Signs Of North American Industry Integration With Anime Subculture
Posted 11/30/08 , edited 11/30/08

Geneon to Merge with Universal Pictures Japan

Dentsu to transfer Geneon to Universal Pictures International Entertainment

The advertising and marketing company Dentsu has announced on Wednesday that it will transfer the majority ownership in its Geneon Entertainment home video subsidiary to NBC Universal's Universal Pictures International Entertainmnent (UPIE). UPIE has agreed to merge Geneon Entertainment with its own Universal Pictures Japan (UPJ), which handles operations in the country. The transfer agreement was signed on November 7, and the actual transfer is scheduled to take place at the end of the month. The merger of UPJ and Geneon will take place in February of next year, and the resulting company will assume a new name. UPIE will own 80.1% of the new company, while Dentsu will retain 19.9%.

Currently, Geneon Entertainment has 3.6 billion yen (about US$37 million) in capital, which is 100% owned by Dentsu. Geneon Entertainment President and CEO Sumio Kiga oversaw 178 employees as of the end of October. Pioneer had originally established the company in March 1981 to produce videos in the Laserdisc format. Dentsu acquired the majority of the outstanding shares in Pioneer Entertainment and renamed the company as Geneon Entertainment in 2003. Geneon has already been distributing Universal Pictures' DVDs in Japan since March of this year.

I think that Geneon Entertainment, now a subsidiary production company that makes advertisements for Dentsu, will possibly be producing animated titles for Universal Pictures.

Sony to Release Madhouse's Marvel Hero Anime Worldwide

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's Int'l Product Expansion Group signs deals

The Variety entertainment trade news source confirms that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has agreed to globally distribute the four series that the Madhouse anime studio is producing with "re-imagined" characters from Marvel Comics. The company created a new International Product Expansion Group that signed the deals. Vice President Tony Ishizuka has been assigned to lead the new group with Maxwell Mattord as a director. Marvel revealed in August that the first of the 12-episode series with Marvel's Iron Man and Wolverine characters is launching on Sony's Animax premium anime channel in Japan in Spring 2010.

More western influences on anime subculture by Marvel. Now I don't know about the rest of you, but I kinda want to see a Hulk anime coming from this.

Lawsuit Launched over Proposed Live-Action Voltron Film

U.S.-based World Events Productions moves to sue Toei Animation over rights

The American company World Events Productions (WEP) attempted to serve new legal summons on Monday against Japan's Toei Animation for a lawsuit over the proposed live-action film remake of the Voltron animated franchise. In 1981, the Japanese studio Toei Animation created the Hyakujuu Ou Golion (King of Beasts Golion) anime series about young pilots who fight against an empire of alien conquerors — with the help of five mechanized lions that combine to form a robot. Toei also created another television anime series with a combining robot called Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV (Mechanized Fleet Dairugger XV) in the following year. The American company Koplar Communications licensed the rights to Golion and released a dubbed adaptation under the name Voltron: Defender of the Universe in 1984. Dairugger XV would later be adapted under the Voltron name as well.

According to Koplar's WEP production company, Toei and Koplar drafted a series of agreements in 1985 over the use of Golion, Dairugger XV, and the Voltron franchise. WEP produced a computer-animated spinoff series called Voltron: The Third Dimension in 1998, and a dispute between WEP and Toei arose. WEP filed a lawsuit against Toei in 1999, but this lawsuit was settled in 2000 with new agreements.

On August 9, 2007, the Variety entertainment industry newspaper reported that New Regency was close to signing a deal with The Mark Gordon Company over a live-action Voltron film. According to a letter that was filed into court records, Toei Managing Director Masayoshi Endo contacted WEP President Ted Koplar on January 18, 2008 about the Variety article. The letter read in part:

Congratulations! We, however, were surprised with the fact that Toei has not been contacted in connection with this movie planning. As you remember, we had a dispute in the past and settled it in 2000, and now we have no dispute for the animation of Voltron or Golion, which are now all yours.

We, however, do not think that the settlement and the assignment made thereunder shall have given you an exclusive right for live-action movie for Voltron. As you know, in our business, animation and live-action are completely different products and traded separately

We are especially concerned about the marketing of the possible live-action film in Japan, and we expect you would contact us in due course to deal with this matter.

WEP filed a lawsuit against Toei in February 2008 and amended it in March. In the new lawsuit, WEP contends that as a result of Toei's claims to the live-action film project, "New Regency investigated the existence of possible third-party claims in and to the Golion and/or Voltron properties." WEP continues, "Through that investigation, New Regency identified an artist or author, Kazuo Nakamura, who may possess rights that encumber the Golion and/or Voltron properties and that interfere with World Events' full and lawful enjoyment of the Golion and Voltron properties." Nakamura was the character designer of Golion, and therefore, the animation in the first Voltron series.

On August 17, Variety revealed that New Regency was no longer planning to produce the Voltron film project and never actually signed a deal. It added that New Regency could not "wrap up a deal with Voltron's rights holders [WEP], delaying any further development of the pic." According to WEP's court filings, the company "has lost at least one development deal that would have resulted in a live-action motion picture" due to Nakamura's potential rights to Golion and Voltron. WEP filed an amended legal summons for Toei on Monday. WEP is seeking a legal declaration on which rights belong to WEP and which rights belong to Toei or Nakamura.

Neither WEP nor Toei has responded to ANN's requests for comment.

As I recall, the original creators have an automatic 50 years of copyright claim on all their intellectual works, thanks to the BERNE CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF LITERARY AND ARTISTIC WORKS (Paris Text 1971). Therefore, I believe unless WEP would make the live-action Voltron movie without using any of the original Golion production concepts, WEP won't have a leg to stand on with their law sue.

Modern Artist Murakami to Open Animation Studio in LA

Takashi Murakami already has Tokyo headquarters, New York studio

The blog of the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported this week that modern artist Takashi Murakami will open an animation studio in Los Angeles next summer. Murakami is best known for his unbashed embracing of popular culture — especially anime and manga — in his florid art pieces and video projects. He created the Superflat Monogram anime movie and the Kaikai & Kiki anime shorts, which had an episode bundled on DVD with Vogue Nippon magazine in Japan.

Murakami already has his headquarters in Tokyo and another studio in New York. The new Los Angeles facility will be located at North Highland Avenue, and will have enough room on two floors for 30 employees.

The "© MURAKAMI" exhibition had a successful run in Los Angeles last year, after a launch gala party with rapper Kanye West, actress Christina Ricci, music producer Pharrell Williams, and other celebrities. Murakami premiered his "Planting the Seeds" short with the Kaikai & Kiki characters at the "© MURAKAMI" exhibition, and his new Los Angeles studio will develop a feature-length film based on this short.

The North American entertainment industries aren't just ready for anime subculture, the integration has already begone.
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