Peter Keefe, 57, creator and executive producer of

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

, a hugely popular 1980s cartoon series that helped prepare the way for other Japanese-style animation in the United States, died May 27 in Rochester, N.Y.

The cause was throat cancer, his brother Chris said.

The show's giant sword-wielding robot defended the universe from 1984 to 1987; Voltron became the No. 1 syndicated children's show for two years and took in huge profits with merchandise as well. It inspired spin-offs and developed a cult following.

The series exposed American audiences to Japanese anime and served as a precursor to children's shows such as Dragon Ball Z, Power Rangers, and Pokemon.

In a typical episode, a team of five spacecrafts battled villains; the ships came together at climactic moments to become pieces of the giant robot Voltron.

In much the same way, Mr. Keefe assembled his program from bits and pieces of the Japanese cartoons Beast King Go-Lion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV, which he discovered in 1983 at a merchandise-licensing convention in Japan; he bought the rights.

He Westernized the story lines and scripts, toned down the violence, and even recorded his own voice for some characters.

He started his career in television in 1979 as a movie critic on KPLR, an independent station in St. Louis.

- N.Y. Times News Service