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Co-Productions Unveiled at Tokyo Anime Fair

27 Apr, 2005 By: Edwin De La Cruz

This year's Tokyo Anime Fair (TAF) included announcements that some observers believe will reshape the way anime is created, produced and disseminated around the world.

Cartoon Network revealed plans to broadcast a new series. By partnering with acclaimed animation studio Production I.G. and Bandai Entertainment, the network will produce “Immortal Grand Prix,” or “IGPX,” an original robot-racing series specifically for Toonami, the Cartoon Network programming block that first brought anime to mass audiences in the United States.

The “IGPX” concept originally was developed as a five-minute short that aired on Cartoon Network's “Total Immersion Event” in 2003. That short, created by Production I.G., received an overwhelming response from viewers. It also caught the attention of network executives who had been looking to develop projects and decided to begin with “IGPX.”

The new, revamped “IGPX” is a fusion of 2-D and 3-D animation with fast-paced action sequences resulting in what producers claim will be a unique new look not seen on TV before.

“What makes this co-production so unique and exciting is that the characters are being developed with an international cast in mind,” said Jason DeMarco, producer of “IGPX's” English-language version for Cartoon Network. “One of the main characters is Japanese-American, and another one is South American.”

This premise sets the stage for the program to gain global appeal for possible broadcast in markets outside of Asia and North America.

Both DeMarco and Sean Akins, Cartoon Network's executive producer and creative director, are working directly with “IGPX” director Mitsuru Hongo to help flesh out the storyline and characters.

Voice talent will include actors Haley Joel Osment and Michelle Rodriguez, and Tom Kenney, the voice for SpongeBob SquarePants, which should bring attention to the program. The series is scheduled to debut in fall 2005 during the Toonami block. Bandai Entertainment will handle subsequent DVD releases in the United States.

Bandai announced a second co-production at TAF titled “Eureka Seven.” This joint venture includes the entire Japanese Bandai group. Hot animation studio Bones (Cowboy Bebop the Movie, “Scrapped Princess,” “Full Metal Alchemist”) is handling creative duties on the series.

“Eureka Seven” begins its Japanese broadcast this month, backed by a huge merchandise campaign that includes toys, music, video games and comic book merchandise. The company expects that when “Eureka Seven” is broadcast in the United States, the program will have an established Japanese fan base that will spill over to the United States and create a buzz among anime aficionados.

Bandai's mission is to develop mid- to long-term “content projects,” focusing on cross-media platform collaborations of animation, video games, action figures and the development of new products and merchandise.

“We will fully expand the business potential of ‘Eureka Seven' through product development, high-quality image distribution, broadband transmission and many other strong entertainment elements,” said Bandai Corp. president and CEO Takeo Takasu.

Bandai Entertainment will be the central company focusing on the “Eureka Seven” animation and will handle third-party licensing.

With equal fanfare, but lack of an English translation, Toei Animation — one of Japan's most respected anime producers — announced a joint venture with Cartoon Network and Aniplex (“Full Metal Alchemist”) for a Japanese-version of the “Powerpuff Girls.” Titled “Powerpuff Girls Z,” the TV series will feature an extreme redesign of the main characters as well as villains.

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