Disney+ + Anime – TheOASG

Disney+ + Anime – TheOASG


Disney+ + Anime

Do you know who these two men are?

When the man on the left with the paper was young, he spent Saturday mornings watching shows like Astro Boy and Speed Racer.

Then, in 1985, the director of a movie gave him a preview of a certain animated film. This man was blown away by it, and years later, he would show the finished product to the woman who would become his wife.

That film director was the man on the right. The movie was Lupin The Third: The Castle Of Cagliostro, shown by Hayao Miyazaki to a young animator named John Lasseter, the other man in the picture above. Lasseter would end up being one of the founding members of the now-independent Pixar and ended up leading it and Disney’s animation department before leaving them due to admitted sexual misconduct.

Regardless of how you feel about John Lasseter (or the fact he was hired by a rival studio a couple of years ago despite being ousted during the #MeToo wave), his love of Japan and his friend Hayao Miyazaki can be seen in many Disney and Pixar hits.

For instance, in Cars 2, one of the races is held in Japan. Big Hero 6, the first Marvel work to have an animation film from Disney, is set in a city with heavy Japanese influences to honor Big Hero 6‘s comic book roots. Finding Nemo features a kid reading a manga about Mr. Incredible.

Even going beyond Lasseter’s admitted fanboyism of Japan, the country has other ties to the House of Mouse, from Disney Channel sitcom specials set in Japan to TV series based on Disney feature films to video games to toys and more.

I’ve briefly discussed the connections between Disney and Japan before, and you can do more research about topics like Disney being the distributor for Studio Ghibli for years.

Disney would later dabble more with distributing Japanese works by airing anime on its Disney XD channel, including Naruto Shippuden, Pokémon, Beyblade, Yo-kai Watch, and Doraemon.

Disney XD targets the 6-to-11 age demographic, particularly boys, so it’s no surprise most of the anime shows they’ve aired over the years are more child-friendly and action/fantasy-heavy. Many of these have been localized by licensors to make them more accessible to the general public, but Disney XD does use the phrase “Anime Block”. But the current anime offerings appear to be limited to iterations of Pokémon and Beyblade, so it’s not much of a programming segment.

That may not change for Disney XD, but the same can’t be said for another part of Disney’s catalog.

The APAC Content Showcase

On October 14th, Disney+ held a special event centered around and for East Asian and Pacific countries like Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia. The streaming service is debuting in many of these countries over the next few months, and the APAC Content Showcase was meant to highlight some of shows from that region that will be available on Disney+.

There, Disney+ highlighted over 20 titles, with plans to have at least 50 by 2023.

Some are in production, but among the reveals are:

  • A documentary about the K-Pop group Blackpink;
  • A drama adaptation of the webtoon Kiss Sixth Sense;
  • A series based on Indonesian superheroes in the vein of the Marvel Cinematic Universe;
  • The third season of an animated Malaysian show about a 12-year-old who ends up a secret agent.

You can check out the full list broken down by country here. And yes, Japan is included. There are a few J-drama in the Disney+ pipeline to go with the K-drama and C-drama. One is a horror show, another is a medical series, and the other is a romcom based on a true story.

But that’s not all. Disney Twisted-Wonderland, the smartphone game the author of Black Butler helped created, will be getting an anime adaptation. Plus, the following anime will be added to Disney+:

When I first heard the news, I was reminded of a recent but now-deleted Tweet. Here is the quote courtesy of Anime News Network:

“Anyone intrigued or thinking of donating to AnimeTube’s Kickstarter should… not,” Media OCD’s Justin Sevakis tweeted. “They’re about a decade too late to that business model AND competing with Netflix, Warner Media, NBC Universal… hell, even Disney has been sniffing for anime streaming rights.”

Well, here they are.

An Experiment or a New Era?

First of all, though, there is a big air of uncertainty surrounding many of these announcements. These series are “subject to local availability”, according to Disney. So while Tatami Time Machine Blues and others are exclusive to Disney+ in Japan, it does not mean that it will air on Disney+ US, Canada, or any other global version of Disney+. This disclaimer could just be because Disney+ isn’t available all around the world just yet, or they’ve been outbid/passed on rights in other territories. It’s hard to imagine, however, even if these aren’t available on more Disney+ versions that Disney won’t move further toward locking down worldwide streaming rights.

Their initial anime lineup is a bit surprising though. I expected if Disney got into anime licensing, it’d be more kid-fare, like the shows they’ve aired before. However, one is a redo of a series already made and based on an illustration and rising in fame because of a Hatsune Miku song, and another is a follow-up. Just as interesting that two of the four is not completely fresh to viewers’ TV screens.

Twisted-Wonderland, on the other hand, is the kind of project I see Disney+ really pushing for in the future. Disney has already had anime before (Stitch!), and plus plenty of Disney-related properties have gotten the Japanese manga and/or anime treatment, like the recently released Star Wars: Visions with episodes from studios like Production I.G., Trigger, and Science SARU.

Besides, there are two words that would make perfect sense for Disney+ to go deeper with anime and make it available worldwide: Kingdom. Hearts.

It has been rumored that a Kingdom Hearts series is coming to Disney+, but it’s been something wished-for by many fans for decades. An announcement would align perfectly with the 20th Anniversary event in 2022.

Even beyond that, with their vast catalog of characters, it’s easy to imagine more projects from Japanese (and perhaps other foreign) studios. Plus, if Disney+ is acquiring sequels to air around the world, they may also go after the originals.

Disney could either pay to be on production committees like other streaming services, or they could just enter the bidding war. Either way, licensing costs are likely to keep climbing if another big conglomerate is willing to enter the picture. And if streaming companies are paying more, eventually, consumers are paying more.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints about “needing yet another service to get all the anime”. Let’s just get something out of the way that I think people are forgetting:

You. Are. Never. Going. To. Get. Every. Show.

Even before streaming became a thing, remember cable and satellite? Even if you subscribed to the ultimate, top-of-the-line package, there were channels you had to buy a special subscription for, like HBO. Even then, if you signed up for every channel…some channels just wouldn’t be available on that provider. Almost every household in America had at least one well-known or significant channel missing from their home TV service whether by choice or not, and as such, there was a new hit that they weren’t available to watch. That still happens today even with cord cutting still rising.

Disney Twisted-Wonderland Anime Key Visual

So rarity and exclusivity is hardly something new, even though, of course, we’d all love it to not. But unlike in the days of old, it’s super easy to jump in and out of a plan. I agree it’s a gripe if you want to, say, have a limited amount of video apps on your phones or worry that someone else is going to use your profile, but this is hardly the world-ending tragedy some people act like it is.

A more valid complaint though is home video releases. Disney doesn’t seem interested in producing Blu-rays or other formats for its exclusives, so for those with lackluster Internet connections or who prefer the quality of physical media have good reason to be disappointed more titles won’t make it on their shelves or be able to purchase a digital version of. There are also questions about how exactly Disney will release these anime if indeed they will be available outside Japan (I mean, even Netflix is moving toward faster releases) and how localization will be handled.

Whether this will be just an experiment or part of a larger expansion is to be determined, but Disney’s announcement for anime (and other Asian and Pacific region works) is more evidence of how fandoms are becoming more global and less niche. Companies are going after foreign works because they believe they will be popular in their homeland, and judging from releases like Netflix’s Squid Game, they’re not wrong.

While perhaps a South Korean death game drama was probably not what people would have bet on becoming a global phenomenon, Disney pushing more into anime was never a sucker’s bet. That doesn’t mean they didn’t throw in a few unexpected revelations with their show choices and lack of clarity of where these titles will air, and yes, fans have reasons to be concerned about home video versions, schedules, and the like. But there is a lot of potential if more anime and Japanese shows head to Disney+, and I’m sure a lot of studios in Japan love the thought of bidding wars for their new shows are likely going to go up.

Do you subscribe to Disney+? What do you think about Disney+ adding anime, J-drama, and other foreign works? Do you want to see more Disney-related productions like Twisted-Wonderland?





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