Upcoming BCI ULTRAMAN DVD is pretty suspicious . . .

Discussion in 'The Entertainment Board' started by ryuuseipro, Jan 31, 2006.

  1. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    (Edited, for some friends want their names removed so no harm is done)

    Guys, I am a big Ultra-fan, but this is too good to be true. The first 6 Ultra Series are currently in some major legal entanglements, as I'll discuss below.

    Here are the facts . . .


    TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS VS. CHAIYO PRODUCTIONS
    Author: Bob Johnson

    There has been much Internet buzz recently based on a court case going on both in Japan and Thailand. There have also been many reports in the Thai press. The case concerns something that is very important to many fans around the world, the fate of one of Japan's most recognizable icons, Ultraman.

    On one side is Tsuburaya Productions, the company that created Ultraman and, for almost forty years, has produced television series and movies based on the character. The opposition is Thai filmmaker/businessman Sompote Saenguduenchai, owner of Chaiyo Productions, which also refers to itself as "Tsuburaya Chaiyo". Both sides have their own versions of the story and the outcome of the courts' decision so far. Sampote Thianthong of Pro Link of Thailand has been appointed Tsuburaya Productions' official agent and has been explaining the story to the Thai media for some time now.

    The story began back in 1996, literally weeks after the death of Tsuburaya Productions' then president, Noboru Tsuburaya. Mr. Sompote approached Noboru's son Kazuo Tsuburaya, who had just been named CEO of the Tokyo-based company. Mr. Sompote presented him with a letter, allegedly issued and signed by his father in 1976, granting Mr. Sompote the international copyright to all Ultraman characters from the series ULTRA Q through ULTRAMAN TARO and another character, JUMBORG ACE.

    When he presented this contract to Tsuburaya Productions in 1996, TPC considered it a forgery. In the very first line of the document, Tsuburaya Productions Co, ltd. is listed as "Tsuburaya prod. and Enterprise", a name it has never done business under. The fact that "productions" was abbreviated and rendered with a lower case "p", was a mistake that no one at Tsuburaya Productions would have let a document go out with. As the contract went on, some of the shows that it listed were under the wrong titles. ULTRA Q is listed as "Ultraman 1: Ultra Q" and ULTRA SEVEN is called "Ultraman Seven".

    One question that immediately comes to mind is why Mr. Sompote waited over twenty years to come forth with his claim. There were ads in Variety and other media and industry publications by Tsuburaya attempting to sell these series to overseas markets. Not to mention the fact that some of these series also were running in overseas markets (including ULTRAMAN and ULTRA SEVEN in the US) during this time. Why didn't Mr. Sompote complain about violations of his rights when these were running? Obviously, in 1996, the one person who could have disputed his claims was deceased and unable to defend his company's rights.

    Mr. Sompote also claims to have played a major part in the creation of Ultraman. As proof, he has presented a photo of himself showing Eiji Tsuburaya a book of photos of various Buddha shrines that he maintains look like Ultraman. However, there is no other evidence to support this claim. Mr. Sompote was a film student living in Japan and visited Eiji Tsuburaya's at Toho Studios. This was apparently the extent of their relationship.

    Tsuburaya Productions dismissed the contract, but out of respect for its founder Eiji Tsuburaya's friendship with Mr. Sompote, they granted him merchandising rights for Thailand and five other Asian countries. He accepted this, but claimed that Tsuburaya Productions had damaged his reputation in Thailand by disputing his contract. He asked the company to issue a letter to clear his name. He specifically stated that this letter must contain references to his alleged contract because he had already told his business associates about it. TPC reluctantly agreed and issued the letter under the intent that it would only be used in Thai business circles. The letter was not intended to be a binding legal document or to validate Sompote's "contract". This letter is now being used as evidence to support his claims that the original contract was valid.

    Tsuburaya has brought the case to court. The first was in the Thai Intellectual Property and International Trade (IPIT) court. There were two more court cases at the Tokyo District Court and Tokyo High Court. All three courts ruled that TPC retained the copyright to Ultraman, the character they created. However, they ruled that Mr. Somopote would retain merchandising rights outside of Japan. Tsuburaya is contesting this and the case will be handed over to the Japanese Supreme Court later this year.

    At no time was Tsuburaya Productions in a position to lose the copyrights to their characters, nor are they now. If Chaiyo retains their claim to the merchandising and distribution rights to overseas markets, what would this mean to the US, where ULTRAMAN TIGA is now being distributed? Some are wrongly speculating that it might loosen up the rights for the original ULTRAMAN to finally be released here in North America. However, Tsuburaya Productions still holds on to the original materials including negatives, English language soundtrack and all prints of the series, so anything Chaiyo could sell over here would be of dubious quality at best. Tsuburaya could still license the shows in the US, but most likely would avoid doing so until the final judgment is made by the Supreme Court. So, either way, for the time being, the fans lose.

    (Originally appeared on Henshin! Online in 2004)

    Addendum

    Chaiyo's "rights" do not include broadcast, cable/satellite nor home video rights outside of Thailand. Tsuburaya Productions already has many legitimate licensees in around the world, including Asia, which would be affected by Chaiyo being able to lay claim to these shows -- and five years on, companies like MediaLink International are still distributing licensed Ultraman on television, cable and video in Hong Kong, Macau and other territories. Chaiyo has no real right to peddle these series outside of Thailand, and even the licensing and Thai rights were ill gotten.

    The picture is not simply limited to Chaiyo and Tsuburaya Productions -- Ultraman has enjoyed great success for decades around the world, and Chaiyo only decided to stake a claim (one of them was that it was they who created Ultraman) after the death of CEO Noboru Tsuburaya. That was the first warning flag...

    Tokyo Superior Court denied Chaiyo's claim as creator of Ultraman and all intellectual property rights they were seeking (and forbids them from creating new characters); the court denied Chaiyo's claim to all international copyrights; the court denied Chaiyo's international distribution of the shows in question to cable, television and home video; etc. But, the court did award them complete control of the rights within Thailand and the international rights to ancillary merchandising, excluding Japan.

    This is only because the "contract" in question carried Noboru Tsuburaya's Hanko (Japanese signature stamp), which is an antiquated system of signature that can easily be forged -- the document did not have the late Tsuburaya's actual hand-written signature. If this case was tried in US courts, Chaiyo would have lost long ago.

    But, the bottom line is that Chaiyo cannot distribute, license, sell or trade television, cable/satellite or home video rights to ULTRA Q, ULTRAMAN, ULTRA SEVEN, RETURN OF ULTRAMAN, ULTRAMAN ACE, ULTRAMAN TARO and JUMBORG ACE, outside of Thailand.

    In a nutshell, that is the ruling, according to the Tokyo Superior Court. Unfortunately, because of Chaiyo's international rights to ancillary merchandising, it's possible that Chaiyo would try to block any legitimate release that Tsuburaya Productions would try to license in a territory such as North America. Not that they would win, but it would be another long court case... and would scare away any DVD label; it's a classic case of Catch-22.



    Incidentally, Tsuburaya Productions and Chaiyo Productions only officially worked together co-producing two movies in 1974, The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. The Monster Army (which I saw the Thai version of, BTW, and is the worst Ultraman movie ever) and Jumborg Ace & Giant. That was it!

    If you want an idea of how shady Chaiyo is, they asked Toei for permission to do a Kamen (Masked) Rider movie. Toei refused, so Chaiyo went behind their backs and produced one anyway (Hanuman and the 5 Riders, which was absolutely awful, even worse than The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. the Monster Army!). Tsuburaya didn't know how unfortunate it would become.

    More to the point, close contacts with Tsuburaya Productions including Bob Johnson and Keith Aiken, (who have also followed the court case in the Japanese media), have contacted TPC, who said that they have not licensed the original Ultraman series to any company in the US.

    Then, James Ballard of TokyoMonsters.com contacted BCI, who sent back this response:

    Dear Mr. Ballard,

    I understand and appreciate your opinion regarding the situation.

    We did license the title through someone dealing with Chaiyo directly. We went to Tsuburaya first. They told our agent that they did not have rights for the U.S. to grant us and that is how our agent ended up finding Chaiyo. Many people are misinformed about the rights. We have read the court documents from Japan and it shows that Chaiyo does indeed have the U.S. home video and merchandising rights.

    We would have preferred working with Tsuburaya and that is who we approached first. It would certainly make creating the DVDs easier as we’d have a lot more access to materials.

    I hope you will reconsider your position of not supporting the release. It’s certainly better than all the people that sell bootlegs on the internet. This is the official U.S. release.

    You might not agree with the company that won the rights but according to court records, they do own the rights. It is an unfortunate situation.

    I am a long time fan of the show and I grew up watching it. So, I wanted to release one of my favorite shows on DVD and we went through a lot of work to find it. We are a public company and would not do anything that would jeopardize our parent company. We did all the research to insure that we would be releasing the legal version of the show.

    Best regards,
    Cliff MacMillan

    Director of Acquisitions

    BCI Eclipse



    But as I stated above, Tsuburaya has not licensed the original series to anyone! They will not do so until the legal entanglements are cleared and Chaiyo is out of the picture. BCI was most probably eager to hurry up and bring the series here, but their acquisition is just a sham (they dealt with a third-party source involved with Chaiyo, which loves to spin-doctor the whole case in the most outrageous way possible), and they're only going to be dragged into this legal entanglement. If they get in trouble, they'd better NOT blame Tsuburaya, Chaiyo is to blame. They are determined to try to put Tsuburaya out of business and steal Ultraman from them.

    I hope Tsuburaya is able to foil this DVD release. Because if it does come out, I will NOT buy it. Period. I will not buy any Ultra items connected with Chaiyo.

    I'm sorry, but I just can't let this pass. I just wanted to let you all know about this, because I have a great amount of respect for the Tsuburaya family (Eiji's classic work at Toho goes without saying), and they have produced more than 40 years worth of quality entertainment. Their recent Ultra Series (Ultraman Nexus and the current Ultraman Max) and movies (Ultraman the Next) are top-notch sci-fi/superhero/monster FX entertainment (and Panasonic's Region 2 DVD releases of the classic Ultra Series are of mind-blowing quality!). But Tsuburaya can't bring them here because of these legal entanglements (and, as a result, they hold on to all the original materials). I don't want Chaiyo to take their legacy away from them in the most unfair way possible.
     
    #1 ryuuseipro, Jan 31, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 31, 2006
  2. Dark Fact

    Dark Fact Preaching evil since '04

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    I'm torn on this. As much as I love to see the original Ultraman in all its black & white glory, it would be downright disrespectful to purchase the "legal" taiwanese releases when the japanese creators have no say due to legal issues.

    But then again, this may be the only chance we may ever get to see original Ultraman on North American shores...ever! So I really don't know.
     
  3. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    Oh I know you want to see Ultraman and perhaps the rest of the Ultra Series on DVD here, I know you do. But you can only expect the absolute best from Tsuburaya, who still has all of the original master materials (including the audio masters for the old US English version). Chaiyo would most probably offer very crappy prints which look like umpteenth-gen bootlegs in comparison to the crystal-clear R2 DVDs (these even turn up on eBay). And I'm quite sure you won't get any real extras, as Tsuburaya has all that, too. (Really cool extras, too, like behind the scenes stuff, promos, documentaries, etc.)

    And if Chaiyo even tries to sell Panasonic's current R2 Ultraman DVDs, Panasonic would probably take immediate action (and Panasonic has much more lawyers than even Tsuburaya).
     
  4. Hades

    Hades Active Member

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    THis is interesting. However, I doubt most people will care, nor know about this. Heck, I didn't even know until reading this, but honestly, Ultraman found in BestBuy is still Ultraman...
     
  5. Dark Fact

    Dark Fact Preaching evil since '04

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    I'd rather not see Ultraman in the bargain bin but this Taiwanese release is surely asking for it.
     
  6. John Pannozzi

    John Pannozzi Still Gritty after all these years

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    I've heard about the Tsuburaya V. Chaiyo case before, but didn't read the whole story and I had no clue Chaiyo was so shady. Ryuuseipro, we've got to spread the word about this situation over the internet (and by "we", I mean you and the Henshin! Online guys). Here's an idea, how about we tell TV Shows On DVD about this? Lots of people read them, so at the least the word will be spread. Also, TV Shows On DVD has many connections to home video companies. Maybe they can convince BCI to cancel this release.
     
  7. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    Yes, please do that.

    I know BCI, a reputable company, means absolutely no harm, but they really must know, and not from a third-party source connected with Chaiyo (and I don't know how BCI contacted "Tsuburaya"). Because we don't want them to be caught in these legal entanglements.

    They should contact H!O, because they're very close friends with Tsuburaya (they also visit the sets of the shows & movies and are given their own exclusive coverage).
     
  8. John Pannozzi

    John Pannozzi Still Gritty after all these years

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    Join me at Home Theater Forum, ryuuseipro. Gord Lacey (co-owner of TV Shows on DVD.com) claims that "And according to BCI they've gone about obtaining the proper licenses to release the material.", But I not sure he's right. Please help me, ryuuseipro!
     
  9. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    Soon as I'm registered, I'll be there.
     
  10. DarthGonzo

    DarthGonzo Fourteen Years!

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    Ultraman was never in black and white. Only the original series, Ultra Q (which didn't include an Ultraman character) was in black and white.
     
  11. Dark Fact

    Dark Fact Preaching evil since '04

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    So, can you give me a rundown of the Ultraman series then? I could've sworn I saw a couple of clips of an old Ultraman series in black & white.
     
  12. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    Actually, only the first episode of Ultraman (rather, the "pre-premiere" stage show episode, "Ultraman's Birth - Eve") was in black and white, but that was it.
     
  13. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    Here are the basic Ultra Series (not counting movies, specials or mini-shows):

    -Ultra Q (1966) B&W
    -Ultraman (1966-1967) Pre-premiere episode was B&W
    -Ultra Seven (1967-1968)
    -Return of Ultraman (1971-1972)
    -Ultraman Ace (1972-1973)
    -Ultraman Tarou (1973-1974)
    -Ultraman Leo (1974-1975)
    -The Ultraman (1979-1980) Anime
    -Ultraman 80 (1980-1981)
    -Ultraman: Towards the Future (1990) Australian Series (AKA: Ultraman Great)
    -Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (1993) US Series
    -Ultraman Tiga (1996-1997)
    -Ultraman Dyna (1997-1998)
    -Ultraman Gaia (1998-1999)
    -Ultraman Neos (2000) (Originally direct to DVD)
    -Ultraman Cosmos (2001-2002)
    -Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy (2004)
    -Ultraman Nexus (2004-2005)
    -Ultraman Max (2005-2006) CURRENT
    -Ultraman Moebius (2006- ) UPCOMING

    Movies include:

    -Ultraman (1967) Compilation
    -6 Ultra Brothers Vs. the Monster Army (1974) Japan/Thai coproduction
    -Ultraman: The Adventure Begins (1981) Anime - US/Japan coproduction
    -Ultraman Zearth (1996)
    -Ultraman Zearth 2 (1997)
    -Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna (1997)
    -Ultraman Tiga, Ultraman Dyna & Ultraman Gaia (1998)
    -Ultraman Cosmos: First Contact (2001)
    -Ultraman Cosmos 2: The Blue Planet (2002)
    -Ultraman Cosmos Vs. Ultraman Nexus (2003)
    -ULTRAMAN (AKA: Ultraman the Next) (2004)

    There will be a movie released this Spring, which will be the 40th Anniversary film, and the jumpstart for Ultraman Moebius. Forgot the title, though.

    Mini-Shows Include:

    -Ultra Fight (1970-1972)
    -Andromelos (1983)

    Miscelaneous:

    -Ultraman Kids (1986) Kids' Anime
     
  14. Paul_Cousins

    Paul_Cousins Active Member

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    If this is true than that contract is probably a forgery.

    Typos such as this are a VERY big deal in the legal documents. And I guess the reason we have not had Ultraman imported to the U.S. is because some conman is trying to make a quick buck.
     
  15. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    It is a forgery. Unfortunately, they only let Chaiyo off easy reasonably, because of the hanko stamp signature, which is not only a Japanese tradition, but it can easily be faked. The document did not contain Noboru's hand-written signature. So if this were tried in the US, Chaiyo would lose, flat out. There's no way the hanko would fly in a US court.

    That's right. The newer Ultra Series, and the movie Ultraman the Next (which had limited screenings in California) have gotten great reviews, but Tsuburaya won't bring ANY of the Ultra Series here until Chaiyo is out of the way.

    Tiga is past any rights issue, as 4Kids has that. I don't think 4Kids had any faith in the show to begin with, and the dub treated the show with little respect (and Tsuburaya approved of it, however, even though the first episode's dub had two different versions). It was the intervention of the Ninja Turtles that killed the show. Everyone seems to agree that 4Kids is evil. :p

    Aside from Chaiyo, the reason we couldn't get the Ultra Series here aside from Ultraman is because, for a time, nobody was interested. Some weren't even interested in anything past Ultraman! (Even though Ultra Seven is hailed as a sci-fi masterpiece in Japan; Ignorance is not a virtue.) Tsuburaya really wanted to break into the North American market (and even produced two foreign Ultraman shows, which failed), but for a while, they gave up and produced new shows starting with Ultraman Tiga, which became a huge hit in Hong Kong, Brazil and other places (Tiga was the #2 show behind Pokemon in Brazil). They even wanted to offer the show to the Sci-Fi Channel, which turned it down. Saban was interested in buying Tiga back in the late 90s, but Tsuburaya refused their offer to Power Rangerize it. They would never allow an Americanization of their Japanese shows (which is good!), because they know that America has fans of the original show, and Ultraman is a respected genre in Japanese culture like Godzilla.

    But some other companies, including BCI, has indeed shown interest. If and when Tsuburaya finally wins against Chaiyo, we'll have to see if they and BCI come to terms (or not). We'll just have to wait and see . . .
     
  16. ChibiGoku

    ChibiGoku Something Not Quite Right

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    ...I'm curious. Two different versions you say? Explain :anime:
     
  17. Paul_Cousins

    Paul_Cousins Active Member

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    These guys really need to go to a U.S. anime convention to see how wrong they are. :sad:
     
  18. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    I heard one version had an alternate orchestral score. This was mentioned by Brad Warner in an interview, IIRC. I wouldn't be surprised if this was Tatsumi Yano's original score.
     
  19. ryuuseipro

    ryuuseipro Member

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    No, they're not. No offense, but don't ever limit Japanese pop-culture to anime. It's not like American anime fans/conventions hold even Godzilla in the highest regard. Ironically, many anime fans today dismiss anything that they think is not "hot" or "popular." This goes for anything before the mid-70s (like Toei's classic anime films from the late 50s-early 60s), or kids' shows like Doraemon. They hate Japanese superheroes besides Astro Boy or Gatchaman, even anime ones like 8-Man, Devilman, Casshern, etc.! In fact, note that anime and manga in the US have a very small selection of superhero stuff! US anime/manga fans have issues with superheroes, let alone giant monsters. So I couldn't care less what they think, and neither should Tsuburaya.

    There have been tokusatsu-related conventions here in the US; G-FEST (held every July in Chicago) and the now-defunct Asian Fantasy Film Expo (New Jersey), for example. And go to a dealers table at any SF con in general, and you'll be seeing lots of Ultraman toys and bootleg videos. They have as many Godzilla stuff there. At those cons, tokusatsu and anime coexist among a sea of other genres (Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, Lord of the Rings, etc.).

    For your information, Ultraman is and has always been more popular than Godzilla in Japan, believe it or not. The new shows are still going strong in Japan.
     
  20. Paul_Cousins

    Paul_Cousins Active Member

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    1. You should realize anime conventions have more than just anime. They have large sections dealing with manga, video games and live action Japanese sci-fi shows.

    2. That statement more true for Japan than for the U.S. A fad can last a few weeks in the U.S., but a fad can run it's course in only a few hours in Japan.

    3. How about Anime Weekend Atlanta (or what ever it is called presently) or the sci-fi convention Dragon Con.

    4. Let me get this straight, you complain about no Ultraman series in the U.S., then you state that there is no interest in the Ultraman series, now you complain about people buying Ultraman fansubs, which shows there is interests in the show from U.S. citizens. :confused:

    You really need to get you story straight and stop complaining out of both sides of your mouth. :sad:

    5. Bring the show to the states, as long as it's not hacked and edited, I'll give it a chance like all series I watch. But
     

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