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Battle Of The Planets - What We Know So Far

If you were a kid in the '70s, you might recall a TV show that aired after school or during the Saturday morning cartoon lineup called "Battle of the Planets," which introduced a generation of young people to Japanese animation — in an Americanized fashion, as spearheaded by Sandy Frank Entertainment. An adaptation of "Science Ninja Team Gatchaman" by Tatsuo Yoshida and Tatsunoko Studios from 1972, it removed certain adult elements and added others for the sake of making the series more palatable to its intended English audience (like 7-Zark-7, the robot that assisted the main characters, and the little robot dog with the metallic yip, 1-Rover-1). 

Called "perhaps the first big anime hit" in the U.S. by Quartz, the show ran for 85 episodes. Some attempts have been made to revive the series in different forms (including movies) over the past decades, but in 2019, Joe and Anthony Russo announced at a Comic-Con panel they had acquired the rights to adapt the show into a movie (via Collider).

That adaptation from the Russo's company AGBO appears to be moving forward today, which is good news for fans. Here's what we know so far about a new "Battle of the Planets."

What is the release date for Battle of the Planets?

Despite the announcement by the Russo brothers coming out in 2019, the production hasn't progressed by much. That makes some sense, as the producing/directing duo have been busy the last few years on projects you may have heard of, like anything with the word "Avengers" the title They've also been working on a multiple-version spy series for Amazon Prime called "Citadel" (via Variety), as well as a live-action version of Disney's "Hercules" (via CinemaBlend), an espionage thriller called "The Gray Man" for Netflix (via Deadline), and pirate film "The Bluff" for Netflix (via /Film). 

In other words, these boys are busy, and it's unclear exactly where within this slate the new "Battle of the Planets" slots in. However, there's definitely movement being made. In mid-2020, Joe Russo told Collider that the production was in an incubation period in which they dissect the elements of the show that they find interesting and filter it so they can reinterpret the material. He said, "That's the approach we take, and that can take months of gestating and trying to figure out what the new mythology is. And then we commit that to a bible and then from that bible we do some artwork as exploration and then once we have artwork which we're inspired by, we then commit that to a script. So we're at the bible phase of 'Battle of the Planets' at the moment."

However, it could still be a few years before fans see anything from this beloved IP.

Who's in the cast of Battle of the Planets?

The production is in such early stages that it's doubtful any casting has happened yet. The latest news, out today, is that a screenwriter has been tapped to turn the Russo's vision into reality. Daniel Casey, who penned "F9," has been tapped by AGBO to write "Battle of the Planets" — or, as Deadline puts it, "to construct the foundation for a 'Battle of the Planets' universe." The writer and AGBO will be working with Tatsunoko on the concepts to be explored in the series.

It's unclear if the film will use the Americanized names of the characters, including Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny, and Keyop as the five orphan members of G-Force, or if they'll go with a more "Gatchaman" style based on the original material. Over the decades, American audiences have become more sophisticated about their anime, and plenty of "Battle of the Planets" fans (like us) are now anime-loving adults, so it could be time to bring a more adult sensibility to the show. Other characters they may place in the universe include the evil Zoltar, Chief Anderson, President Kane, and 7-Zark-7, the robot manning the undersea base. 

Interestingly, in the original "Battle of the Planets," Mark was voiced by Casey Kasem, whose distinctive voice entered people's rooms weekly via the radio show "American Top 40" in the '80s. His very familiar and soothing tones could be a hard act to follow for anyone voicing the character today. Additionally, Zoltar had a feminine sensibility about him because he was actually created (in the Japanese) from male and female forms. This might be the right time to explore the character's gender fluidity.

What is the plot of Battle of the Planets?

For so many children of that era, "Battle of the Planets" was a revelation — and hugely influential. The series focused on five orphans, including one young woman, who made up a fighting force called G-Force. They protect Earth from attacks from space, including those from the planet Spectra. Zoltar, who got his orders from the Luminous One, was from there. They traveled in a ship called the Phoenix, which could deploy four smaller vehicles used by each team member except Tiny, who piloted the Phoenix. 

These vehicles, and the costumes (wingsuits) worn by the characters, were inspired by birds. For example, Tiny wore a greenish owl-like suit. In times of great danger, the Phoenix could transform into the "Fiery Phoenix," a powerful and super-cool version of their ship. Each character had their own fighting skills and a hand-weapon, like Mark's sonic boomerang. The five characters could transform into their crime-fighting versions with their wristwatches by saying, "Transmute!" They also become more effective as a group by standing on each other's shoulders in a whirlwind pyramid move.

For American kids of the '70s, these elements (plus an iconic orchestral soundtrack) all made for a show unlike others they were seeing on TV screens. It'll be very interesting to see how the Russo brothers, who appear to be fans of the original, decide to refine "Battle of the Planets" concepts for a new generation.