There are so many outstanding geeky properties today and it’s hard to argue a lot of their success is due to a lot of blood, sweat and tears. There just has to be some person or persons working behind the scenes on their vision of something great and, thanks to all their hard work and perseverance, they managed to get their dream off the ground. It just so happens that others, usually little geeky kids like myself way back when, would glom onto there ideas and become the hit properties they are today.
However, in rare occasions, things happen and, whether it be good fortune or just being at the right place at the right time, some geek icons blossom from these freak chances. It doesn’t happen all that often but, when it does, it makes the story of how something so big has become so awesome. So let’s go look at three such instances when luck played a big role in creating these geeky icons.
#1 World Events Productions got the wrong “giant lion robot” (Voltron: Defender of the Universe)
Voltron, more specifically the Lion version, is probably one of the biggest animes out there. I mean, what’s not to like? You have five distinct lion robots who combine into one gigantic humanoid robot with lion heads for hands and feet! Voltron has become so popular that some people have used the word as shorthand for combining things together. That’s how big it’s become and is still going strong up to this day!
World Events Productions actually had big plans for Voltron as they not only planned to get an anime which had a mechanical lion combine with other things to become a giant robot. They saw the success of Beast King GoLion, which is the aforementioned five lions combining into one robot and they wanted more. They planned to import a couple of more animes with the same concept of other things combining into a giant robot. This resulted in them in repackaging Armored Fleet Dairugger XV, which had 15 tiny vehicles combine into a robot, as well as Lightspeed Electrogod Albegas, which had three individual humanoid robots join together to form an even bigger robot. Unfortunately, because Armored Fleet Dairugger XV, now called Vehicle Voltron, wasn’t as big as their adaption of Beast King GoLion so Lightspeed Electrogod Albegas, supposedly renamed Gladiator Voltron, never got on the air.
If you really think about it, though, World Events Production got really lucky with Lion Voltron because they got the wrong anime. The producers was actually interested in other anime called Future Robot Daltanious. Fortunately, the aforementioned producer forgot the anime’s name and just requested for the combining robot with the lion. As Beast King GoLion was one of their most recent releases, Toei Animation, the company that produced both shows, gave that to them instead of the older Future Robot Daltanious.
It’s kind of hard to imagine what the geek world would be like if Toei Animation simply clarified which “anime robot with a lion” the American company wanted. Would Future Robot Daltanious be the enormous hit like Beast King GoLion? Or would it have flopped hard, which would’ve changed the geek landscape altogether? We may never know but what we do know is that Voltron, the ones with the five lions more specifically, is still super huge.
#2 Hasbro wanted to save on parts and paint applications (Snake Eyes from GI Joe)
GI Joe has certainly come a long way. Initially, the toyline was just all about a nondescript soldier from the United State of America. The thing that made him so popular initially was his fabled “kung-fu” grip that simply enabled him to hold onto various accessories such as guns, binoculars and whatnot. They were also really huge, standing at around a foot tall. It also revolutionized the way kids differentiate between “dolls” because GI Joes were not “dolls,” okay? They were action figures!
Anyway, after a few years, Hasbro, the manufacturer of the GI Joe action figures, decided to reboot the entire franchise. Now, GI Joe was a specialized squad with each member having their own specializations. The original line of GI Joes only had around a dozen or so figures but each one was detailed and colorfully painted… except for one figure: Snake Eyes. He was garbed in all-black and, besides his head sculpt, all of his other body parts seem to be cobbled together from the other GI Joe figures released at the same time. That’s because Snake Eyes was developed by Hasbro as a cost cutting measure!
Despite the fact Hasbro decided to cheap out on the Snake Eyes figure, he immediately became one of the most sought after figures on the GI Joe line. In retrospect, a lot of it does have to do with his file card. They made Snake Eyes so mysterious as everything about him is classified! Even the accident of deciding not to paint him made him all the more cooler because he was just wearing a black outfit, making him look like a ninja or something. Because of Hasbro being so stingy, they accidentally created one of the most popular and iconic characters in cartoons.
#3 They thought a slow and stubby creature skilled at ninjitsu was funny (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
If you grew up in the late ’80s, there was no escaping the phenomenon that was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I personally did really get into the original run but I don’t recall why. Maybe it aired on a bad time slot or I felt I was too old for this wacky cartoon about mutated amphibians ninjas who just so happen to be in their teens. They may have become incredibly big because they were in the right place at the right time and kids were ready for something like this.
Still the show was popular enough to warrant not just one reboot but several! That’s a testament to how popular the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have become and how it’s managed to cross generations by now. Not bad for a silly drawing an artist made because he thought a slow moving turtle performing quick ninjitsu-like moves was funny to him.
Before the success of the cartoon, a couple of struggling artists, Eastman and Laird were trying to think of new ideas when Eastman drew a mask wearing squat turtle standing on his hind legs and wielding nunchakus. The duo thought it was funny as you wouldn’t picture a slow creature like a turtle doing something like martial arts, let alone practicing ninjitsu. To add to the silliness, Laird scribbled the words “teenage mutant” underneath the drawing. Somehow, because of that silly drawing, Eastman and Laird started brainstorming like crazy, quickly developing the four turtles and even creating an origin story based on the ridiculousness of how Marvel’s Daredevil got his abilities.
BONUS: Matt Groening wanted to keep his IP (The Simpsons)
It started out simple enough. The Tracy Ullman Show needed animated shorts to fill in some time so the producers brought in Matt Groening, a comic strip artist who made it big with his self-published Life in Hell. His original plan was to pitch Life in Hell to the producers but then he realized he might lose ownership of the characters if he did. So Matt Groening hastily doodled a silly looking family together known as the Simpsons and pitched that instead. Amazingly, this quick burst of “inspiration’ was picked up!
Because of this quick change of heart, The Simpsons got their own show and is now the longest running American sitcom and animated series to date. How’s that for something put together in a few seconds!
What other instances where luck contributed to your favorite geek icons? Let me know in the comments section below!