The Secret History Behind Hollywood's Failed Gundam Film

In the world of anime, fans tend to cringe when they hear about live-action adaptations. Studios have had a bad record of bringing some of the biggest anime franchise to life on screen, and few spheres have been as panned as Hollywood for their endeavors. To this day, anime lovers frown upon Hollywood’s intervention with anime thanks to bombs like Dragon Ball Evolution. So, it will come as no surprise that news about live-action Mobile Suit Gundam movie has been kept on the down-low.

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Well, it was bound to come out sometime.

For Gundam fans, you may be shocked to hear that Hollywood once tried to bring the mecha franchise to life in theaters. Back in the 1980s, it appears that Lion’s Gate Film was gun-ho about bringing Japan’s Mobile Suits to a much larger audience. Thanks to Zimmerit, an interview regarding the project has resurfaced, and it’s got fans feeling some pretty complex emotions.

Back when Anime News Service was running, the site did an interview with artist Syd Mead. It was there that he shed light on the failed project and revealed what work he had done for the Gundam adaptation. When asked about the project, Mead said he worked on created ZAK, a character based off the Zaku II suit. “The director thought that would be more mechanically interesting as a demo,” he explained.

“The character of GUNDAM was started after I drafted the ZAK character for computer vector plotting and modeling,” he continued. However, his work would all be for naught.

“Lion’s Gate had failed to get license approval from Sunrise! The Sunrise New York office sent a cease and desist court order and the project was shelved, never to be resurrected,” he explained. “My job was to first, draft the ZAK character for plot input, and then I started on ‘de-kabuki-izng’ the GUNDAM character for the American market. I finished the head first, and was starting on the body when the project was discontinued.”

Of course, Mead was not the only person who worked on the Lion’s Gate Film project. When the film was being pitch, screenwriter Chip Proser was hired to write its screenplay on the condition that he could direct the ambitious film. What made the proposed film so difficult to develop was its heavy use of CGI. As Gundam was being shopped around in the mid-1980s, technology was not as advanced as it is today, and creators struggled to envision how Gundam’s intergalactic fights would be done practically.

However, Lion’s Gate Films did not need to worry about the problem for long. The Gundam film was scrapped prematurely for conflicting reasons as some creators blamed Bandai whilst others pointed fingers to Sunrise Studio and Nippon Herald. A complete script for the movie was completed, one that fundamentally altered aspect of the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime. But, of course, fans are now beginning to wonder whether the franchise could withstand a modern live-action adaptation if done by the right hands.

(Photo: Sunrise Inc. )

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So, what do you think? Would you want to see the Mobile Suit Gundam series brought to theaters? Fans already know that franchises like Macross and Akira were at one point bounced around Hollywood, but do you have faith in those studios to carry these nostalgic stories?