April 19, 2010

Carl Macek 1951-2010

 Carl Macek, died of a hear attack Saturday

Most of today's anime fans have probably not heard of this man, but he was  important in bringing anime to the mainstream.

In the 1980's Maceck  acquired the US rights to Super Dimension Fortress Macross and attempted to market in the US. His company produced an excellently dubbed, quite accurately translated and very respectful US version of this hit Japanese mech show. It found no buyers except for a brief video release of the first few episodes. The reason was that the syndication market of the time required 65 episodes, minimum. Maceks response was to get two more less successful series, dub them and market them as a 3 series package...which went nowhere. At the time, no one would buy three separate series....so he rewrote and re-dubbed them  as one series, keeping the shows plots basically intact but linking them together by an overarching storyline and a somewhat awkward narration that made the shows a trilogy.
For reasons not entirely clear, he also produced an original BGM that was passable and even innovative by the standards of US cartoons of the day but was vastly inferior to the soundtracks of all three series. Most of the (very few) anime fans of the time sneered...but the show was a huge hit.

I would say that most younger fans  (and those who discovered it in the last decade or so ) would not be aware of Anime today if not for Robotech, which, for all its imperfections, introduced a lot of people to the art form.

Perhaps more importantly, the huge marketing buzz around Robotech in '86-'87 proved that licensing extant anime series  for American audiences other than pre-teens was economically viable.

This is not to say that there hadn't been Anime shows brought over before, but with the exception of a very few like Starblazers, all had been edited for viewing by US pre-teens, which standards and practices considered to be an exceedingly fragile species.

Robotech was certainly heavily edited, but the drama, death and romance were kept largely intact which caused it to stand out as quite a novelty and attracted a high school and college age demographic. The success of this show started a flurry of interest  by fans in Anime....at a time ( the mid to late 80's) that Japans anime and manga industries were in one their most productive and innovative phases ever. Robotech's success also made pitching subsequent US TV animation projects aimed at audiences other than children...such as Batman...vastly more viable.

Macek not only did Robotech, he was instrumental in promoting and popularizing Hayo Miyazaki in the US. He directed the original US dubs of Totoro and other Ghibli films which were as good or better than the later Disney versions.

 Jerry Beck has a good rundown of Maceks career here.  Current fans may not know his name, but Macek brought over Naruto and Bleach, two shows that most will have a passing familiarity with.

I never met the man but I need to say a few words about the animosity he generates in some quarters (which can be a sight to behold). A lot of anime fans of a certain age ( mine and older) will go on about how they would have done better and been more respectful of the source material. This ignores the reality of the market at the time....for a very good reason....these detractors didn't do it. They talked about someday doing it.

Well Carl Macek did do it and his subsequent accomplishments belie not only a certain degree of business savvy but a love of animation in general. Carl Macek had the motivation and courage to start a business, make it succeed, fall down , pick himself up and do it again....and again. He brought a lot of entertainment to a hell of a lot of people and helped to jump start an industry many of us enjoy
He is despised by people who, for the most part, endlessly aspire, never attempt and angrily snipe at those who actually do what they only dream of.

If one is judged by the virtues of ones accomplishments and the nature of ones enemies then Carl Macek led a damned successful life.

He will be missed.

UPDATE: In the comments John Turner points out that of all the Streamline dubs of Ghibli films, Laputa was actually the one that Macek was NOT involved in. Thanks for the heads up sir. I have corrected the text.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 09:51 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 754 words, total size 6 kb.

1 Macek didn't bring over Naruto or Bleach - he was working for us at the time. ;p

Working with him was trying at times - he had his ideas of what sort of thing would work, and often they were (greatly) at odds with what anime fans wanted. But he always had his eye on the prize, which is to say, commercial success; he would rather attempt to make changes which might let a show break out of the niche, instead of living with modest successes. There was even a time or two when he argued for something like that and I (half-) agreed with him...

That said, he was unfailingly polite and professional, good at his job, and certainly he paid his dues when it comes to the history of anime in the US. (And he's not bad as a director either - he did a very respectful dub for Dunbine.) I don't know that I'd call him a visionary, and he occasionally drove me to kick the furniture, but I'm better off for having worked with him.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Tue Apr 20 19:55:17 2010 (pWQz4)

2 There is something you may want to correct about Macek's involvement with the GHibli movies. He had NOTHING to do with the original dub of LAPUTA; that older dub was produced very quickly and very cheaply and picked up for distribution. Needless to say, Carl Macek thought it was awful (and as someone who has listened to lots of dubs in my life, I agree), and so he made the first dubs for TOTORO and KIKI. As far as the old dubs for Ghibli's movies go, they are hit and miss. The older version of LAPUTA, as I mentioned, is absolutely painful to listen to (the "brick moppet" line had me cringing, and the choppy, stilted delivery of the cast could only make me tolerate only one minute of it) and actually worse than Disney's version, which, granted, did have its occasional shortcomings, but it was a better produced dub overall, plus it had Mark Hamill and Cloris Leachman giving two of the very best performances in their careers as Muska and Dola, and easily ace their Streamline counterparts (the leads are the least excellent, what with sounding too old, but they're nowhere nearly as lifeless as Streamline's). So for me, Disney's version of this film is the better dub. However, the old dub of TOTORO was actually pretty good. But I wouldn't say it's better than Disney's dub. They're both appealing and special in their own ways. The same is true for KIKI. I can't find anything about either version (Disney or Streamline) that is better or worse. Nonetheless, you may want to be careful about saying that these older dubs are "better" than Disney's version, because some people may disagree.

Posted by: Jon Turner at Wed Jun 2 16:15:04 2010 (2zkog)

3   I heard the old dub of Laputa twice in the theater, ( the anime group I was in at the time got the local art house to show it).  I remember being very impressed at the time. In fairness, this was in the age of really awful dubs.

   The rest of the Streamline dubs were pretty good IMHO. There is a different skillset brought to the table by professional voice actors and I first realized this listening to the Disney dubs after the Streamline ones. With their huge resources, the Disney versions can likely be considered technically superior in a number of objectively measurable areas.Of course the Disney dubs were good, it's what they do. I just thought there was a neat quality to the streamline dubs and that in some instances the earlier versions voice actors made the characters come alive for me better.

  Such things are, of course, subjective and if I was going to be careful because some people might disagree, I sure as hell wouldn't have mentioned that I liked Lucky Star better than Azumanga. Everyone's tastes are different and if we agreed on everything only one of us would be necessary.

 Thank you for the correction and the comment However, the line "Oh...well you see I'm built like a Brickmuppet if muppets were made of brick!" is inarguably the most awesomest line in the history of cinema.

Therefore your argument is invalid.


Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Wed Jun 2 23:31:16 2010 (EJaOX)


Heh, so you disagree on my comment on the "brick moppet" line, huh?  Well, to each their own.  That was really just my opinion anyway.  There are certain dubs that I do confess to enjoy listening to, but that particular dub wasn't one of them, hence my preference for the newer version.

I'm kinda hit and miss about Streamline; some of their dubs, I thought were pretty good--TOTORO and KIKI, as well as GREAT CONQUEST.  But others like VAMPIRE HUNTER D didn't really strike me as anything particularly great.

In spite of my mixed opinions about the Streamline dubs, though, I do agree that Macek IS an important influence to the industry.  Of course, not everyone thought his decisions were great, but without him there would be no industry.  Period.

Posted by: Jon Turner at Thu Jun 3 12:15:48 2010 (Ns3NV)

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