After years of searching, the full theme song and pilot episode for the live-action, never before seen American Sailor Moon television series is out in the world—and it’s a bizarre look at what the franchise could have become.
YouTuber and lost media expert Ray Mona uncovered the footage, and released it as part of a documentary series about the process. Before now, the only shreds of material seen of this show were of a recording of the intro song’s screening from a 90s anime convention presentation. The never-aired show was the creation of American animation studio Toon Makers and the producers of Power Rangers, Renaissance Atlantic Entertainment. The companies pitched the series in 1993, but it never got made; in 1995, after Toon Makers lost a bidding war for the rights, the original Japanese anime series was dubbed in English and released for Western audiences.
In a mashup of American-style animation, 90s computer graphics, and live-action acting, the pilot starts with some lore and an animated Sailor Moon’s near-nuptials to Prince Darien (aka Tuxedo Mask), and skips to her life as an earth-bound teenager in live-action, before skipping back to animation. The footage begins around the 1:44 mark:
The two-part series is more than three and a half hours long, and details every step Mona took in recovering this piece of long-lost history. In the end, she found it in the Library of Congress—Kotaku journalist Cecilia D’Anastasio (who tried to find the footage herself in 2018) helped Mona get permission from Bandai America president Frank Ward, and from there Mona was able to request that the library release the footage she’d spent months hunting down.
The animation is objectively rough—bad, even—but Toon Makers president and founder Rocky Solotoff hasn’t denied this in interviews, acknowledging that they were working on a shoestring budget. “We were kind of under a real low budget and a time constraint. So we didn't have time to go back and really massage the animation as we should,” Solotoff said in a 2006 interview. “It was an attempt to make the characters, basically, more Americanized.”