Sailor Moon (found Toon Makers' live-action/animated pitch pilot of superheroine anime based on manga; 1994)
Date found: 20 Aug 2022
Found by: Ray Mona
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 a live-action film of the Sailor Scout characters as American teenagers, was completed, along with an additional 3 episodes that were in development. The main animation plot of the pilot involved Queen Beryl attacking Jupiter and the girls had to return to space to fight back. Toon Makers had hoped to entice Bandai and Saban into producing a full series to air on FOX Saturday mornings starting in 1994. However, the high cost of the project led to its rejection in favor of a dubbed version of the original Japanese anime. The pilot episode was believed to be lost media until its discovery in 2022 by YouTuber Ray Mona in part 2 of her lost media documentary, The Western World of Sailor Moon.
A two-minute promotional "music video" was made, showcasing the live cast, the animated characters, and an original song, but ultimately the deal fell through and FOX instead aired dubbed versions of the original Japanese episodes. It has since been uploaded online.
Because of the campy live-action elements, the show has been given the nickname "Saban Moon", due to its resemblance to the Haim Saban-created Power Rangers franchise.
While the music video has been seen at conventions, the full 17-minute version of the pilot has never been publicly released. The two-minute 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 animations).
The Sailor Moon franchise is owned 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 sanctioned 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 this time. There is no record of them having produced anything for the past few years, and their website has not been seen recent updates. This, combined with the production materials for the Sailor Moon pilot appearing on auction sites, seems to imply that Toon Maker has gone out of business.
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 only had 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.
Solotoff later went on to confirm in a December 2016 interview with Bleeding Cool News that Toon Makers did indeed have a vault copy of the entirety of the pilot episode on hand. However, reportedly, it is part of their demo reel and thus cannot be shown to anybody other than interested parties.
Solotoff did not make a concrete statement at the time as to whether or not Toon Makers was defunct or still operating, thus it can not be known if the demo reel is even still accessible to any would-be clients.
In addition, Solotoff stated that any rumors of the pilot publicly circulating in any form were false. He went on to say that once the project was done the rights for it reverted back to one of the associate companies, but it is uncertain which one, placing it in copyright limbo.
Solotoff himself believes the rights-owner to be TOEI, but because it can not be deduced who would need to sign off to release it publicly, it is the currently exclusive property of Solotoff or any potential employees of the companies involved who were given reference copies.
There is, however, a Making-Of video that was also produced at the time of the pilot's production, which also likely belongs to a Toon Makers employee.
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, a script (ostensibly the one used for the pilot's voice work) was sold and has since been put online.
Apart from that, some scenes from the pilot are shown on the music video, like Sailor Moon's transformation, the Princess Fighters sailing on their "Sky Flyers" and their battle against some of Queen Beryl's monsters (notice how, on the music video, Sailor Mars and Sailor Jupiter are shown using their powers to, respectively, burn off and electrocute some monsters, just like in the previously discussed script).
In 2022 YouTuber Ray Mona published a two-part documentary series on the history of Sailor Moon being brought to Western audiences, the pilot's creation, and her search for the episode on her channel, entitled "The Western World of Sailor Moon". Assisted in her search by Kotaku journalist Cecilia D'Anastasio, Ray Mona was able to locate a copy of the pilot in the Library of Congress  ; the second part of the documentary discussed her search for the pilot and petitioning for access, as well as the pilot in its entirety. Ray Mona was granted permission by Ward to access the pilot and release it on YouTube and later on archive.org unwatermarked.
- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Miracle 4-D (partially found short film based on anime series; 2018)
- Sailor Moon (partially found unreleased full soundtrack of DiC English dub of anime; mid-1990s)
- 2016 updated interview with Rocky Solotoff. Retrieved 20 Dec '17
- Interview with Rocky Solotoff. Retrieved 05 Jun '15
- 14 pages from the pilot's script. Retrieved 19 Aug '13
- Official Library of Congress blog post on Ray Mona's findings. Retrieved 25 Sep '22
- Ray Mona's unwatermarked upload of the pilot. Retrieved 27 Sep '22