Sailor Moon (Toon Makers' Live-Action/Animated Series Pilot; 1993)
|A recovered cel depicting animated Sailor Moon.|
In 1993, the animation studio Toon Makers intended to produce an "Americanized" version of the popular Japanese anime series Sailor Moon. A 17-minute-long pilot episode, combining animation with live-action film of the Sailor Scout characters as American teenagers, was completed, and Toon Makers had hoped to entice Bandai and Saban into producing a full series to air on FOX Saturday mornings starting in 1994.
A two-minute promotional "music video" was made, showcasing the live cast, the animated characters, and the theme music, but ultimately the deal fell through and FOX instead aired dubbed versions of the original Japanese episodes.
Because of the campy, live-action elements, the show has been given the derogatory nickname "Saban Moon", due to the fact that it heavily resembled shows affiliated with Haim Saban (such as a noted resemblance to She-Ra: Princess of Power) that would have happened during the early years of Power Rangers.
The music video has been seen at conventions; the full 17-minute version of the pilot, however, has never been publicly released. The two-minute theme music video was occasionally shown for promotional purposes after the Toon Makers series was cancelled. A notable presentation was made at Anime Expo 1998 by Allen Hastings (whose company NewTek made the graphics software in which Toon Makers had rendered some of the animation); a video of his short introduction and of the music video itself can be seen on YouTube.
Interestingly, the music video ends with a Sailor Moon logo that would later be reused for the American dubs of the series, as well as all of its merchandise. The Toon Makers video was its first appearance, and the logo remains its only animated legacy.
In late 2012, the contents of a California storage locker rented by Raymond Lacovacci of Toon Makers were sold after he was arrested on physical battery charges. Among the contents of the locker were concept art, original animation cels, and other artwork related to the American Sailor Moon project. Also sold was a script, ostensibly the one used for the voice work in the 17-minute pilot. Pages of this script, with dialogue and notes, can be found online.
The Sailor Moon franchise is held, legally, by many parties; Kodansha oversees the manga, TOEI holds the power to revoke or grant any licenses to the anime and live-action series worldwide, and Bandai holds the rights for merchandising and video games, with series creator Naoko Takeuchi essentially having the final say over any decision that is made by any of these companies.
Toon Makers was temporarily granted the adaptation rights to Sailor Moon in order to pitch their version of it. As with most adaptations, Toon Makers was likely given a list of mandated changes, such as alternate names, terminology, and logo designs for use in the American market, explaining why the Toon Makers pilot shares a logo with DiC's dub.
The status of Toon Maker's existence is unknown at the time being; there is no record of them having produced anything for the past few years, and their website has not been updated in quite a while; this, combined with the production materials for the Sailor Moon pilot appearing on auction sites, seems to point to Toon Maker's demise as a company.
Toon Makers' President and founder, Rocky Solotoff, said in a June 2001 interview that the company had returned the production materials to TOEI or Bandai and had only copies of said material for personal reference. It's likely to assume that, if anyone owns the footage, it is in the hands of either an ex-Toon Makers employee, TOEI, or Bandai.
There is, however, a Making-Of video that was also produced at the time of the pilot's production, which also likely resides with a Toon Makers employee.