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New player enters the North American anime market

Getting lost in translation might be okay for Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansen, but for newly established anime company Illumitoon it's exactly what should be avoided.
September 1, 2006

Getting lost in translation might be okay for Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansen, but for newly established anime company Illumitoon it’s exactly what should be avoided.

Execs Barry Watson, Stephanie Giotes and Richard Ray recently left established anime house FUNimation to establish the new Fort Worth, Texas-based company. They’re focusing on acquiring anime properties and then re-contextualizing them for an English-speaking audience. The aim is to move beyond the hardcore adult anime audience and shepherd projects with mass appeal for kids eight to 16.

‘When we look at a property we want to analyze it in terms of how it will be perceived by an American audience,’ says CEO Watson. ‘A lot of popular shows abroad have humor elements or things that either don’t translate well or are difficult to capture for an American audience.’

Since starting up, Illumitoon has acquired Beet the Vandel Buster, a 78-episode series from Toei Animation; it’s been airing on Japanese television since 2004. The 52-episode AM Driver backed by vid game maker Konami and the 38-episode BT’X are also part of the initial lineup.

In addition to the shopping spree, Illumitoon has also partnered with Fort Worth-based CRM Productions, which boasts a 43,000 square-foot post-production unit. The agreement will allow the new company to undertake the crucial post-production work that Watson hopes will re-shape the properties.

‘We try to really beef up the sound effects,’ Watson says. ‘In many cases we’ll score the entire soundtrack to add a lot of energy and excitement and make wall-to-wall music.’

Illumitoon’s not relying on a DVD-driven distribution model and is aiming to get its titles on VOD, linear broadcast, broadband and mobile. ‘It is about putting the right deal together at the front rather than just acquiring it with the intent of a video release,’ he says. ‘We are going to see what we can do beyond that.’

At this point, the group is in early discussions with broadcasters and licensing types in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Watson is looking to acquire a few more properties in 2006 and is planning on a full slate of acquisitions for 2007.

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at garyrusak@gmail.com

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