Looking to expand its global reach in the entertainment biz, Japanese advertising heavyweight Dentsu, which currently employs more than 15,000 people worldwide and brought in revenues of roughly US$17 billion in fiscal ’08, has opened up shop in the US. Its newest division, DCI Los Angeles, is currently on the hunt for co-production partners interested in making anime-influenced toons for a core boys action audience and for men ages 17 to 24.
Dentsu is currently one of the largest animation producers in Japan – a situation that evolved from the country’s approach to TV advertising that sees agencies sell blocks of air time and then become responsible for finding content to draw in viewers. The company now wants a bigger global footprint in the industry. DCI-LA VP of business development Marc Harrington says Dentsu recognizes that while the anime style has been embraced outside of Japan, the region’s storytelling tradition is a harder sell.
‘We’re trying to create something to work in both markets, instead of working on an export model,’ he says. The goal is to depict Western stories using US scriptwriters and then produce the animation in Japan. For example, DCI-LA will be shying away from outfitting female protagonists in short skirts and cat ears, moving instead towards a more Western portrayal of girls as strong, independent characters who sometimes choose to wear pants.
So Harrington, along with the DCI-LA’s chief Yuma Sakata, who held a leading position in Dentsu’s Japanese entertainment operation, are sussing out potential partners. The new company is planning to put two series a year into production to start, aiming to deliver the first one by mid-2009. DCI-LA is looking to fund 50% or more of any new production, depending on how the ancillary and distribution rights split up between the partners. For the first year, says Harrington, the company is working with a pool of approximately US$7 million to invest in new ventures.
In the meantime, DCI-LA has inherited two properties from another Denstu venture, Geneon Entertainment. The anime DVD distributor’s US operations are in the process of being shuttered, says Harrington. (In fact, FUNimation Entertainment assumed all North American home entertainment distribution and manufacturing rights to Geneon titles in early July.) So DCI-LA now handles distribution and merch rights on 52 x half-hour series Deltora Quest outside of Japan, as well as the North American L&M business for Chop Socky Chooks, which airs on Cartoon Network. Harrington is working on signing US licensing partners for both properties, along with landing the English-language version of Deltora Quest a spot on North American airwaves.