The Hollywood Gundam Bibliography

Alittle over a year ago I was proud to publish my article When Gundam Came to Hollywood. When I first had the idea to research the aborted 1983 Lion’s Gate Gundam film, I realistically assumed it would amount to a compilation of existing material on the project. I was lucky enough to be able to connect with primary sources and bring to the surface previously unknown materials, including a full script and storyboards for the opening scene. Here, for the reader’s benefit, is an annotated bibliography detailing all the works that informed the article, including, for the first time and with permission, that complete script and storyboarded scene publicly available to read.

Note: It had been brought to my attention after the article was initially published that a Japanese blurb may have appeared in a 1983 issue of Comic Bombom about the project. If this is true it may provide some clue as to how the ultimate dissenting party that got the project scrapped found out about it. If anyone can point me to that issue, if it exists, it would be much appreciated!

Primary Sources

Mobil [sic] Suit Gundam Script Draft
by Chip Proser
Unpublished, dated November 12, 1983

Complete 117 page first draft of the aborted 1983 Lion’s Gate live-action feature-length Gundam adaptation, with cross-outs and notes in margins. Includes a 2-page glossary appendix. Curiously enough it uses a photocopy of the cover of Roman Album Extra 42: Mobile Suit Gundam the Motion Picture as its cover page.

View the Script

Opening Scene Storyboards
Artist Unknown
Likely 1983

15-page storyboard that covers the events of part of the film’s opening scene, corresponding roughly with pages 1-9 of the script’s first draft and incorporating elements of Syd Mead’s Gouache rendering of the scene. Two pages of Zak sketches follow the storyboards, possibly by Mead, though this is unconfirmed and there is no signature. Writer/director Chip Proser suggested that it may have been created for the benefit of showing contacts at Bandai.

Much of the mobile suit artwork in the storyboards is inconsistent in style and quality, with some possibly being traced or modeled from animation stills or product photos. For example, two frames appear to depict the Gundam with its name written in all caps on its chest, consistent with sticker placement on the original die-cast Gundam toys made by the show’s sponsor Clover.

View the Storyboards

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Secondary Sources

Books

Oblagon: Concepts of Syd Mead
by Syd Mead
Kodansha, published March 30, 1985
ISBN: 4062015250
Pgs 122-25

A 1985 artbook predominantly compiling artwork Syd Mead had created for film productions. Contains several Gundam pieces: Gouache renderings of the opening and closing scenes from the Lion’s Gate film project and an unrelated 1985 poster created to promote Zeta Gundam. It is the earliest known published material related to the canceled 1983 film, though Lion’s Gate is not acknowledged at all. The reproductions in the book seem to be significantly cropped to fit the page since differently cropped versions have surfaced online that reveal more of the image vertically. The origin of the versions online is unknown.

Mead Gundam
by Syd Mead; ed. Ryohei Takahashi
Kodansha, published February 1, 2000
ISBN: 4063300919
Pg 317 (2013 edition)

Digest artbook compiling the artwork designer Syd Mead created for the production of the 1999 anime TV series Turn A Gundam. The final page of the appendix includes a 1983 design of the original RX-78 Gundam (here the MS-GN1) that is consistent in style and scale with other material created for the canceled live-action film. The book does not acknowledge the Lion’s Gate project, instead attributing it as a sketch created for a 1983 poster (これは1983年、ポスター時に描かれたスケッチ). This would have predated the first official work Mead had done with Sunrise.

Web

“Film”
Official Website Of Syd Mead
First appeared: August/September 2001 https://web.archive.org/web/20010913064138/http://www.sydmead.com:80/v/01/film/
Last appeared: May 30, 2011
http://sydmead.com/v/12/film/

Earliest known reference to the film by Mead online, first added to his official website’s “Film” section in late summer 2001 as follows:

1983:
LIONS GATE FILM GUNDAM MOVIE
Hollywood Adapt classic series character for domestic audience film style. Film aborted for legal reasons.

There’s no longer a direct way to access the “Film” page on the current version of the site up since February 2014. A version of the page styled like the rest of the new site exists but is not directly linked to anywhere. It has been functionally replaced by the “Project History” page, which omits any mention of the 1983 Gundam film.

“ANS Exclusive Interview: Legendary Mechanical Designer Syd Mead”
Interview with Syd Mead by Jonah Morgan
Anime News Service, published July 29, 2004

Earliest known example of an interview with Mead that discusses the Lion’s Gate Gundam project.

JONAH MORGAN:
Around 1983 you worked on an American film design project based on an anime property that was eventually aborted for legal reasons. The was [sic] a film for Lions Gate based on adapting the mobile suit Gundam mecha for domestic audience film style. Can you tell us more on this project? Did you ever complete your original designs for Gundam?

SYD MEAD:
No. I worked first on the ZAK character because for whatever reason, the director thought that would be more mechanically interesting as a demo. The character of GUNDAM was started after I drafted the ZAK character for computer vector plotting and modeling. (The computer being used at the time was a supercomputer CRAY.)

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. My job was to first, draft the ZAK character for plot input, and then I started on ‘de-kabuki-izing’ the GUNDAM character for the American market. I finished the head first, and was starting on the body when the project was discontinued.

Video

Turn A Gundam Part 2 DVD/BD
“An Interview With Turn A Mechanical Designer Syd Mead”
Interview with Syd Mead by Robert Napton
DVD released August 4, 2015; BD released March 7, 2017
DVD release disc 6; BD release disc 3

A video interview feature originally created for Bandai Entertainment’s canceled DVD release of Turn A Gundam originally planned for 2011. The existence of the interview first came out on former Bandai Entertainment Director of Marketing Robert Napton’s appearance on ANNCast episode 148. It was eventually released on Nozomi Entertainment’s 2015 DVD release of the series.

ROBERT NAPTON:
…you were tasked at one point to design the Gundam for a live-action movie which never happened and I’m wondering if you could share that story.

SYD MEAD:
Well, Lion’s Gate was going to produce a film with Gundam as the core character I guess. I never saw a script for that. I was hired by them to work with Gary Demos and his partner on their Cray computer to model this thing. They had just completed
The Last Starfighter with Ron Cobb designing that. And so I came in to design the characters for the classic Gundam story: the Zaks, which are the bad guys, and then the Gundam mobile suit. And I was in the process of doing CAD work on that for eventual computer three-dimensional animation and Lion’s Gate got a cease and desist from Sunrise’s New York office saying “You don’t have the license from us to use these characters.” So that ended that right away.