owns the Voltron IP is like this show it’s for boys and their dads.” Never before has DreamWorks marketed VLD towards that demographic, and the actual demographic for the show skews way, way differently than “boys and their dads.” It is, however, a consistent theme for the Intellectual Property owner. (We’ll come back to this.)
By February, #TeamPurpleLion had grouped up and made its debut with a speculative piece. In “Interdimensional Executive Meddling: Voltron Style”, CrystalRebellion pulled apart the symbolism of the game show episode ‘The Feud’ in Season 7, and alluded that perhaps the episode was actually commentary on what was going on behind the scenes. She also hinted that the person pulling the strings and controlling the gameshow: the alien Bob, and the CEO of World Events – the IP for all of Voltron: Bob Koplar, might have more in common than just their name.
Curiously, she never said they or Bob Koplar are responsible; Crystal only pointed out that they might know who is – and as the overseeing CEO of the franchise – one would expect him to. The VoltronStore on Twitter, WEP’s official account, which was never referenced in the meta, was quick to tweet that they are just the store and that they had no creative control. (Both have since been factually disproved – it IS the Intellectual Property owner, and they DO have the highest tier of creative control and have even admitted such in the past – happily.)
In the same week, LeakingHate’s “Seek Truth In Darkness” meta debuted – the 20,000+ word analysis on the major edits and reconstruction of the episodes of Season 8. If you’ve heard about “That Meta,” it’s probably this one, and if you read no others, please read this. It breaks down each animation/story flaw. While each incident could be explained as an animation error on its own, when they’re collectively grouped, the evidence is quite damning that not only was Season 8 edited, but it was done so painfully post-production.
As an example: play the Where’s Hunk game in this screencap:
(In no other season are the split screens this cut off; each character is centered in their respective frames and visually balanced against the others.)
FelixAzrael followed up with a meta analyzing the symbolism in the episode Clear Day, in “Clear Day: Aftershock,” highlighting all the symbolism between DreamWorks, the workers underground, and the moment when the people working behind the scenes can say “clear day!” and continue forward with the true plot of S8, which would include an empowering feminist narrative for Allura, vindication for Lotor, and impart important lessons to the Paladins and showing that abusers don’t have to be forgiven.
LeakingHate later unraveled that the LGBT+ representation was hacked out of Season 8 in order to eliminate a relationship between Keith and another male Paladin in her meta “Legendarily Defensive: Editing the Gay Away” which ultimately ended with Shiro’s own story becoming truncated as a byproduct.
Surrounding this series of meta, the Executive Producers conducted two previously unscheduled AfterBuzzTV Interviews. (Transcripts of these interviews can be found here, courtesy Dragonofyang.) One occurs before ‘Interdimensional Executive Meddling’ on February 25 and the other happens after ‘Clear Day’ on March 4 of this year.
While the interviews were riddled with some sometimes painful commentary, we urge you to remember that the Executive Producers are under NDAs, and are legally obligated to say whatever the contract holder wants them to, short of anything actually illegal. Dragonofyang broke down NDAs in her meta here.
The Executive Producers also said in no uncertain terms that the IP Holders called for changes, that they were after the season was completed, and they reiterated that they had no time or finances left to really do it, so they did the best they could. They also mention that the IP Holder had a vision that Voltron was a show about making “toys for boys and their dads.” It’s worth mentioning that at no point prior to Season 8 was this demographic or need for toys ever mentioned by anyone other than Bob Koplar. In the February 25 interview, Joaquim Dos Santos even begins talking about Lotura and how good it was before Lauren Montgomery nervously reminds him “that’s getting into dangerous territory.”
The second interview on March 4 was especially interesting because it was two hours instead of one, and the first hour they actually just talk. They confirm again that the controlling party is the IP Holder and they were the ones that pushed back on the gay representation and other things, and DreamWorks actually fought to be more inclusive.
Deep breath – with me so far? (This has been a crazy ride for us, too.)
There was further rumbling from the WEP side of things when CEO Bob Koplar responded to a letter a group called #JusticeForAllura wrote to him, expressing their sorrow for Allura’s treatment. In his response he claimed that Allura’s death was a greatest honor bestowed upon her character.
He also went on to state that he was shocked by the negative reception Season 8 received when he returned a fan’s phone call and the fan posted a summary of the conversation.
So about the end of March, the VoltronStore (and WEP, LLC’s official Twitter) replied to people and claimed they have no creative control, and Tiffany Ilardi – who answers the phone at the Voltron Store – claimed that the store is only a store and that they aren’t WEP. Ms. Ilardi, as you may recall from the beginning of this post, is WEP’s Head of Licensing, as per her LinkedIn profile. (She also admitted in a telephone conversation with a fan that ‘a lot was left on the cutting room floor’ and agreed that a Director’s Cut of season 8 would sell well in early April.)
TeamPurpleLion continued with another round of meta. FelixAzrael posted “Breaking the Prince’s Curse” – a meta that outlines and breaks down all the iterations of Voltron (including VLD) and Lotor’s place in them, as well as emphasizing the differences in how he’s portrayed, be it a true, one-dimensional villain, or someone more complex and also redeemable – and how that reflects on who was the creative force driving the show.
(Spoilers: When one or both of the Koplars took on the roll of Executive Producer, he was treated as a monstrous villain. When another writer was involved, such as Peter Keefe for Defender of the Universe or Tommy Yune for the Robotech Crossover comic, Lotor was a vastly different character, nuanced, morally grey, and entirely capable of redemption and learning from his mistakes.)
In all but two of these cases, each of the non-Koplar EP’d series was cancelled right before the narrative turn in the story where Lotor would no longer be considered the main villain (if he ever was to begin with) and even begin his arc to a redemption. One was the Robotech crossover comic where Lotor only ended up back where he began the story of Defender of the Universe in 1984, which is speculatively why it was allowed.
The other? Voltron: Legendary Defender, and we’re fairly certain we have the contract with Netflix/DreamWorks to thank for that, as Netflix was contracted to air 78 episodes minimum, but it certainly didn’t stop Lotor’s storyline within the show from being excised.
A poorly-sourced and wildly subjective article by SeanZ and hosted by GeekDad was published and treated as factual, and TeamPurpleLion’s Eliza (Voltronisruiningmylife on Tumblr) was quick to point out all the logical fallacies in it in her meta “From the Teacher’s Desk”. TeamPurpleLion reached out to GeekDad with concerns for the legitimacy of the unsubstantiated claims in the piece and offered to write a rebuttal.
We received no response.
This piece became the jumping off point for the teachers in our squad to begin their Red Pen Series – a deconstruction of each episode and commentary on narrative flow and plot. Currently, Season 8’s episodes 1, 2 and 3 are up.
While simultaneously working on the Red Pen Series, FelixAzrael also published “Phantoms of the Space Opera.” Which consists of a detailed analysis on the use of musical motifs throughout the entire series, and demonstrates where musical cues, including renditions of Lotor’s theme in apparently Lotor-less scenes are echoes of where he should have been in the unedited version of the season.
Dragonofyang then published a comprehensive meta on the Heroine’s Journey narrative, titled “The Heroine with a Thousand Faces.” While we had mentioned Heroine’s Journey with reference to what we should have seen in Season 8 for Allura – and how quintessentially tied into that Lotor was, Yang takes it a whole football field further and really cracks into the steps along the path, the symbolism and hammers home what was missing and why Season 8 felt so empty. (Spoilers: It’s because it was.)
FelixAzrael caught on that the Season 8 Episode 2 “Shadows” was originally a part of the Season 7 plot and was moved to Season 8 when the second round of edits happened. (LeakingHate outlines the three rounds of edits timeline in her Seek Truth meta.) We believe that it was originally tied to Season 7 Episodes 7 & 8 “The Last Stand”, as there are two core maternal arcs ongoing; Honerva and Lotor, as well as Katie and Colleen Holt. The juxtaposition of these two then segues into the actual cliffhanger for Season 7.
To help people visualize how this all fits together, we created a reconstruction.
Aside from Dragonofyang continuing to produce transcripts of interviews past, that concludes to date what we currently have published. We have much more in the works and even just recently closed a casting call for voice actors to help us build a reconstruction of Season 8 – utilizing the talent of comic artist @pridearts on Tumblr to help us fill in all that “got left on the cutting room floor.”
LeakingHate has a meta in the works on Why everything happened the way it did and why WEP decided this was the best image for their brand. Meanwhile, as a tie-in to that, I’m working on a piece outlining the life and vision of Peter Keefe: the Executive Producer of Defender of the Universe. It may seem like it would be unrelated to the situation with VLD, but I assure you it’s not.
Everything we’ve worked on can be found neatly organized on our website: teampurplelion.com. You can search all our work via tag, topic, or type (eg. meta, reconstruction, transcript, etc.).
In summary to date:
The Executive Producers and some of the Voice Actors both say the IP Holder (which is WEP) called for changes at the last minute, and mark that WEP believes the show is marketed to “boys and their dads” and exists so that toys can be made and sold to them. They also say that DreamWorks was easy to work with. (ABTV, March 4, among other interviews)
The Korean animators don’t recognize the finished product as the one they worked on, and the wife of one of the animators even signed the petition for the unedited seasons.
The writers continue to show support of DreamWorks, Tim Hedrick even continuing to work for DreamWorks as an Executive Producer for his new project.
WEP has also simultaneously said ‘nothing was edited’, ‘everything was used’ as well as ‘a lot was left on the cutting room floor’ and ‘a director’s cut would sell well.’ They have mocked hurt fans and have joked about the security of their customer’s credit card information: they told one fan complaining of being hung up on that it wasn’t them and someone off the street must have come in and answered their phone. They have claimed to have no creative control as well as stated how proud and thrilled they are to be involved in the project. Bob Koplar has expressed confusion as to the negative reception of S8, but has made no official public statement on it to date.
WEP is a Limited Liability Company. It is a private business that has no shareholders and no networks/parent companies to pander to. Therefore, when ‘WEP’ makes any decisions about narrative, storyline, or what is ‘right’ for the brand, it’s really Bob Koplar himself making those decisions.
Bob Koplar claims that he is the “steward of the property”:
“I take very seriously my responsibility to maintain the integrity of the show and all its characters. We must do so while at the same time evolving the show to reflect the changing makeup and sensibilities of modern audiences. This at times can be a perilous path, but we walk forward as best we can, knowing the biggest risk is not taking any at all.”
The risk he took was to hamstring creators rather than trust them, mock the very consumers that pay to view his shows and purchase his merchandise, and force artists to completely reconstruct a season that would have, indeed, reflected that very changing makeup and sensibilities of modern audiences that he vowed to support.