Films and series in the Macross franchise are set to be officially released worldwide for the first time, resolving decades of legal wrangling. Harmony Gold USA and Japan’s Big West, two companies at the center of the long-running dispute, have struck a groundbreaking deal that few fans saw coming.
The saga began in the 1980s, when Harmony Gold licensed three independent but visually similar anime series from animation studio Tatsunoko Productions: Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982), Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross (1984), and Genesis Climber Mospeada (1983–84). The American company rewrote and repackaged them into a new series, Robotech (1985), which spawned a successful franchise.
Meanwhile, the 1982 Macross series also generated many popular sequels and spin-offs in Japan. With time, a conflict emerged between Harmony Gold, Tatsunoko, and two other companies involved in the production of the 1982 series: Studio Nue and advertising agency Big West.
The companies didn’t agree on how much of the Macross franchise was covered by Harmony Gold’s original licensing agreement. The overseas distribution of most Macross titles was effectively blocked by the threat of legal action. The stand-off also restricted Harmony Gold’s freedom to develop the Robotech property.
The new agreement “immediately permits worldwide distribution of most of the Macross films and television sequels worldwide,” but doesn’t state which will be omitted. It also affirms Harmony Gold’s rights to the Robotech franchise and states that “Big West will not oppose the Japanese release of an anticipated upcoming live-action Robotech film” — presumably a reference to the spin-off Sony Pictures Entertainment has been developing for years.
Both Macross and Robotech have had a huge influence across animation and live action: Adam Wingard acknowledged their influence on his recent Godzilla vs. Kong, for example. The story of the legal issues is told more fully in Crunchyroll’s Anime in America podcast; it involves both Italy’s clownish ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and Cartoon Brew co-founder Jerry Beck.