Big West And Harmony Gold Settle Decades-Long Fight Over ‘Macross’ International Distribution

by Erik Amaya

And in the end, both Macross and Robotech will coexist.

Big West, the animation company holding the rights to Super Dimension Fortress Macross and all its subsequent spinoffs, announced early on Friday that it has settled its long battle with Harmony Gold USA — rightsholder to the American Robotech series — over international distribution of Macross programs. For fans of both series, it is huge news.

A little background: in the early 1980s, Harmony Gold licensed the rights to the first Macross series with the intention of doing a faithful English dub of the famed series — a first for the US market. But when the program’s thirty-six episodes proved insufficient for syndication in the States, and its key toy designs turned out to be licensed to both Revell and Hasbro, Harmony Gold producer Carl Macek used Macross concepts as the basis for much larger series. Using two additional short-lived anime programs, he created Robotech, a fairly ambitious multimedia project which, for a time, was a big hit.

That success led to Harmony Gold and Tatsunoko Production Co., Ltd. in Japan planning a sequel series, Robotech II: The Sentinels, and strengthening ties in regards to the Macross license. Unfortunately, a perfect economic storm canceled the Sentinels plan and put Robotech on ice for nearly twenty years. Meanwhile, Big West, the original show’s sponsor, began producing Macross sequel programs in 1992 with Super Dimension Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again.

After the subsequent Macross Plus OVA was distributed in the US, Harmony Gold asserted its claim to be the exclusive purveyor of Macross content in North America and other territories. It led to twenty years of legal maneuvering between the company and Big West. Meanwhile, in Japan, Big West, Tatsunoko, and Studio Nue also fought over the rights to Macross.

But now, it is all settled according to Big West’s press release. It states “the landmark agreement immediately permits worldwide distribution of most of the Macross films and television sequels worldwide, and also confirms that Big West will not oppose the Japanese release of an anticipated upcoming live-action Robotech film.” Additionally, the company will recognize Harmony Gold’s original deal with Tatsunoko for “41 Macross characters and mecha in the Robotech television series and related merchandise throughout the world excluding Japan.” The two companies will also “cooperate on distribution” for future Macross and Robotech projects.

For years, we’ve joked that the only certainty in Hollywood is that the Robotech movie will never get made. Now, we’re not so sure about that. From this new agreement, we get the impression the film will use the Macross characters who became Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes, and Lynn Minmei. Super Dimension Fortress Macross is, after all, a story worth telling in a $100 million film. But we also imagine that in Japan, the film will somehow feature Hikaru Ichijyo, Misa Hayase, and Lynn Minmay instead.

And while this is good news for Robotech fans, it is the moment Macross fans in the states have waited for since Macross Plus went out of print. Soon, legitimate copies of shows like Macross Frontier and Macross Zero will be available to them.

It is, in the end, the best possible outcome.

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