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Fan Expo 2013: Sailor Moon reunion

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Katie Griffin, Linda Ballentyne and Susan Roman meet fans in Toronto. (photo by Althea Manasan)

It’s been almost 20 years since North American audiences first joined a group of high school girls in their quest to fight evil by moonlight and win hearts by daylight – but if the crowds of fans at this year’s Fan Expo was any indication, Sailor Moon is still going strong.

Airing in North America from 1995 to 2000, Sailor Moon featured five girls with powers granted by an ancient civilization from the Moon that teamed up to fight the forces of evil. Along with Dragon Ball, it was one of the first Japanese anime shows to break out in the continent.

It capitalized on the teenage superhero team craze spearheaded by Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and became one of the most important cultural icons in the 1990s’ “girl power” movement you might associate with another five-strong team – the Spice Girls.

English voice actors for the show – Linda Ballantyne (Sailor Moon / Serena), Katie Griffin (Sailor Mars / Raye), Susan Roman (Sailor Jupiter / Lita) and Toby Proctor (Tuxedo Mask / Darien) joined director John Stocker for a reunion in Toronto, hosting a discussion panel and signing autographs for fans during the convention.

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Dork Shelf got to talk to Ballantyne, Griffin and Proctor briefly in the short moments they weren’t swarmed with fans both young and old – many of them dressed in Sailor Scout livery. Even though the show has spent many years relatively dormant (a re-release of the complete manga books started in 2011), few people seem to forget the team also known as the Pretty Soldiers.

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Toby Proctor meets and greets fans. (Photo by Althea Manasan)

GRAND RECEPTION

The cast held a featured panel on Fan Expo Friday to a full house. Ballantyne said hundreds had to be turned away.

“All those people in line had to be turned away, and it was just soul-destroying,” she said. “You want to go and shake everyone’s hand and say ‘Hello, thank you.’”

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“It was incredible,” said Griffin. “We came up the escalator and saw this huge line and I thought, ‘Huh, I wonder who they’re lining up for?’ They were lining up for us.”

“It’s really exciting. And the impact it’s had on so many people goes generational. People are watching it now and then showing their kids or nieces or nephews. It’s amazing. I feel very humbled this whole thing.”

THE THIRD MOON

Ballantyne is extra grateful for the warm reception from fans over the years, because at first she wasn’t sure how they would accept her – she wasn’t the first to voice the klutzy main character Serena.

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After a brief stint by Tracy Moore, Terri Hawkes would play the voice of Sailor Moon for much of the show’s first 82 episodes. It wasn’t until Hawkes was forced out of the role due to pregnancy that Ballantyne became the lead character’s third English voice.

“It was really weird. I was like, ‘Yeah, I got the part of Sailor Moon!’ And then I went: ‘…oh my goodness I just got the part of Sailor Moon.’ I was going to be like the second Barney in The Flinstones!”

Even though she was cast because she could imitate Hawkes’ voice very well, Ballantyne didn’t hit her stride until she stopped trying to imitate her predecessor for every line.

“My husband said, ‘You have to make it your own.’ And finally one day I actually listened to my husband, I went ‘I really have to make it my own.’ And that’s when the character started getting a lot more goofy and fun.”

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Sailor Mars posters and cars available for fans. (Photo by Althea Manasan)

FEISTY SAILOR MARS

Katie Griffin embraces her character, Sailor Mars, as the confrontational opposite to the goofy Serena. When this Dork Shelfer told her that, anecdotally, many friends cited Raye as their favourite character from the show, she replied, “I’m shocked by this, I have to say. I went to Anime Evolution in Vancouver last summer, and Sailor Mars didn’t get a whole lot of lovin’. I got a lot of, ‘wow, she was a real bitch.’”

Griffin, who also plays Alex in the cartoon Totally Spies, didn’t see her character that way, though. “I always thought she and Serena had a sisterhood. Did they fight over Darien? Yes, but that’s a teenage girl thing. And she was fiercely loyal. I saw her as a hard worker, feisty, she knew what she wanted and she got the work done. That’s how I saw her and that’s how I played her.”

GIRL’S FIRST CRUSH

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While not one of the Sailor Scouts, Toby Proctor’s character was just as important to the cartoon’s mythos. Taking over from Rino Romano, who played the character for the first 11 episodes, Proctor ended up playing sarcastic dude Darien and his alter egos Tuxedo Mask, a superhero in a top hat who throw roses at his enemies, and the ridiculously named Moonlight Knight.

“It’s humbling and it’s also really cool,” he said of his history with the show, and the grand reception at Fan Expo this year.

“There are people who come to the conventions to talk to me … and many times I’m told that I was the voice of their very first childhood crush. And I can understand, ‘cause I had a crush on Jessica Rabbit as a young boy growing up. So I can completely see where they’re coming from. And it’s an honour to at least be one dimension of that truth.”

Nostalgia about that first crush must have endured for some fans, if the questions from the Friday panel audience were any indication.

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Tuxedo Mask’s signature rose. (Photo by Althea Manasan)

Ballantyne said she was astonished by the breadth of knowledge the fans still had about a show that went off the air more than a decade ago. But the most memorable question she got was about what it would be like if Darien asked Serena to marry him.

“[Toby] got down on one knee and asked me to marry me, which was quite funny because I said no!” recalled Ballantyne, who then laughed like Queen Beryl.

Proctor, for his part, seems nonplussed by the faux-rejection. He recalled a time shortly after learning he had landed the part of Tuxedo Mask, for the English version of a Japanese cartoon he had never heard of.

“I had no idea what it was going to be, I had no idea what anime was, really, until I realized, after recording and seeing a little boy on the streetcar with a Tuxedo Mask backpack, what impact it was going to have,” he said.

“Here we are 20 years later. Who knew?”

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