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April 19, 2010


Carl Macek, 1951-2010

imageAccording to cartoon historian Jerry Beck, the writer and anime producer Carl Macek passed away on Saturday, April 17. He was 58 years old. The cause of death was a heart attack.

Macek was best known for his work as producer and story editor on the syndicated series Robotech, a cartoon presented as a multi-generational story of resistance to earth's invaders that was actually taken from three re-purposed and dubbed Japanese cartoons: Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada. Unlike the concurrent Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years (another combined cartoon) the Robotech material was a hit with its target audience of kids watching after or even before school, particularly the first arc of its stories and its potent blend of transforming robots, overall feeling of post-apocalyptic doom and swoony love triangle (Rick Hunter, Linn Minmei, Lisa Hayes). Eventually controversial among hardcore fans I believe for the way it was put together and the idea that cuts and changes were made to make the cartoons more palatable to the intended viewership (the latter charge Macek denied), the cartoon is regarded as a important step towards developing today's larger audience for anime. The property is currently celebrating its 25th year.

There were also multiple comics adaptations of the series (comics.org lists 50). This includes a long relationship with Comico that flowered at the time time the cartoons were still in heavy rotation. How much those comics helped to foster an audience for manga is much less well-examined, but they certainly locked in a certain passionate audience for that specific cartoon. Other comics publishers for the license include Eternity, Academy, Antarctic and DC/Wildstorm. Gerry Giovinco of Comico called Macek "a big supporter of us" in an e-mail to CR.

Macek went on to co-found Streamline Pictures with Jerry Beck in 1988, taking into the fold many of the writers from the Robotech effort. Streamline worked on a variety of projects including Crying Freeman and Laputa: Castle In The Sky. Purchased in 1996 by Orion, that company no longer exists.

Former partner Beck and various biographical materials on Macek's behalf say that the deceased also co-founded Spumco with John Kricfalusi, leaving that group after 1990. Other materials, such as the lack of Macek being listed on Spumco's wikipedia page in that role and a general lack of citations on the relationship, suggest that Macek's involvement may have been more unofficial than co-founder status might imply, or perhaps even formally through a precursor company, although still crucial. Don Markstein describes the pair as partners in his Ren and Stimpy entry. In a 2008 interview, animator Bob Camp recalled the close proximity of the groups sharing office space. "John and I shared an office in Hollywood with Jerry Beck before there was a Spumco. We were picking up any freelance we could. We didn't even have any furniture back then. Jerry was partnered up with Carl Macek in Streamline Pictures and they were distributing Japanese animation. I'm fuzzy on the details but Carl and John went to Nick and met with Vanessa. John pitched ideas he had created with friends in college in Canada. One was called Your Gang, kind of a parody of Our Gang. Ren Hoek and Stimpy were just a couple of characters in the pitch. They said that they wanted just the dog and cat and they made a deal to make a pilot."

Among Macek major accomplishments in the area of dubbing anime was work on the first release of Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro. Streamline released a version of Akira to theaters and on video, another keystone for a lot of fans. He would go on through a variety of other studios to do work for a variety of titles in that fashion, including popular series Bleach and Naruto. To my knowledge, a long-promised major sequel to the Robotech effort never came off, and I believe such a project had a variety of half-lives.

Macek was the author of The Art Of Heavy Metal in 1981, and enjoyed a smattering of other Hollywood credits throughout his long career, ranging from on the ground promotional work on genre films in the Wild West-like 1970s to writing the script for a recent animated version of Lady Death.
 
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