Carl Frank Macek, September 21, 1951 – April 17, 2010
My sincerest thanks for bringing us Robotech and laying the groundwork for countless other anime classics to find their way to America.
Carl F. Macek passed away on Saturday, April 17, 2010 of a heart attack.
From his early days at California State University Fullerton, where he served as a librarian of popular culture, Carl was set on a course to make his mark on the anime industry in the United States. Fans know him as the producer who originally weaved together the Robotech saga out of separate anime series when faced with broadcast syndication hurdles in 1985. The result was a science fiction phenomenon that launched popular lines of novels, comics, videos, toys, and other memorabilia that continue to be coveted collectibles to this day. Sure, Robotech had its ups and downs over the years, but Carl relished its longevity and resurgence.
Carl later went on to found Streamline Pictures, which was known for releasing major anime titles such as Akira and Vampire Hunter D. He was also directly involved in the first English adaptations of many of Hayao Miyazake’s classics such as Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, My Neighbor Totoro. Recently, Carl had worked on the adaptation of many of the episodes of the hit anime series Bleach. Outside of anime, Carl had also written many books, from The Art of Heavy Metal to the novel War Eagles, an epic adventure which he also adapted into a screenplay for a film in development.
Carl was delighted to get involved again in the Robotech universe for its 25th anniversary, not to mention the widespread anticipation over a live action movie on the horizon.
Carl Macek spent the past Saturday, April 17th as he often did, enjoying life to its fullest at a concert with his beloved wife Svea. Then a massive heart attack took him away from all of us. It was a bitter pill to swallow. This did not seem fair. He was still so full of creative energy. However, with the amazing legacy of his work, Carl has left us much to remember him by, and in this way, he has truly become immortal.
We asked a few people to share some thoughts and memories about Carl: (some have been edited for space)
Carl was one of the key people who launched my career, giving me my first role in a television series when he cast me as Rick in Robotech. He was passionate about his work and about the work we did together and had the ability to really focus his creative vision into good entertainment. Carl was also one of the few who saw the potential of Anime in America and was really responsible, along with Harmony Gold, for sparking the rise in the popularity of Anime, which has in turn lead to the mainstreaming of the Anime style of story telling, RPG video games and even, indirectly, the current renaissance of Comics and Graphic novels. Carl was a great raconteur filled with great tales about his experiences in the industry which he told with great flourish and enthusiasm. When we were together at AOD in San Francisco earlier this year he kept the whole table at dinner laughing with his stories. I remember back when we were doing Robotech Carl gave the cast a letter in which he laid out his vision for the series beyond the episodes we were already dubbing. It was an intricate vision, with stories twisting around stories and everything eventually returning to where it began. It was then that I realized that Robotech was no ordinary show, and that Carl was no ordinary man.
Voice actor (Rick Hunter in Robotech)
We had heard a lot about each other before we met but then we met in 1993 and both realized it was all demonizing by people who didn’t understand us. We had an interesting friendship after that. When I moved back to the US, we bumped into each other at an animation show in Hollywood and he had just finished working on Heavy Metal 2, which hadn’t been released yet. He said, “You know how they say Battlefield Earth is the worst movie ever made? It’s because they haven’t seen this movie yet!” I had to watch it as soon as it came out after hearing that! I went up to his house in the Hollywood Hills for dinner one night and he was watching a basketball game on his giant TV. While we were talking, the game ended and riots broke out. We watched cars and other things close to my home burn. Carl was a great guy to watch riots with. He always had so many great stories and we would go on for hours, our stories getting more wild and ridiculous the longer we entertained a group. I liked being on panels with him because he was honest, direct and funny at the same time. We had some good times together and I miss him greatly.
Jan Scott Frazier
Anime industry veteran
I first met Carl back in 1986 at the very first Robotech convention at the Disneyland Hotel. I waited in line for almost an hour to meet him. When I did, I shook his hand, expressed my appreciation for his work then asked if I could work for him. He smiled and said “Maybe.” I then asked if I could interview him for my college’s newspaper & radio station. He graciously spent the next 90 minutes sharing about the development history of Robotech. A couple of years later, I began to attend Long Beach State University, majoring in Radio/TV/Film. I remembered what he had said to me. I called him at his offices, met with him and became Harmony Gold’s first production intern. Shortly after I started work, Carl left to pursue other endeavors, leaving me as the only in-house Robotech expert. I spent the rest of my time with Harmony Gold answering the mountains of Robotech fanmail!
At last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Carl was visiting the company I work for. He was speaking with one of my bosses, Lee Kohse, about working on some projects with us. When I returned to our booth, Lee says to Carl “I’d like for you to meet your new boss.” Carl turns and looks at me and gave me a big smile.
I am truly saddened by Carl’s passing because I was looking forward to working with him again. The thing I noticed most about Carl when I last spoke with him was that he really mellowed. Before, he was usually either frustrated or a little emotionally drained from the stresses of having to deal with the Hollywood brass. Last Summer, Carl was enjoying the creative process and the glow of all the attention for the 25th Anniversary of Robotech. While I’m sad that he won’t be present when the next chapters of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles as well as the live-action film are produced, I know that there are fans all across the globe who are grateful to Carl for developing a franchise that has endured for over a quarter-century. Thank you, Carl Macek, not only for Robotech, but also for inspiring me to follow my dreams…
Dexter T. Odani
I had first met Carl several years ago when I was running a small college anime convention nobody had ever heard of. For one reason or another, be it faith, luck, or just some kind of serendipity, Carl agreed to come out to the show and be my guest of honor. His presence gave me my first slice of cred in the business, and started a fiery momentum that still burns forward today. Without this inspiration from landing an industry giant, one who had given me many of the great adventures of my youth, this boy with a dream would never have gone on to pursue a professional career in the business with so much passion and enthusiasm. Carl, I will miss your inspiration, your ideas and your conversation. I will miss talking to you about all sorts of things and then soaking in the wisdom in your words each time. I am deeply saddened by your passing, but know that through your works, public and private alike, a part of you will live on forever. Rest in Peace, My Dear Admiral,
VP of Licensing, Crunchyroll
I’m still getting over the shock of hearing about Carl’s untimely death. I recently saw him at a party and he looked wonderfully healthy. Carl, gave me the opportunity to have my 15 minutes, no make that 25 years of fame, when he produced a series that no one had any idea would change the face of anime forever. Before Robotech, we were just cranking out this strange sort of stuff, we never had any idea of where it was going. Suddenly, the Robotech phenomenon took over and hasn’t stopped to this day.
Carl was a lovely and very generous soul. I remember spending the day with him in Philadelphia at one of the first of a series of Robotech conventions. We went to a delicious restaurant on South Street. He truly loved to enjoy the good things in life. He’s had the blessing of a love filled marriage with Svea for many years, which is not always possible in our industry.
Because of Carl, I was able to meet so many incredible people including Ulpio Minocci, who was one of the kindest and most talented individuals I have ever met. I will miss him so much. He was someone who was so filled with interesting stories and was a true gentleman.
Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski
Voice actress (Lynn Minmei in Robotech)
Carl Macek was a man of immense writing talent, skill, style, class and intelligence. Working with him was an exciting collaborative effort. It was always a pleasure to be directed by him on any project.
I began my anime career with Carl on Akira, Vampire Hunter “D” and Robotech among many others. He was a master at how to weave a story and had a wealth of knowledge on so many subjects. What a clear sharp mind he had.
You could see how deeply in love he was with his wife Svea whenever they were together. My prayers go out to her and their extended family. This is a huge loss.
Voice actress (Marie Crystal, Sera in Robotech)
Carl was an affable fellow, bright and full of insight. It was always nice working with him. He was one of the main creators of Robotech and as a result catapulted me, my wife Ellyn Stern and a lot of our colleagues into world of animation, anime and voice acting. I will always be grateful to Carl for the start he gave me. He was a great guy and he will be terribly missed.
Voice actor (Ben Dixon, Lunk, Vince Grant in Robotech)
I first met Carl at the premiere of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles in Westwood. I immediately felt I met a tremendously interesting person who has been around this Hollywood business for a long time, reminded me of Dan O’Bannon (writer of Alien, Total Recall, who also just passed a few months ago). I was the “new kid” to the franchise of Robotech (which of course was his baby). Carl treated me with total respect and was interested in what I was thinking musically with Robotech. He was not jaded in even the slightest which after all these years he could have been. The last time I saw him was at Comic Con in San Diego a few years ago where he gave me a copy of his book “War Eagles” and introduced me to Debbie Bishop (writer of “Shadow Boys” a project he was talking about turning into a film). He was a really a wonderful, giving guy who was a genuine person (which is unique in Hollywood). Also he always seemed to have time and patience for his fans (even the ones who were not so nice) and his friends — even the new ones. He will be missed.
Composer, Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles
Before anything else, I should probably say that I actually never met Carl Macek. Despite that omission, though, I feel like I owe him a lot.
Writing original Robotech stories in comic book form — series like The Malcontent Uprisings and Return to Macross—gave my work the sort of exposure that every writer hopes for. That wouldn’t have happened without the vivid and detailed world that Carl and the other Robotech creators developed, not to mention the dedicated fans who coalesced around that world. Writing in the Robotech universe also enabled me to meet some talented and perceptive people, many of whom I consider friends today.
Creating Robotech out of three unrelated television series was the right move at the right time. It played a major role in popularizing anime in America. But it was more than just good marketing. Carl and his associates created a fictional world with enduring appeal. I think that appeal is being demonstrated by the interest in Robotech ‘s 25th anniversary and the possibility of a live-action film. The only thing that would make it better would be Carl being here, to see it all come to fruition.
Comic Book Author
I will never forget the thrill of having Carl over to my apartment to record a radio interview for our show ANNCast. He was a mysterious figure to me, since by the time I was active in the industry he had stepped away. Nonetheless I deeply admired his work. It always seemed so much more professional than the other releases of the era, in terms of workmanship. There was something otherworldly about having such an exalted figure sitting on my couch, waxing nostalgic.
He was incredibly compelling and talked about everything. By the time it was over — over two hours of discussion later — he was no longer mysterious, but familiar, likable, and very real. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m indescribably grateful that he was able to share so much with us that day. The fact that he’s left us so quickly afterwards is something I don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around yet.
I don’t think he was interested (or even able) to do for anime now what he did for it in the 90s, but he was able to market anime to the mainstream in a way that we desperately need today. Nobody else in the business ever learned how to do it properly, to the extent he did, and with the vision, the resources and the connections to get anime noticed by people that never would have thought to look at Japanese cartoons. Companies in the anime market today should be studying his playbook, as nobody in the West has ever been responsible for converting so many people into anime fans.
Anime News Network
Carl Macek had a profound impact on Comico. The relationship that we had with Carl and Harmony Gold solidified the notion that Comico was a viable force in the comic industry. ROBOTECH, more than any other property, made people notice us and trust that we would do a great job publishing anything.
When Bill Cucinotta and Phil LaSorda first met Carl at a Las Vegas comic convention in 1984 they returned home infected by his enthusiasm for Macross. Carl was not just a producer that had landed the rights of an interesting anime series. Carl genuinely loved the medium and the source material.
At the time we were all little fish in a big sea. Then ROBOTECH happened. Without boring anyone with the history of how the series boomed onto the scene, one thing was clear, ROBOTECH was bigger than all of us. Carl of course rose to the occasion and orchestrated a masterpiece. He had all the opportunity in the world to put the comic adaptation of ROBOTECH into the hands of DC comics but he stood his ground and insured that Comico would continue to be the publisher of his baby.
Before ROBOTECH, Carl micro-managed the development of Macross #1, actually scripting it himself and having his wife Svea render the pencils. The enormity of the ROBOTECH project forced him to step back and hand us the creative reigns of the comic books, which he did unflinchingly. We returned Carl’s good faith by producing comics that he could be proud of.
Carl Macek was a man with a dream as are we all. But Carl separated himself from most by ferociously acting on his dreams. Transforming them into a string of success stories. It would be nice if there were more guys like him in the world, but it is a tragedy that we have just lost the one-and-only Carl Macek.
My sincerest sympathies to Svea, the rest of Carl’s family and the extended ROBOTECH family.
Co-founder, Comico The Comic Company
I was a fan of Robotech back in the mid-80s, and I was completely star-struck the first time I met “Uncle Carl” (as many of us called him). I mean, here I’d been working in the industry for about eight years, done hundreds of episodes of anime and even played Asuka for crying out loud, but I was going to work for Carl Macek!!
I will never forget walking into the studio, shaking his hand and saying, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Macek. I’m a big fan of Robotech. I’m really looking forward to working with you.” I think I may have mispronounced his name, because I remember he said, “It’s MAY-SECK, like ‘Sissy Spacek’.” Later, when I got to know Carl better — the first time Matt heard me refer to him as “Carl,” it was “Oh… so you’re on a first name basis now, huh?” — I loved to be regaled by all of his incredible, engaging stories.
I’ll never forget how he was completely exhausted one Monday because he and Svea had driven to Atlanta (or some such far off place) over the weekend to pick up a BMW STATION WAGON (of all things!!) — think he had won it on eBay. He was so particular about having that specific car that nothing else would do. But it was certainly all his little quirks and eccentricities that made him fascinating to know.
I could never have imagined when I was seventeen and watching Robotech after school, the impact this would later have on my life. The anime industry would never have achieved the incredible popularity it has in the United States if not for Carl Macek. For that, I am truly grateful.
Voice actress (Asuka in Evangelion)
Carl Macek’s office at Streamline was a wonder to behold. Not only was it nestled at the nexus of a huge maze of brilliantly painted ducts and architectural supports, the piece de résistance was how the cels for the famous tracking shot from the Taarna sequence of HEAVY METAL had been used as borders around the top of the room. It was as if you had entered inside the mind of the animator at the moment of creation and, in many ways, I think that is where Carl really lived. Carl was a true genius, but one born just a little ahead of his time in terms of what he wanted to do and therefore forced to deal with a bureaucratic world he obviously had little interest in except as a means to an end.
When I think of Carl Macek, what immediately comes to mind are such classic Carl phrases as “It’s so simple!” and “It’s so obvious!” — phrases we heard frequently as he sought to gather investors or capital for another new project. From when I first met him in 1985, through the years as competitors, a licensor and then as co-workers, Carl saw, in his head, things that did not yet exist, and all he wanted to do was bring them into reality. Of course, Carl’s passion and determination to do things exactly the way he saw them inevitably led to some head-butting, but I think what so many missed was that what Carl did, he did out of love — love for animation, love for the graphic arts in general, and overwhelming love of all forms of popular culture. Nothing made Carl happier than when he was telling a story; and if some of those stories seemed to change a bit over the years, part of the fun was comparing notes with others who’d been told the same tales.
Sadly, many of Carl’s most cherished projects never finished gestation or didn’t turn out the way he had hoped, and Carl was the first to admit which ones those were. The gems we were fortunate enough to receive have most assuredly granted Carl Macek a place of honor in the great animation pantheon of the hereafter. Somewhere, I have a feeling a group of angels are sitting down at animation desks to finally complete Robotech 2: The Sentinels the RIGHT way. Carl Macek’s way.
Godspeed and God Bless, Uncle Carl. You will be missed.
Co-founder, ADV Films
I first saw Carl in 1984. I was just out of high school and went to the LA Worldcon and by accident was present for his unveiling of Macross Boobytrap, his pre-Robotech dub of Macross. Little did I know how much interaction I’d have with him a few years later when I joined the staff of Books Nippan and its budding production division U.S. Renditions. David Riddick and Kevin Seymour had pioneered the first ever anime style BGM album with the Robotech Soundrack LP and I joined them to work on the CD version and we all got to know Carl quite well as a result. Carl was then and always passionate about his point of view — one might not always agree with him, and sometimes we argued, but one could not help but respect where he was coming from because he was always so confident and persuasive (laughs).
I’ll never forget a meeting we had with Carl where he came in and pitched Books Nippan’s management on his overall vision for anime in the U.S. During that discussion he likened himself to Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams and he said of his plans for anime in the U.S. “I know if I build it, they’ll come.” Being cynical and in my 20s I dismissed this remark as showmanship. But the truth is this: Carl was a dreamer. And he stuck with his dreams and he saw a lot of them happen. He saw the derision about Robotech from the early days fade away twenty years later into pure nostalgia and love for his reimagining of one great series (Macross) and let’s be honest, two series that would have been largely ignored had they not been part of Robotech. Carl was a dreamer and he never gave up on his dreams and that’s what I’ll always remember about him.
Carl Macek. Man, that guy could tell a story!
He’d get this look on his face, a little half-smile as he flipped through the pages in his brain to find right chapter, then he’d zero in and the tale would begin. Starting out slow, a character here and a detail there, the story would build until there was an urgency to it, as if it had to be told as quickly as possible. As the narrative became more impassioned Carl would wave his hands like Stokowski on steroids, putting his whole body into the telling, becoming the characters, props and places. By the time the story climaxed Carl would be red faced and shouting, straining to force the words out while they were still bright and surprising. It was like a sneeze building to an explosive punch line, the anticipation contagious to the crowd, and when it finally burst from Carl’s mouth his audience was exhausted, relieved, and gasping with laughter.
It was obvious that he’d told the stories a hundred times before, but they always felt so fresh it seemed like he was reporting them live. I miss the stories he’ll never tell me now. I know they were great.
Writer, Happy Tree Friends
Carl Macek was a sheer genius. He was the father of ROBOTECH. He will be missed.
Voice actor (Rico in Robotech)