This Archivist Found the Lost Sailor Moon Pilot!

A very merry World Princess Week to you all! The festivities of the week kicked off a little early with a YouTube video that took the internet by storm and surprisingly had nothing to do with Disney. As I've shared in the past, I've always had mixed feelings about Sailor Moon, but it's difficult to deny the impact that it had on for '90s kids. It was one of the first anime series that became popular in America and many people's first introduction to the Magical Girl genre. If things hadn't played out the way they did, our memories of this show could have been something completely different. Back in the early '90s, ToonMaker Studios teamed up with Renaissance-Atlantic Entertainment to create an animated/live-action hybrid of a brand new Americanized version of Sailor Moon. A music video of this cheeseball show was recorded at a convention sometime later, and for a very long time, that was the only evidence we had that this version of Sailor Moon ever existed. Until now, that is. No one has searched harder for the unaired pilot of what fans lovingly dubbed "Saban Moon" than YouTube archivist Raven "Ray Mona" Simone. Last weekend, her efforts finally paid off.

In this two-hour docudrama, Raven takes us on a journey through time, effort, and passion, as she contacts every lead she can find related to the Americanized Sailor Moon project until she ultimately discovers it in the last place she looked--the copyright archives of the Chamber of Commerce. This is the second documentary that this skilled YouTuber has shared about her search. I remember watching Part 1 of The Western World of Sailor Moon with great interest five months ago as she showed us the trials and tribulations that an archivist of lost media must face as she traced back the show's footstep in a fruitless attempt to find the original unaired 17-minute pilot. With her soothing voice and intimately relatable footage of typing away on her keyboard in a dark room, Raven is a talented filmmaker that got many princess fans invested in her journey to locate this lost footage even if it pales in comparison to the original. Princess fans around the world rejoiced in her success this past weekend when her efforts finally bore fruit, and we saw the adventures that could have been of Sailor Moon and her warrior princess friends.

Despite showcasing cheap-looking animation, hokey dialogue, and a cheesy '90s soundtrack, the show has some qualities that make it stand out from other Magical Girl series of the time. Had it been released on schedule, it would have been the only series that I am aware of to feature characters traveling between a live-action and animated world until Mia and Me, which came out in 2011, nearly 20 years later. Renaissance Atlantic was also involved with Power Rangers, another Japanese property, but the initial seasons of that show borrowed footage from its Japanese counterpart for the fight scenes. Sailor Moon would have been the only Japanese property of the time period to feature entirely new animation and live-action footage created exclusively for an American audience. The live-action high school superhero setting also would have also made for an easy conversion of Power Ranger fans over to Sailor Moon.

The plot of this series, in which the five princess warriors must recover the Jewels of Power from Queen Beryl to save the universe while trying to live as ordinary teenage girls, is similar to many other shows that were out at the time, including Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders, Sky Dancers, and Princess Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic. If this series had aired on network television, I probably would have invested in it from time to time as a guilty pleasure. It was also big on diversity, featuring many different races and physical abilities, which has only become more relevant today. I have to admit I was a little disappointed that the girls missed their school dance to save the world in this short pilot since I always enjoyed those episodes in '90s sitcoms. The live-action bits were reminiscent of other sitcoms from the time period including Blossom, Saved By the Bell, and Sister, Sister. It's probably better that things turned out the way they did since releasing a dub of the original Japanese animation opened the floodgates for Americans to explore Japanese culture and entertainment, which has had a huge impact on the media we have access to today.

Raven is a fantastic role model for fangirls everywhere who fear that they will never see long-lost projects from some of their favorite franchises. She teaches us that all it takes to reach for the moon is a little patience and perseverance, a lesson that was also taught to us by many Disney Princesses of the past. This discovery is a great way to kick off World Princess Week, which Disney is celebrating by adding Raya to their official lineup and airing a reunion on 20/20 of the 1997 adaptation of  Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella tomorrow night. How excited were you to learn about the recovery of this long-lost pilot?


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