Battle of the Planets (1978) is an American animated television adaptation of the Japanese anime series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972). Of the 105 original Gatchaman episodes, 85 were used in the Battle of the Planets adaptation, produced by Sandy Frank Entertainment. The adaptation is generally faithful to the plot and character development of the original Gatchaman series, but significant additions and reductions were made in order to increase appeal to the North American juvenile television market of the late 1970s, as well as avoid controversy from parents, most notable was the removal of elements of graphic violence, profanity and transgenderism.
As of February 2007, Sandy Frank's 30-year license to Battle of the Planets is expired.
A CGI film based on the franchise, Gatchaman, is slated for a 2011 release from Warner Bros.
Battle of the Planets casts five young people as G-Force, consisting of Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop, and Tiny. The question has been raised whether or not the characters were cyborgs due to their "cerebonic" enhancements which granted them superhuman agility and demonstrations of power such as their tornado-like, spinning force "Whirlwind Pyramid" form.
G-Force protects Earth from planet Spectra and other attacks from beyond space. The most prominent field commander of the Spectra forces was a villainous, masked individual known only as Zoltar. Zoltar would receive his orders directly from a being he would refer only to as "Luminous One". The Luminous One would appear only as a ghost-like, disembodied, floating head. Who, or what this being actually was, is never explained in any detail throughout the series. Some have offered suggestions that it could have been some sort of an alien life form due to the Spectra organization being cast as "alien" invaders from another planet. Another suggestion was that it was an advanced Artificial Intelligence that either took over command of Spectra, was given command of Spectra, or who may have even created Spectra due to its superior intellect, organizational skills and strategic abilities. However, as of this writing, no clear explanation or back story has been provided on the creature.
The main ship of the G-Force team is called the Phoenix, which can carry, transport and deploy four smaller vehicles, each operated by one team member. The four vehicles include a futuristic race car with various hidden weapons driven by Jason. This vehicle is concealed within the Phoenix's nosecone; the "galacti-cycle", a futuristic motor cycle the Princess rides is stored within the left wing capsule of the Phoenix; Keyop's "Space Bubble", an all-terrain, tank-like vehicle capable of VTOL as well as being a submersible craft is held in the right storage capsule of the Phoenix; and lastly a futuristic jet fighter Mark pilots which is stored in the top rear section of the Phoenix command island structure, and which uses its tail fin to make up the center tail fin for the Phoenix. The fifth crew member, Tiny, was assigned to pilot the Phoenix rather than one of the detachable craft.
A regularly featured plot device was the transformation of the Phoenix into a flaming bird-shaped craft able to handle virtually any exceptional situation by functioning as a sort of giant, super blowtorch called the Fiery Phoenix. The Phoenix’s primary weapon was a supply of rockets called "Bird missiles" in the series. It also occasionally flaunted a powerful solar-powered energy blaster, although the team had the misfortune of choosing very cloudy days to use it.
The G-Force team themselves would use a combination of martial arts skill, ninja-like weapons, and their "cerebonic" powers to dispatch hordes of enemy soldiers and overcome other obstacles. Their bird-like costumes includes wing-like capes that could fan out and function nearly identical to parachutes enabling the G-Force members to drift or glide down to safety from often very fatal heights.
The G-Force members stay in contact through a wrist-band communicator device which also serves as a way for them to instantly change into their G-Force uniforms or back into their civilian clothes. Other weapons seen displayed by various team members include, but not limited to: Mark's sonic boomerang - a bird-shaped boomerang with razor sharp wings, Jason's and Tiny's multi-purpose gadget guns - which can be outfitted with grappling hook and line, drill bits, etc., Keyop's and Princess's yo-yo bombs - these could be used as bolas, darts, and explosive devices. Other weapons include feathers with a sharpened steel quill that could be used as deadly throwing darts, mini-grenades shaped like ball bearings with spike studs.
In 1986, Gatchaman was re-worked in the US as G-Force: Guardians of Space by Turner, with a good deal of the original content that had been edited out of Battle of the Planets put back in to the show. It followed the plot of the original Gatchaman much more faithfully than Battle of the Planets because of this. However, the lack of Hoyt Curtin's original score and inferior voice acting prevented this series from attaining the high praise given to Battle of the Planets.
The two Japanese follow-up series (Gatchaman II and Gatchaman F) were combined into 65 episodes and released as the Saban-produced show Eagle Riders. All 65 episodes aired in Australia, but in the United States only 13 episodes were aired.
Key changes in the adaptation
The Battle of the Planets adaptation differs significantly from Gatchaman. The difference is due to heavy editing made to make the show appealing to the audience in the United States by removing controversial elements (i.e. graphic violence, profanity and transgenderism) while adding elements reminiscent of the feature film Star Wars, which was popular at the time. In fact the name "Battle of the Planets" was an attempt to associate itself with that popularity of Star Wars (Battle vs. Wars and Planets vs. Star). While the original Gatchaman was earthbound, dark-toned, and environmentally themed, the adaptation morphed it into a kid-friendly outer space show with robot characters, although some environmental themes were kept, and this is also why the other planets to which G-Force traveled on missions looked very much like Earth. Setting, violence, objectionable language, and (most) character fatalities were altered or eliminated by cutting scenes, dubbing, and explanatory voiceovers (for instance, claiming that the city had been evacuated before a battle scene that would show the incidental destruction of buildings and houses, as well as explaining away the destruction of the Earth armies and air forces as being robot tanks and fighter planes). 
One of the most notable changes in the BotP adaptation involves the character Keyop (Jinpei in Gatchaman), who picked up a bizarre verbal tic of stuttering, chirping, and burbling every time he started to speak. There was a longstanding fan rumor that this was done because the original character spoke using much profanity and that Keyop's excess mouth motion would cover up deleting the words. This was not true, as demonstrated by the existence of an unedited Gatchaman version released by ADV Films in the USA, in which Keyop rarely if ever used profanity. The in-story explanation for Keyop's unique manner of speech is that he is an artificial life form with a speech impediment because of slightly defective genetic engineering.
The main villain, known as Zoltar in BotP, had an unusual background due to the hermaphroditic nature of the original Berg Katse character. In an episode where Katse's female half was featured (BotP title: "The Galaxy Girls"), she was introduced as a separate character, Zoltar's sister, for BotP. (A hint of her actual nature was retained in the name she used when masquerading as a human, Mala Latroz—"Latroz" is an anagram of "Zoltar.")
To compensate for the other differences, a robot named 7-Zark-7 performed explanatory voiceovers and light comic relief, which not only padded the time lost from editing but also filled in the gaps in the story line. This device bears the influence of contemporary Star Wars film, with 7-Zark-7 having a visual appearance not dissimilar from R2-D2, and a somewhat campy personality in the style of C3PO. Notionally, 7-Zark-7 ran the undersea monitoring station Center Neptune, from where he received information regarding incoming threats to Earth and relayed that information to G-Force. Zark and other added characters, such as 1-Rover-1, Zark's robotic dog (who could hover from one side of the control room to the other by spinning his tail like a propeller, Muttley-style) and Susan (the early-warning computer whose sultry feminine voice often sent Zark into paroxysms) added to the cartoon's youth appeal. Some additional footage was also animated showing G-Force members (using their Gatchaman model sheets) interacting with Zark, helping his addition blend more smoothly into the existing Gatchaman footage (although there is a clear difference in quality between the Zark and the Gatchaman animation).
At the time, Battle of the Planets was a favorite with children; the series is generally recalled with fondness by those now-adult viewers. However, some fans of the original Gatchaman contend that because of all the changes made, the resulting Battle of the Planets is and should be considered as a wholly different show. It should be noted that, in spite of the alterations, the plot and character development of the adaptation generally follows that of the original to a higher degree than for which it is usually given credit.
Owned and distributed by: Sandy Frank Entertainment (1978–2007, license expired)
Produced by: Sandy Frank Film Syndication, Gallerie International Films Ltd.
Executive Producers: Jameson Brewer, Sandy Frank
Associate Producer: Warner E. Leighton
Producer-Directors: David E. Hanson, Alan Dinehart
Supervising Film Editor: Franklin Cofod
Assistant Editor: Pam Bentkowski
Voice Director: Alan Dinehart
Assistant Voice Director: Alan Dinehart Jr.
Creative Consultant: David Levy
Standards and Practices: Winifred Treimer
Production Assistant: Bob Robinson
Production Manager: Emil Carle
Animation Supervisor: Harold Johns
Design Consultant: Alex Toth
ADR Recording: TV-R Hollywood
Camera: Take One
Ink and Paint: C&D Productions, Hollywood
Titles: Thomas Wogatzke
Mark: Casey Kasem
Jason: Unknown ("Attack of The Space Terrapin"), Ronnie Schell (all other episodes)
Princess/Susan/Mala: Janet Waldo
Keyop/7-Zark-7: Alan Young
Chief Anderson/President Kane: Alan Dinehart Jr
Zoltar/The Great Spirit/Colonel Cronus: Keye Luke
Announcer: William Woodson
Script error Script error Battle of the Planets was also released in comic book form, originally by Gold Key Comics, but later revamped by Top Cow Productions. Among the Top Cow comic books was Battle of the Planets: Princess, written by David Wohl with art by Wilson Tortosa, released in 2002.. A Battle of the Planets comic strip ran in the British TV Comic. The TV Comic issues which feature the Battle of the Planets strip run from #1530 (17 April 1981) to #1671 (30 December 1983). TV Comic also reprinted some of the Gold Key stories for two Battle of the Planets holiday specials and one TV Comic holiday special. There was also an Battle of the Planets annual which reprinted some of the Gold Key stories.
The re-naming of the various characters and terms in Battle of the Planets are highlighted as follows (in correspondence to their Gatchaman equivalents, among others):
|Gatchaman||Battle of the Planets||G-Force||Eagle Riders||OVA (Dub)||Rank||Bird Uniform||Weapon||Mecha||Japanese seiyū||Voice actor (BOTP)||Voice actor (G-Force)||Voice actor (OVA Dub)||Voice actor (Eagle Riders)||Voice actor (ADV Dub)|
|Ken Washio||Mark||Ace Goodheart||Hunter Harris||Ken the Eagle||G1||Eagle||Razor boomerang||Airplane||Katsuji Mori||Casey Kasem||Sam Fontana||Eddie Frierson||Richard Cansino||Leraldo Anzaldua|
|Joe Asakura||Jason||Dirk Daring||Joe Thax||Joe the Condor||G2||Condor||Pistol||Race Car||Isao Sasaki||Ronnie Schell||Cam Clarke||Richard Cansino||Bryan Cranston||Brian Jepson|
|Jun||Princess||Agatha June ("Aggie")||Kelly Jennar||June the Swan||G3||Swan||Yo-yo||Motorcycle||Kazuko Sugiyama||Janet Waldo||Barbara Goodson||Lara Cody||Heidi Noelle Lenhart||Kim Prause|
|Jinpei||Keyop||Pee Wee||Mickey Dugan||Jimmy the Falcon||G4||Swallow||Bolo||Dune Buggy||Yoku Shioya||Alan Young||Barbara Goodson||Mona Marshall||Luci Christian|
|Ryu Nakanishi||Tiny Harper||Hoot Owl ("Hooty")||Ollie Keeawani||Rocky the Owl||G5||Owl||Pistol||God Phoenix||Shingo Kanemoto||Alan Dinehart||Jan Rabson/Gregg Berger||Richard Epcar||Paul Schrier||Victor Carsrud|
Other character variations across different versions
|Gatchaman||Battle of the Planets||G-Force||Eagle Riders||OVA (Dub)|
|Dr. Kozaburo Nambu||Chief Anderson||Dr. Benjamin Brighthead||Dr. Thaddeus Keane||Dr. Kozaburo Nambu|
|ISO Director Anderson||President Kane||Anderson/Cmdr. Todd (some episodes)||Anderson||Director Anderson|
| Red Impulse / |
|Col. Cronos||Red Impulse / Mr. Goodheart||Harley Harris||Red Spectre|
|Sosai (Leader) X|| O Luminous One /|
The Great Spirit
|Galactor||Planet Spectra||Planet Galactor||Vorak||Galactor|
| Gel Sadra |
Other notable changes
Identity change command
| Battle of the Planets |
Identity change command
Identity change command
|Eagle Riders change command||OVA change command (English)|
|Bird, Go!||Transmute!||G-force Transform!||Eagle Mode, NOW!||
In popular culture
- The third season episode of Robot Chicken, "Squaw Bury Shortcake" has a skit where the character Tiny Harper is convinced to lose his excess weight. This results in him becoming an even more efficient member of the team, much to the chagrin of his fellow male teammates.
- The show was voted #42 on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Kids' TV shows in 2001.
- The show was voted #62 on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Cartoons in 2004.
- Battle of the Planets receives an homage from the anime-inspired Teen Titans series. In one episode, Robin dons a "flight suit" resembling the Science Ninja team's bird-like uniforms after ejecting from his R-cycle,as well as that Robin´s boomerang is similar to Ken The Eagle´s boomerang.
- In the Web comic Sluggy Freelance, the main characters, Torg and Riff, accidentally teleport to a dimension filled with anime characters filled with parodies of the main characters from Battle of the Planets as well as Voltron and other anime of the same genre.
- According to Wizard magazine, Battle of the Planets is considered to be one of the 100 greatest animated shows.
- The mecha parody cartoon Megas XLR features a Gatchaman-like team in one episode, "Bad Guy". They reappear in the episode "S-Force SOS", which also features villains resembling Zoltar and Spectra henchmen.
- On The Simpsons December 14, 2003 couch gags - The couch is a street bench in Japan, and everyone is a famous anime or tokusatsu character: Homer is Ultraman, Marge is Princess from Battle of the Planets, Lisa is Usagi Tsukino, the protagonist from Sailor Moon, Bart is Astro Boy and Maggie is Pikachu from Pokémon. The episode was called "'Tis the Fifteenth Season".
- Underground rapper Vast Aire references "Phoenix" and "G-Force" in his dis track to the emcee known as Cage titled "Battle of the Planets".
- Rapper The DOC's track "Whirlwind Pyramid" references G-Force's team tornado manoeuvre.
- In the children's literacy program Super Why, the Super Readers change into their costumes in a "transform" sequence that is reminiscent of G-Force's "transmute" sequence.
- The Rock band "Man or Astro-Man?" on the album "EXPERIMENT ZERO" released a song titled "Evil Plans from Planet Spectra", appearing to use the band's music to destroy Earth. This included audio clips which seemed to be from "Zoltar", like "Now let's show them what our Spectra sound can really do!".
- Gatchaman - Home of the White Shadow
- Gatchaman Online and Gatchaman, BotP, & G-Force
- Battle of the Planets at the Internet Movie Database
- Battle of the Planets at TV.com
- Battle of the Planets Episodelist
- Animerica review