Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Thoughts On The Lost Sailor Moon Pitch

Someone had told me about the lost pilot for the aborted attempt at an Americanized version of Sailor Moon that used a combination of live-action and animated sequences. I had known about that thing for years and even saw the pilot in question that was uploaded by Youtuber by the moniker of Ray Mona.
So when Sailor Moon was originally going to be brought over, they weren't going to use the anime, but rather create their own version that used some of the names and concepts, but only in the loosest sense of the term. The idea was that the civilian forms of the Sailors would be depicted in live action, while the hero sequences would play out in traditional western animation that was typical of the 1980s. They put together a pilot, it was rejected, and we eventually ended up with the original English dub of Sailor Moon that most people know and love... I guess.

I've seen the pilot and it's easy to see why this was passed over... but not necessarily for its deviation from the source material. Going any further will dive into spoiler territory for a three-decade old pitch video that very few people outside of the internet know exists, so details after the break.

A brief summary of the premise; evil Queen Beryl and her band of mutants and androids have taken over the Outer Planets by obtaining their Jewels of Power, so the Inner Planets form a federation with the moon kingdom that is signified by the wedding of Queen Serenity's daughter, Sailor Moon, to Earth Prince Darian. Beryl attacks the Moon Kingdom, Sailor Moon and friends (dubbed the "Princess Warriors" rather than Sailor Soldiers or even Sailor Scouts, which is what the DiC dub would call them) get onto their flying sailboards and make their way to a vortex that will send them to another dimension, but not before seeing Darian's starship be destroyed by Beryl's spaceship.

We cut to the live action bits, which feature the girls in their civilian forms - basically students at a boarding school - getting ready for a dance of some sort. So there's a goofy montage of the girls getting goofy while this pilot's take on a Sailor Moon theme (which sounds like a generic 80s cartoon theme song - probably catchy to someone somewhere out there) plays in the background. All of this is interrupted by Moon's white cat Luna (as opposed to being a black cat in the original), who informs the girls that Jupiter is under attack.

Moon pulls out something that resembles Sailor Moon's second transformation broach and we get a somewhat elaborate transformation sequence for Moon - intercut with the other Sailors getting an abridged transformation that has the live actor sharp turning to face the camera with an awkward grin before special effects turn them into their animated form... eh.

Then they had on to Jupiter and they fight a bunch of monsters. A good time to note that they changed the Sailors to be more racially diverse. Sailor Moon and Venus are now white. Mars has short hair. Jupiter is now a colored person. Mercury is a disabled redhead with a flying wheelchair, which is actually quite forward thinking for its day - and it also helps that Mercury is probably the only one of these characters with some semblance of an actual personality.

Anyway, they take care of all the grunts, but are having trouble with the last mutant thing and just when things look bleak, a white rose hits the floor and the Sailors notice a suave man in a tuxedo wearing a white mask. This rose gives Moon the power boost she needs to throw her tiara at the mutant, who just gets bonked in the head and falls over. So I guess the battle is won, but where is that tuxedo masked man? I don't know.

Last scene is Moon (named Victoria in this version) daydreaming in class about the movie and then we get non-credits, because nobody added credits to the end of this pilot.

Yeah, so this was pretty bad. I can see why this didn't get approved. 

Part of it might have something to do with deviating from the source material to such a degree that it only superficially resembles Sailor Moon. Change some of the names and perhaps tweak some of the designs so that they would be somewhat legally distinct from the more popular franchise and you have a concept for a similar yet distinct magical girl series with more of a sci-fi slant that would probably be more appealing to the Western audiences. Call this the Princess Warriors rather than Sailor Moon and this could have worked as its own thing.

I'm going to be fair here; the premise itself isn't too bad if not a bit generic. Magical space princesses on their flying sailboards defending their planets against the evil empire is oozing in originality (he lied) and will no doubt be the source of countless toys - because in the end, cartoons and most kids fare exist to sell fucking toys. And you've got some cool toys from this pilot alone; the Sailor Mercury flying wheelchair would've been a nice item to have on the shelf. Just having a disabled person being one of the heroes and also one of the highlights in the animated bits is something to be applauded.

With that said, however, another part of this pilot being rejected is that it just isn't very good. The animation, for example, is typical 80s animation; done very cheapy, which means the character designs are fairly crude. With the exception of Sailor Moon, everyone has awkward looking facial expressions that seem like they were drawn on a napkin in a rush. The villains look like stock sci-fi cartoon villains that wouldn't be too far off from whatever fourth-rate Masters Of The Universe knock-off toy line you'd find at the Dollar store. The voice acting isn't all that great and the poor dialogue that the girls are given to read doesn't help matters.

This feels like one of those low-rent cartoons that would hit the scene and get a run lasting about a year or two before it eventually gets shitcanned and everyone forgets about it. Not even during the prime of the 80s when you had the real heavy hitter cartoons would I have seen this lasting more than a year had it come to fruition.

To the best of my knowledge, the only concepts from this pilot to see the light of day was the title logo that would eventually be used for the dub and the fact that the earth prince's name is Darian, which would end up being the name used for Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask in the dub. Everything else would be buried in a vault somewhere until someone posted convention footage of a pitch video being featured.

Even though this pilot isn't good, I don't regret watching it. If anything, I actually got around to rewatching every so often. I'm happy that the proper Sailor Moon anime was eventually allowed to air and it's been a good run since, but there's a part of me that wonders what if we had gotten this alternate take instead? Would the franchise had thrived as much with this new take on the lore or would it have been tossed to the wayside? Like I said, I feel this probably would've lasted a year at most, but who's to say that it couldn't succeed? There have been worse properties that have strived despite their poor quality.

Maybe... there was a chance.

Maybe... this is worth revisiting.


Or perhaps not.

Who knows?

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