As players hunting for anime properties in Japan continue to face tall hurdles, L.A.-based manga hotshop Tokyopop’s decision to cast its net wider in Asia has paid off. In mid-January, the company, with facilitation from the Korean Content and Culture Agency (KOCCA), sealed a big deal to manage all media rights to South Korean property The Bumper King outside its home territory.
Unlike some Japanese acquisitions, in which rights to categories such as pay-per-view TV and mobile content are sometimes held back or have already been awarded to other companies, this agreement allows Tokyopop to exploit The Bumper King on all fronts, from TV, to video/DVD, to licensed consumer products. KOCCA’s head of media, Alexis Wallrich, says the agency is confident that this will be the breakout property that puts South Korea on the map as a go-to source for original kids content.
Initially produced as a 26 x half-hour CGI series by Korean animation shop FX Digital, character design company Daewon and toyco Sonoking, The Bumper King began airing on SBS in Korea last September. Originally called Bumper King Zapper, the series is about a young boy who dreams of winning the Bumper Cross, a remote-control car-racing circuit.
Steve Galloway, director of film and TV at Tokyopop, doesn’t plan to change much of the original story for international audiences because it already has all the ingredients that go into good boys action-adventure programming. But KOCCA has given the L.A. company complete creative control over reversioning the show, from music insertion, to scripts, to changing characters’ names. This kind of freedom is pretty much unheard-of in deals involving Japanese productions; the approval process on these shows can take months since almost everyone involved in the property – including artists, licensing partners and even advertisers – must sign off.
Galloway anticipates The Bumper King will debut on U.S. airwaves within the next 12 to 18 months, at which point Tokyopop plans to execute a massive brand push into publishing, DVDs, games, toys, music and apparel. For the toy line, Galloway says original partner Sonoking is an expert in the Korean marketplace, but he’ll be looking to round out the program with international master toy licensees.
Editor’s note: The electronic version of this article has been edited from the original print version in order to correct or clarify some information that it contained.