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: As of the publication of Syd Mead’s First Mobile Suits this bibliography has been updated to compile additional sources found since the original When Gundam Came to Hollywood article was published.

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Unpublished, dated November 12, 1983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

A 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

Secondary Sources


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 are significantly cropped to fit the page.

by Syd Mead
Bandai, published December 1, 1991
UPC: 4902425222158
Kronovecta: Concept Designs of Syd Mead, pgs 273
Kronoteko: Art of Syd Mead, pgs 116-117

Box set that compiles original sketches and their corresponding finished artwork from across Syd Mead’s entire career dating back to the 1950s. Includes three volumes:

  • Kronovecta: Concept Designs of Syd Mead – 328-page softcover book compiling sketches and design studies
  • Kronovid: The Technique of Syd Mead – hour-long feature over three single-sided 20cm laser discs documenting the creation of the piece “Entering Stargate” with additional commentary by Mead on camera
  • Kronoteko: Art of Syd Mead – 144-page hardcover book compiling Mead’s finished artwork

Kronoteko contains what seems to be the first uncropped, high-quality reproduction of the two Lion’s Gate film concept renderings, under the titles “Zaks Attack Gundam World” and “Gundams Attack Zak World.” Kronovecta contains the first publication of initial sketches for those finished pieces, which include enemy mobile suit designs based on the Dom rather than the Zaku II appearing in the final. Other Gundam-related pieces consist of Mead’s 1985 Zeta Gundam poster and its corresponding original sketches and design studies.

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.

Print Articles

“The New Bland!”
by Syd Mead
Automobile Quarterly vol. 7 #4
Automobile Quarterly, Inc., published Spring 1969
Pgs 396-397

First publication of Syd Mead’s artwork of the “uni-pod,” a vehicle design later repurposed as the “gyr-uni” in Mead’s concept rendering of the Lion’s Gate film’s opening scene.

“SF Plamo Magazine”
Comic Bombom, April 1985
Pg 15

Includes thumbnail reproductions of the Syd Mead Lion’s Gate concept art with text explicitly linking them to the production of a live-action American film adaptation. Supporting text does not specify a production company or the then-current status of the production. Likely the first place the film’s project’s existence was widely acknowledged publicly, as Oblagon is much more vague in presenting the artwork.

“Speaking With Fans of Director Tomino”
Animage, October 1987
Tokuma Shoten
Pg 15

A brief report of a lecture/Q&A director Yoshiyuki Tomino gave at the “Anime Festival in Mito” event held at the Mito City Civic Center on August 7, 1987. Tomino was asked about the status of the live-action Gundam film by a fan and publicly confirmed that the project was canceled (English translation by Zeonic Scanlations):

What’s happening with the rumored live-action Gundam?

Unfortunately, we couldn’t come to an agreement on the live-action Gundam project.

“Making of Z Gundam”
Zeta Gundam Memorial Box Part 1 Booklet
Bandai/Emotion, published 2/21/1994
UPC: 4934569201393
Pgs 4-5

A compilation of director Yoshiyuki Tomino’s notes from early in Zeta Gundam’s pre-production, reproduced for a bonus booklet included with the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Memorial Box Part 1 Laser Disc set. In “Memo Block 1,” dated 2/20 – 3/12 1984, Tomino considers the live-action Gundam project, which he refers to as “Live Gundam”: (English translation by Zeonic Scanlations):

“The more realistic things you do in Live Gundam, the more you should foster a sense of science fiction, but how do you go to Gundam II?”*
*Note: Live Gundam refers to the live-action SFX film version that was temporarily slated for production in the United States, but it was terminated in just the planning stages.


Official Website Of Syd Mead
First appeared: August/September 2001
Last appeared: May 30, 2011

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

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.

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?

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.


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.

…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.

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.


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