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
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