The battered Japanese economy has forced die-hard producers such as Nippon Animation into the co-production arena. According to Maso Kurosu, Nippon’s director and GM of international marketing and production, Nippon is travelling at warp speed to line up new deals.
European and Asian partners are Nippon’s favorites. Nippon is currently producing
26 half hours of Marcelino pan y vino, a cartoon series based on a classic Spanish live-action film. Divided equally between partners Nippon, VIP Toons in Spain (for TVE station) and TF1 in France, the partners have just completed the seventh episode of the series.
Just as Anne of Green Gables has a following in Japan, the Marcelino film and its soundtrack are familar to Japanese audiences-that’s why the company is co-producing the show. ‘It is a very nostalgic property in Japan,’ says Kurosu.
Nippon is also in preproduction on a
26 x half-hour series with German Taurus Group for a series entitled Momo, based on the stories of German author Michel Ende. The series will cost US$350,000 per episode. While Nippon has secured European partners, it’s also forging stronger ties in Asia. When Kurosu was preparing his company for a commercial assault into China five years ago, he avoided traditional local enterprises such as Shanghai Animation Studio. Instead, he turned to Hong Kong’s Jade Animation. What started as a distribution output deal for shows like Chibi Maruko Chan, has grown into a full-fledged partnership.
Nippon sent an experienced animation director to Hong Kong to assist Jade on its animated series, Graphic Wisdom, and has subcontracted to Jade such shows as Ten tn kun. Now, Nippon is ready ‘for a full-scale co-production with Jade,’ says Kurosu.
Jade Animation, a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s largest television company TVB, has served as a successful conduit for Japanese shows into China since it set up its marketing division five years ago. ‘The Chinese market is very complicated,’ says Felix Tsang, assistant sales and marketing manager at Jade. Each market requires a different dub and a different sales strategy. ‘Some of our deals are syndicated, some are sponsored. There are barter deals and a few direct sales,’ says Tsang.
In addition to selling Nippon’s product, Jade is handling Mitsubishi’s series The Bomber Man. While its head office and licensing division are in Hong Kong, Jade Animation’s 300 animators work just across the border in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.