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NYAF 2007: FUNimation Panel Report

by on December 9, 2007

FUNimation’s Brand Manager Adam Sheehan ran the FUNimation panel at the New York Anime Festival 2007 to fill in fans on the company’s new releases and upcoming events for 2008.

A robot from 'Vexille'We got into the panel a few minutes late, when Sheehan was already discussing the success of FUNimation on iTunes. Sheehan said that iTunes sales were really geared for sampling customers trying to find new titles. He pointed out that it was an easy way to get new people hooked on stuff to try out and also saved on shelf space, but that it was also a useful gateway to DVD purchases since the iTunes programming has no extras and dub soundtracks only. He also said that FUNimation is beginning to put their titles up on the Xbox Live on-line service for mostly the same strategic reasons. He added that the digital download service was a real winner for FUNimation, and that they are making an effort to get the digital rights to as many new shows as they can.

Sheehan also discussed Operation Anime, a support program for anime clubs and library programs. In return for regular survey participation, anime clubs and libraries will get a new DVD for screening once a month, tools to promote and run an anime club, a monthly newsletter with contests, and other extras. The aim is to start up new anime clubs and feed new audience members.

With the business aspects out of the way, Sheehan dove into discussing FUNimation’s recent anime titles starting with Hellgirl. Sheehan described the anime as “The Ring meets Death Note with a creepy little girl,” with a revenge fiction plot where vengeance comes at a steep cost. He stated the series has been received very well, and that the DVD comes with an art card, a making of video, and a promo video shoot.

Next was the Robotech: Shadow Chronicles a 2-disc special edition, which will include a lot of extra special features such as deleted scenes, storyboards, and an exclusive clip of the rarely seen Robotech 3000 promo.

After a long delay, FUNimation was finally able to release the Burst Angel OVA. Sheehan stated that they had been trying to get it out for years, but that the time delay meant they could include more special features on the DVD, such as “The Lightness and Darkness of Jo” short film that had only aired at Anime Expo about a year ago.

Sheehan then moved on to the enduring Dragon Ball franchise, saying that the first Dragon Ball Z remastered edition was the #1 seller of the year for FUNimation, and that they will be remastering the movies and the specials, starting with a special edition of the 2 uncut TV specials The History of Trunks and Bardock: Father of Goku. It will be in tin collection packaging on one DVD. The remastering was taken from new 35mm prints with cleaned up picture and sound. There will also be revised English dialogue and Japanese audio in 5.1 surround sound. As for the tin collection packaging, Sheehan joked, “We found out that shiny equals sales. Who knew?” This disc should be available on February 19, 2008.

Next was the Dragon Ball Z Season 4 DVD boxed set, which will include the complete Garlic Jr., Trunks, and Androids sagas. The remastered edition will pack 32 episodes on 6 discs, and be available on February 19, 2008. He also made a point to talk about the “Marathon Play” special feature, which removes all the recaps throughout the series, playing only the introduction, all the episodes, and then the end credits. Sheehan quipped that the new feature would “save yourself, like, a day” in watching the series, and added that he hopes to see it on more of FUNimation’s features in the future.

FUNimation was one of the few anime companies at the New York Anime Festival that is releasing high-definition material on Blu-ray DVD. Sheehan started with the Dragon Ball Z: Broly on Blu-ray, which puts 2 Broly features on 1 disc. Sheehan asked the rhetorical question of, “Why buy a Blu-ray edition of a 20-year old show?” and answered himself by saying that the show looked, “Beyond pure…like a cel animation framed on my TV.” However, during the Q&A, Sheehan said that they had no plans for more Blu-ray or HD DVD at this time, but that they were satisfied with their results for Dragon Ball Z. He also said that they were settled on the Blu-ray format for now.

During the Q&A, Sheehan mentioned that the movies for Dragon Ball Z will be in special editions, and that they are working to get Dragon Ball Z on iTunes. He added that doing Dragon Ball DVD releases is harder, since the rights to the first 13 episodes are still not held by Funi. as a result, he had no plans to announce for Dragon Ball at the moment.

Sheehan brought up the Viridian Collection, where entire season sets are repackaged at a more inexpensive price. The line began with Gunslinger Girl and Spiral boxed sets, both available now, and there will be many more coming next year. There are also Viridian editions of single volumes of Trinity Blood and Basilisk.

The Fruits Basket anime has also been successful for FUNimation, starting slowly and growing bigger as word-of-mouth spread. A slimpack boxed set is available now with 5 pieces of new art in total. He also mentioned a limited edition Fruits Basket lithograph, which will be signed by the cast and the ADR director. Pre-orders are being taken for the 250 lithographs now, and they will be available at RightStuf.com starting on December 31, 2007.

Other DVDs that were covered were the MMORPG tie-in Ragnarok — the first of 2 discs is out now with 9 episodes on it plus a 1 month subscription to the game. The holiday DVD My Santa! by Ken Akamatsu will be coming on DVD this Tuesday, December 11, as a self-contained 2 episode special that promises more harem hijinks fans of Akamatsu should be familiar with. Another “harem” anime will be arriving via FUNi on February 12, 2008 with the first volume of Shuffle about “Five girls are after one lucky fella.” Each DVD will come with a pin-up poster of a new girl.

The very different Black Blood Brothers will also be coming on February 12, 2008, with lots of vampires, government conspiracies, and anime horror. The 13-episode series will be spread over 3 volumes, and special features will include the original Japanese DVD covers, Japanese commentaries, TV spots, textless songs, and trailers. Finally, giant robots will rule the day in Aqarion, coming on March 11, 2008. Sheehan mentioned that this series will be the first that will be out in two releases, with 13 episodes on two volumes to save space and the cost to acquire the whole show. Sheehan said it was a bit of an experiment for FUNimation, but that, “If it works, we’ll do it for other shows.”

A real crowd pleaser was the preview of the One Piece uncut movie, which will arrive for a limited run in theaters in February, with the DVD available on February 19, 2008. He expected that the movie would be shown in at least 1 or 2 theaters in New York City. Sheehan said more information would be released in January about an upcoming TV broadcast.

Another crowd pleaser followed with the Tsubasa/xxxHolic double-feature DVD, which premiered at the NY Anime Festival right after the panel. The two movies will be released on one disc on February 19, 2008. The whole Tsubasa series is out now, and the xxxHolic TV series will begin coming out on March 25, 2008. Sheehan emphasized that both movies will still be understandable to new viewers.

<img border="0" src="http:https://news.toonzone.net/images/2007-12/NYAF/t-Vexille2.jpg" alt="Cast members of Vexille” align=”right” hspace=”5″ vspace=”3″>FUNimation’s Foreign Exchange is a special program to bring Japanese cinema live-action to theaters, such as with the live-action Basilisk movie released earlier. There will be several new movies coming out under the Foreign Exhange, such as Hana, a comedy-drama; Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea, a biopic of the famous Mongol conqueror; Love and Honor, a samurai drama; and the dazzling animated Vexille.

Panel attendees got to see a trailer for the live-action biopic Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea, which will be coming out in 2008 and aims to do something like Lawrence of Arabia for Mongols. Also coming from their Foreign Exchange partners Shochiku will be the dazzling animated feature Vexille. <img border="0" src="http:https://news.toonzone.net/images/2007-12/NYAF/t-Vexille2.jpg" alt="Cast members of Vexille” align=”right” hspace=”5″ vspace=”3″> Directed by Fumihiko Sori (Appleseed), the movie will also feature a soundtrack by Paul Oakenfold (The Matrix Reloaded). The movie begins with a ban on robotics research by the U.N. in 2067, which leads to Japan leaving the U.N. and isolating itself from the world behind a high-tech shield. Ten years later, a secret mission is launched to infiltrate Japan to discover what’s happening there. The movie will be in film festivals throughout the US in 2008, and in theaters and DVD later in the year. The trailer was very well received by the panel audience.

During the Q&A session, Sheehan revealed that they would not release the soundtrack for Vexille, but “hopefully someone will bring it to the States.”

When asked how FUNimation selects shows to license, Sheehan ran down a brief list of the questions that are asked: Are rights available? How much per episode for video? What rights will be obtained (such as for DVD, Internet, or both)? Who else is bidding on it? The balance between those factors determines the shows they go for.

In response to a question about the new anime series Darker than Black, Sheehan could only say that it was coming next year, with no hard date or casting information, but the expectation that it would be released by summertime.

When asked about the third and fourth seasons of Kodocha, Sheehan said that FUNimation would not be bringing out those seasons. He said that the series did well, but not as well as other shows, and that FUNimation opted to dedicate its resources to getting One Piece over the third and fourth seasons of Kodocha.

Many of the anime companies were asked about the shutdown of Geneon, but Sheehan said that at the moment, FUNimation has not picked up any of Geneon’s catalog and doesn’t know if they’re going to be.

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