In the future on a planet named Trinia, human slaves have lived underground for millennia mining crystals for a "god" named Zygon and his robot minions. One day Orin, a young miner, finds a jeweled sword embedded in the rocks. Hopps, grandfather of Orin's girlfriend Elan, recognizes the sword and gives his life to save Orin and keep the sword a secret. When Orin later takes the sword into his hands, it ascends into the air and buries itself in the cavern's floor. A projection of an old man appears from the blade, telling those present that above the caverns is a "magnificent universe" that the people may find (they have been told that above the cavern is "Hell"). The blade then disappears, leaving only the hilt.
Forced to leave Orin's young, blind brother Calli behind, Orin and Elan set out to discover this universe and find the blade to the sword. Chased by Zygon's robots, they emerge in an industrial complex where they meet Zygon, who reveals the face of a human man beneath his mask. Zygon strangles Elan to death, but Orin escapes this fate when Zygon is distracted by the sword hilt. When Zygon's robots accidentally fire on a crystal deposit, Zygon presumes Orin dead in the resultant explosion and cave-in.
Orin digs a tunnel to the surface of Trinia, where he is later captured by Man-Droids, a group of decaying half-organic, half-robotic beings who intend to tear him apart and use his body parts to replace their own. Unexpectedly, his sword's hilt produces what is apparently an invisible blade, killing two of the Man-Droids and helping Orin escape. Orin subsequently runs into a human smuggler named Dagg Dibrimi, who takes Orin (whom he dubs "Water Snake" for his outrageous tale about human slaves in the mines) along on his journey to smuggle crystals. Eventually, Dagg seizes a load of crystals from a hovering freighter, but is driven away by Zygon and his robotic guards. During the fight, Dagg seizes a Fembot named Silica and uses it as a shield from laser blasts. Subsequently, re-programmed by Dagg, Silica becomes attached to him. At the same time a mysterious "Starfly" appears and attaches itself to Orin.
Dagg flies his spaceship, the Starchaser, to a city called Toga-Togo on the planet Bordogon, where he abandons Orin and gives Silica to a slave auctioneer. Orin wanders through the city, trying to find a clue that will lead him to the location of the hilt's blade. After meeting a fortune-teller who tells him to visit a place called Novaluna, Orin sees Silica offered for sale, whereupon he offers high prices to buy her. When the auctioneer finds that Orin has no knowledge of local currency, he takes Orin's freedom in addition to Silica's; but Dagg, moved by his own conscience, frees them. Later, Dagg and Orin visit the home of two desert-dwelling merchants, to whom Dagg sells the stolen crystals. Because Zygon has placed a price on Orin's head, the merchants offer to buy Orin as well, but Dagg refuses. In response, the merchants place a time bomb in Dagg's payment. Orin is forewarned by the Starfly, whereupon Dagg and Arthur, the Starchaser's intelligent computer, throw the bomb into their enemies' camp. Thereafter Dagg agrees to take Orin to Novaluna, but they are shot down by Zygon's robotic soldiers. Dagg is captured and the ship is rendered inactive; Orin is thrown clear of the ship but is rescued by Aviana, the daughter of Bordogon's Governor.
Upon having woken and met Aviana, Orin tells her his story, whereupon Aviana's computer reveals that the hilt has historically been used by a group of legendary guardians called the Ka-Khan to vanquish threats to humanity. Among these threats was a tyrant called Nexus, after whose defeat the hilt vanished until Orin's discovery of it. Aviana takes Orin to Trinia, where he again faces Zygon. Orin attempts to kill Zygon for Elan's death and thereby exposes him as a robot. Zygon then reveals that he is Nexus, seeking again to rule over humanity with his army of robots. Zygon takes Orin's hilt and begins to co-ordinate the attack, while Orin and Aviana are imprisoned in the cell block wherein Dagg is also captive. Just as Orin and Aviana confess their feelings toward one another, Aviana is taken aboard Zygon's flagship as a hostage. Orin is again approached by the Starfly, who brings him the hilt, which he uses to free himself and Dagg. They enter Zygon's flagship and take control of it, using it (again aided by the Starfly) to destroy the enemy fleet. They are rejoined by Silica, who has restored the Starchaser.
Orin and his friends penetrate Zygon's base, but are attacked by his remaining troops. While Dagg and Silica stay behind to fight off their pursuers, Orin enters his original cavern home and begins to denounce Zygon, but is interrupted by Zygon himself. They fight, resulting in Orin dangling over a chasm while Zygon gloats over him. As Orin hangs over the chasm, three Starflies appear and merge into one; but instead of giving him the hilt at his request, it states that he has no need of the hilt, adding that "there never was a blade". Orin therefore realizes that the power to create a cutting force came from himself. At this, he pulls himself up, generates such a force, and uses it to destroy Zygon. Orin's people subsequently rise in revolt and win their freedom.
Above, Silica mistakenly fires a laser blast from the Starchaser into the accumulated crystals, causing them to explode and triggering a chain reaction which threatens to collapse the mines. Orin uses the hilt to open a fissure by which his people ascend to Trinia's surface, where Orin uses his new-found power to heal Calli of his blindness and Dagg, Silica, and Aviana join them. Moments later, several Starflies reveal themselves to be the spirits of the past Ka-Khan, including the elder man of the hilt's projection. They invite Orin to join them; but he refuses for the time being in favor of living with his friends. Thereafter the other Ka-Khan leave him to merge with the stars.Joe Colligan as Orin
Carmen Argenziano as Dagg Dibrimi
Anthony De Longis as Zygon
Noelle North as Elan and Aviana
Tyke Caravelli as Silica
Paul Frees as Ka-Khan
Les Tremayne as Arthur, Man-Droid #1, and Smuggler #1
Daryl Bartley as Kallie
Tina Romanus as Aunt Bella and Fortune Teller
Thomas H. Watkins as Aviana's Robot, Man-Droid #2, and Smuggler #2
Mickey Morton as Mine-Master, Man-Droid #3, and Tactical Robots
John Moschitta, Jr. as Z'Gork and Raymo
Ken Sansom as Magreb and Major Tagani
Mona Marshall as Star Fly
Herb Vigran as Hopps
Produced in 1984, Starchaser: The Legend of Orin is identified as the world's first full-length animated project to be made in the 3D format though a prior film, Abra Cadabra (1983), was also produced in 3D.
The film was released in the United States by Atlantic Releasing on November 22, 1985. Spending at least 17 days in theaters, it made US$1,614,660 on its opening weekend and US$3,360,800 overall, making it #6 in the box office. The film did not fare well in South Korea, where animation production took place.
Starchaser: The Legend of Orin was released on VHS and Laserdisc in March 25, 1986 by Paramount Home Video, and also by KVC Home Video. The DVD was released on June 21, 2005 by MGM Home Entertainment.
The New York Times described it as "such a brazen rip-off of George Lucas's Star Wars that you might think lawyers would have been called in".
It was announced in March 2012 that Rilean Pictures acquired the rights to develop the 1985 3D animated film Starchaser: The Legend of Orin into a live-action motion picture to be produced by Rilean Pictures’ partners Jonathan Saba and Juan Iglesias.