The Producers Of ‘Voltron: Legendary Defender’ Talk About Reviving An ’80s Classic

Voltron: Legendary Defender is, in many respects, very much a new version the cartoon ’80s kids know and love. But in other respects, especially how it tells a story across its whole season, it’s something new. We had a few minutes with producers and longtime animation veterans Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery to talk about how making an animated series for Netflix is a step away from the usual, and what goes into reviving an ’80s classic with a strange past.

Voltron has an unusual history in that it’s really two series, changed for American audiences. What opportunities and challenges did that present developing the new series?

Lauren Montgomery: Not really too many. Ultimately our goal when developing the series was to make the best show we can. We watched the original show and took what we could from it. But we’re starting from a new place, so we were able to fix some of those things and fill in some of those gaps.

Joaquim Dos Santos: For us it was very, very broad strokes. Even the story had to pass the squint test. Fans of the original show should recognize it.

What are some of the differences between developing a show for Netflix versus, say, airing it on a network?

Montgomery: The nice thing about Netflix is that allows us to have a more serialized story. When you’re usually dealing with a network, a high level of serialization isn’t a good thing. If it airs out of order, viewers can’t understand it, it doesn’t rerun as well. To us, it was this thing that was slightly out of reach. So to get this opportunity to embrace serialization, a story where not everything gets solved in one episode, it’s exciting!

Dos Santos: We’re geeks for story. We really appreciate shows like Battlestar Galactica with the big epic storylines. And this is an experiment, we’re the first out of the gate with kids animation with this level of serialization.

What had to change during the process of building the show to get that arc?

Dos Santos: It’s tough because there’s a learning curve not just for us, but at the executive level. Some of the notes we got early on were uncertain on how far we can push things. But there are things we knew that would pay off in later episodes. There’s been a learning process all around, and it affected the way it approached story. It’s allowed us this breathing room.

You combine hand-drawn animation and CGI here. How do you mix two different animation styles?

Montgomery: It’s definitely no easy feat. Luckily we’re working with Studio Mir, the animation studio we trust most in the world. It allows us to rest easy. Definitely things have to be taken into account, that we’re not overtaxing the animators. CG shows have a limit to how many characters can be on screen at one time. It’s a little more complex than if you were doing all 2D or all CG.