ready to form voltron
22 March, 2009, 7:19 pm
Filed under: Advertising, Branding, Culture, Design, Graphic Design, Packaging


Voltron: Defender of the Universe is a DVD collection that does everything right with its premium packaging. Collection One: “Blue Lion,” arrived in stores in September of 2006, 20 years after the 1986 cartoon. The first time I saw it I was browsing the DVD selection at a local Best Buy in California. My jaw dropped when I beheld the special molded blue tin on the shelf. Normally I’m not a fan of tin super structures on DVD sets, they add to the cost and are more difficult to shelve, but here the material was intuitively applied to capture the spirit of the show. The roaring lion’s face was sculpted perfectly and the watery metallic blue had an iridescence to it that made it shimmer amongst its neighbors. Its graphics were not excessive; the only type was the Voltron logo, set intuitively on the lion’s crown. The casing set up a hierarcy of teaser like visual stimulus that propelled me into the experience. Blue. Lion. Voltron. The experience was more magical than it deserved to be.

As an adult, I can’t say that I’m particularly a fan of the Voltron series. It was one that I loved as a kid. I used to wake up at 6 and 7am on Saturday morning just to watch it, which was a huge commitment for an 8 year old. There’s a lot of nostalgia there; but having seen it in adulthood, I realized it’s generally the same episode over and over again, made up mostly of stock transformation footage. It didn’t age well. However, faced with this little blue lion-faced idol, I wanted it, despite all my better reasoning to the contrary. I ponied up the thirty dollars and went home to stale memories.


In December that same year, Collection Two: “Yellow Lion,” was released, this time featuring an embossing of the subtly different titular lion. It was just as beautiful as the first. I had known what the intention was with the Blue Lion set, but now I could see it manifesting before my eyes; a perfect application of branding. Blue, Yellow, Green, Red, Black: five lions joining into a perfectly color-coded five sets of DVDs. Since the show is made up of the lions constantly being assembled to form the ultimate defender of the universe, my impulse to unite the set came full force. I realized that it was an almost Pavlovian response.


But, at thirty dollars each, I wasn’t ready to make an almost two hundred dollar (with tax) investment for some beautiful packaging and a series I would probably never watch again. I left my collection stunted with only the Blue Lion. Still, every time I walk by those shiny tin cases my interlocks activate, my dynotherms connect, and I have to work really hard to stop my megathusters from going. I tip my hat to the designers; it’s a beautiful collector’s set that masterfully uses the built in iconography and mythos of its source material in its design and becomes a stand out example of packaging design.


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