Sailor Moon is one of the most recognizable anime franchises and one of the most well-known entries in the magical girl genre. Premiering in America in the '90s, it was many young viewers' first exposure to anime, helping create the first generation of global otaku. Unbeknownst to many, however, the franchise was meant to have its start in the US a lot sooner.
The Toon Makers company planned to adapt Sailor Moon for American audiences using the most dated approach possible: an awkward mix of live-action and janky animation that would make He-Man blush. Since lost to the ages, here's a look back at what would have likely become one of the most infamous anime adaptations ever made.
What Was 'Saban Moon?'
The project began in 1993 when Bandai was hoping to get an English adaptation made out of the Sailor Moon anime. A company called Toon Makers was interested, but didn't want to simply dub the original material. Instead, it teamed up with Renaissance Atlantic -- which produced the original Power Rangers for Saban -- to create a show that combined animated sequences with live-action drama. It's unknown why this format was chosen, though it's easy to reason that that those behind the show believed that a combination of cartoons and teen drama would draw in both young and older girls. This slight similarity to Power Rangers, along with the colored suits and the connection to Renaissance Atlantic earned the project the inaccurate nickname of "Saban Moon."
This resulted in a pilot episode being produced, along with three more to jumpstart production in case the series got picked up. Ultimately, the deal to make the series fell through, with the pilot never airing and FOX simply dubbing the anime instead. Said English dub is known among the series' fandom for its censorship, heavily changing many elements of the show. However, it's still for the best that this aired instead of the Toon Makers Sailor Moon, as the unorthodox pilot made numerous, far more egregious changes of its own.
Toon Makers made changes to essentially Americanize the material, for better or usually much worse. All of the Sailor Scouts, in this case called "Princess Fighters," have vastly different personalities and even ethnicities. Sailor Mercury is a redhead in a wheelchair, Sailor Venus is a Latina with the era's stereotypical Valley Girl persona, Sailor Jupiter was a Black girl who was constantly doing impressions, while Sailor Mars stayed Asian. The blonde, ponytail-less Sailor Moon was also known as such in both her civilian and superhero form.
The plot was ironically mostly the same, with the ladies facing off against Queen Beryl and having an ally in Prince Endymion. Much of the pilot has the team, after being trapped on Earth, returning to outer space to fight Beryl. All of the girls are also from their corresponding planet, such as Sailor Jupiter being from Jupiter. They traveled through space with their "Sky Flyer" vehicles, though Mercury actually rode around in a cosmic wheelchair.
Most notable is the particularly poor animation quality, which was the result of the project's low budget. The show's art direction fit in much better with an early '80s cartoon than one from the early '90s, making its other questionable components even worse. This all was wrapped together with a hilariously bad theme song which made sure to note that Sailor Moon was both a fun-loving sixteen-year-old girl and a superhero for the world. Thankfully, it never aired to the general public, but it was eventually revealed after the pilot footage was shown at a fan convention. It's ever since been the bane of the franchise and the fandom, becoming a moon-sized bullet dodged by viewers and the Sailor Moon franchise as a whole.