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Old 2011-01-25, 00:02   Link #1
TinyRedLeaf
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Anime production committees: How do they work?

It strikes me as odd that, amid all the hand wringing and hair pulling over the perceived problems in the anime industry, we don't have a definitive thread to explain how and why anime production committees are formed to produce animated work in Japan.

To be sure, it wasn't until a few years ago that I became just vaguely aware of the process — and it seems that I'm not alone in this regard. Most of us have only the foggiest view of the various economic realities that both enable and limit the industry in its current state.

This lack of information often leads to a great deal of misunderstanding among anime fans, I feel. We're brimming with ideas for changing and energising what we perceive to be an industry in stagnation, but unless we actually know the processes by which anime is produced — the industry's value chain — I wonder about the extent to which any of our ideas are realistic.

Case in point: It seems ridiculously obvious to many of us that, by tapping a larger international market via the Internet, anime producers could cut out the middlemen — that is, the production committees — and earn revenue directly.

So, why isn't anyone doing so? The answer, I feel, is more than just a matter of costs and economies of scale. Could it not also be cultural, a matter of aspirations? Being a big hit online is not the same as being a big hit on TV or the silver screen. The "visibility" and recognition you'd get is qualitatively different. But, in order to get onto TV and cinemas, producers have to work with the various stakeholders who control these means of distribution.

And, voila, committees are formed.

============

So, those of you who are knowledgeable about this sector — or better yet, if you actually work in it — do share what you know.

For example, I have an old friend who is the producer of his own animation studio in Singapore. Granted, the industry here is vastly different in terms of size, scale and talent from that of Japan's. Nonetheless, his experience provides insight into the way the system works, not just in Singapore or Japan, but internationally.

I imagine that those who study animation, or even media/film studies in general, would be able to share even more? If you can, please do. Much thanks in advance.

============

To put the larger question into a smaller, easier-to-understand perspective, pretend that you're Tadayasu, Daigoro and Hideaki, three Tokyo hommies who want to start an independent anime studio.

What are the resources they'd need, and what are the hoops they'd have to jump through before they get to make and distribute their anime?
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Old 2011-01-25, 00:27   Link #2
TJR
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The gist of it is that most animation companies are unable to secure the financing (i.e. banks won't lend since most anime projects lose money and hold little promise in terms of the return on investment) needed to produce a TV series or movie. Hence, they rely on external investors, such as broadcasters and advertising agencies.

Given the risk involved with individual anime productions, the committee structure allows each investor to spread the risk amongst themselves and secure rights to whatever they're interested in. For instance, a DVD distributor might invest and negotiate for home video rights, while a toy maker might invest for the sake of merchandise rights. A manga publisher will usually be a major investor since they have the potential to make loads of cash via increased readership. Anime studios with cash on hand might invest too for a piece of the pie, but they typically negotiate small stakes (exception = Gonzo, who tried to challenge the system and make big investments. IG Port also makes big investments in the rare project. Both got money by successfully going public).

Bear in mind that not every show is financed by committee. In the case of children's anime, a show might be completely funded by a single broadcaster. However, this kind of setup is far less common now.
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Old 2011-01-25, 01:04   Link #3
Taufiq91
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Good answer TJR.

But here's a question:

Would anime companies open up to foreign companies for production of their animes?

Currently, Madhouse & production IG are the only studio (besides Toei) to open up to Hollywood to produce animes. Madhouse made Halo Legends, Supernatural and the Marvel Animes, whereas Production IG made lots of money with animated segments for Kill Bill & the Animatrix.

So, if anime studios have no one to invest in Japan, would they be willing to look up to foreign & Hollywood producers? For example, Would JC Staff do an anime with the support of Comcast/NBC? Would Manglobe help animate lost old 1960's Doctor Who episodes for the BBC?

So Would anime studios go that far just to get funding and sponsors?
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Old 2011-01-25, 01:36   Link #4
Simon
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Originally Posted by TJR View Post
Given the risk involved with individual anime productions, the committee structure allows each investor to spread the risk amongst themselves and secure rights to whatever they're interested in.
So when Tadayasu, Daigoro and Hideaki want to secure backing for their independent anime that isn't tied to any existing property, they basically put on suits and shop around, giving differently targeted pitches to different potential investors?

Something I've been wondering about since the Fractale drama is how the committees resolve internal differences (Japanese business being big on consensus and all that). Do the various members have a voice proportional to their share of the risk, or is the decision-making structure more complicated than that?
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Old 2011-01-25, 01:46   Link #5
bayoab
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Case in point: It seems ridiculously obvious to many of us that, by tapping a larger international market via the Internet, anime producers could cut out the middlemen — that is, the production committees — and earn revenue directly.

So, why isn't anyone doing so? The answer, I feel, is more than just a matter of costs and economies of scale. Could it not also be cultural, a matter of aspirations? Being a big hit online is not the same as being a big hit on TV or the silver screen. The "visibility" and recognition you'd get is qualitatively different. But, in order to get onto TV and cinemas, producers have to work with the various stakeholders who control these means of distribution.

And, voila, committees are formed.
But then an animation company has to handle distribution, signing artists, selling rights, etc, themselves. This is something these companies simply aren't made to do. They are made to draw an episode of anime. There are a few companies that do this like Production I.G., but it's simply easier for a company to focus on what they are best at and let other companies handle the other sectors they are good at. Also, cutting out the middlemen means they need to hire people to cover all these other jobs which costs them even more up front.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Taufiq91 View Post
Would anime companies open up to foreign companies for production of their animes?
Has happened many times in the past. ADV was on multiple production committees (Kaleido Star), Cartoon Network co producted IGPX (iirc) and Big O S2, Manga Ent was on the GITS committee, Geneon USA was on Haibane's, etc. Afro Samurai is basically a Gonzo and Funi joint co-pro.

Quote:
Currently, Madhouse & production IG are the only studio (besides Toei) to open up to Hollywood to produce animes.
Because these are Western friendly studios. As was Gonzo and a few others. They produce stuff that the western market likes more than Japan. Their series usually flop in Japan so they have to look outside for work.

Quote:
So, if anime studios have no one to invest in Japan, would they be willing to look up to foreign & Hollywood producers? For example, Would JC Staff do an anime with the support of Comcast/NBC? Would Manglobe help animate lost old 1960's Doctor Who episodes for the BBC?
They'll do whatever as contract work. Except it's more of a "Would Hollywood bother with JC Staff or just find some cheaper Korean studio". Does JC Staff stuff do particularly well in the West? Not exactly, so why not use a studio who usually does well.

Quote:
So Would anime studios go that far just to get funding and sponsors?
If they had to, yes. But most of them don't.
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Old 2011-01-25, 02:07   Link #6
Taufiq91
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Okay. let me ask this question as an investor & producer:

I want to make an anime about wine. it's about a Japanese owner of a wine farm in Napa Valley, California and the oddballs who work there (Think of Working!! meets Sideway). Now, i want Kyoto Animation to produce it since i'm a huge fan of their work on K-On!! and Haruhi, and i want it to be 26 episodes as a co-production between KyoAni and Comedy Central.

Now, what are the risks involved and what are the chances of success for this anime in the US comedy market & the Japanese anime market?
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Old 2011-01-25, 02:46   Link #7
Le Communard
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I can't answer anything specific on this topic--it's something I'd like to know more about as well, but Ian Condry, who is pretty well known in animanga scholarship is publishing a book this year on the animation production that I'm sure will have a lot of really interesting information on stuff like this if his Japanese Hip-Hop book is anything to go off of. On the other hand, it will be rather academic as it's really meant for anthropologists and not necessarily fans.

Last edited by Le Communard; 2011-01-25 at 03:05.
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Old 2011-01-27, 06:53   Link #8
Olivia_688
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this is a very interesting topic. cheers to the TS!
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Old 2011-01-27, 10:56   Link #9
mindovermatter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taufiq91 View Post
Okay. let me ask this question as an investor & producer:

I want to make an anime about wine. it's about a Japanese owner of a wine farm in Napa Valley, California and the oddballs who work there (Think of Working!! meets Sideway). Now, i want Kyoto Animation to produce it since i'm a huge fan of their work on K-On!! and Haruhi, and i want it to be 26 episodes as a co-production between KyoAni and Comedy Central.

Now, what are the risks involved and what are the chances of success for this anime in the US comedy market & the Japanese anime market?
hmm, this is interesting...
how do you plan to sell your idea? Do you have a script or story board?
I think aspiring writers usually get a pilot episode (5-15min) done (on their own dime) in order to pitch it to the production company. If you just mail them your idea, there is no way to say that they'll even look at it.
I've actually also got a very loose idea for an anime, though no real details about it. I wasn't really planning to ever write anything for it though.
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Old 2011-01-27, 19:51   Link #10
Bri
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
Case in point: It seems ridiculously obvious to many of us that, by tapping a larger international market via the Internet, anime producers could cut out the middlemen — that is, the production committees — and earn revenue directly.

So, why isn't anyone doing so? The answer, I feel, is more than just a matter of costs and economies of scale. Could it not also be cultural, a matter of aspirations? Being a big hit online is not the same as being a big hit on TV or the silver screen. The "visibility" and recognition you'd get is qualitatively different. But, in order to get onto TV and cinemas, producers have to work with the various stakeholders who control these means of distribution.

And, voila, committees are formed.
There are certainly some local conditions at work. The anime industry and Japanese small and medium firms in general are characterized by subcontracting and a lack of vertical integration. As Bayoab stated, this limits most production companies to their core work. There some of the larger studios who found different solutions like diversification (Production IG) or have a large parent company (i.e. Sunrise, Madhouse, Satelight)

Broadband penetration in Japan was fairly slow to develop. Telecom monopolies kept the cost high and 3G on mobiles was until recently the most widely used form of internet. Not exactly suited for the distribution of anime.

A friend did some translation work for video game firms in Japan and he told me that the international angle is pretty much limited to selling licenses. Language barriers and complications in regard to rights and partner ships make it difficult for individual production companies to sell their material directly abroad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
To put the larger question into a smaller, easier-to-understand perspective, pretend that you're Tadayasu, Daigoro and Hideaki, three Tokyo hommies who want to start an independent anime studio.

What are the resources they'd need, and what are the hoops they'd have to jump through before they get to make and distribute their anime?
Makoto Shinkai showed that if you can get by on fairly limited resources to get an actual anime made as long as you are prepared to do a lot of the work yourself. Although his contacts in the industry from past work must have helped him a lot.

Studio Artland started off with 3 people and 2 desks in a single room of an office building doing mostly subcontracting work before moving on to bigger projects. I would assume this is the most common approach by smaller anime producers. The real game changer is when a producer can keep control of the IP.
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Old 2011-01-27, 21:54   Link #11
Taufiq91
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Originally Posted by mindovermatter View Post
hmm, this is interesting...
how do you plan to sell your idea? Do you have a script or story board?
I think aspiring writers usually get a pilot episode (5-15min) done (on their own dime) in order to pitch it to the production company. If you just mail them your idea, there is no way to say that they'll even look at it.
I've actually also got a very loose idea for an anime, though no real details about it. I wasn't really planning to ever write anything for it though.
of course i will write a script. If you have an idea, always start it off with a script immediately!
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Old 2011-10-21, 16:04   Link #12
domoarigato1995
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Originally Posted by Taufiq91 View Post
Would anime companies open up to foreign companies for production of their animes?

Currently, Madhouse & production IG are the only studio (besides Toei) to open up to Hollywood to produce animes. Madhouse made Halo Legends, Supernatural and the Marvel Animes, whereas Production IG made lots of money with animated segments for Kill Bill & the Animatrix.
Anime studios have worked with foreigners, Tekkonkinkreet, for example, was actually directed by an American.

TMS Entertainment, for example, worked with foreigners (some being then-Disney animators) on Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. But TMS set up a US division.

I'm not really sure it would count as anime if it was a movie produced by (i.e.) Madhouse or Gonzo and (i.e.) 9 Story or Nelvana.

During my Grade 9 year I kept thinking of cartoons I would make with Japanese animators. But my oldest brother tells me Japan hiring foreigners to work on animation would be a last resort.

...

If anyone doesn't get the previous posts on this thread, a production committee consists of an animation studio (of course), an advertising agency (such as Hakuhodo or Dentsu), a broadcaster (whether it's Fuji TV or TBS), a music company (such as VAP, EMI Japan, Sony Music Japan or even King Records), a toy/video game company(s) (such as Bandai, or Takara Tomy) and a film distributor (like Toei, Toho or Shochiku)

Sometimes, the same music company that sells the anime soundtrack may also release said anime on DVD and Blu-ray. However, usually a film company's home video subsidiary, record company, or even a division of a toy company (not many exist as far as I'm aware, Bandai distributes Bandai-owned TV shows and movies on DVD as Bandai Visual, BTW).

I've heard of films being released by various distributors in Japan over the years, such as Pony Canyon, King Records and Sanrio etc.

Last edited by relentlessflame; 2011-10-23 at 21:54. Reason: please edit rather than double-posting
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Old 2011-10-21, 16:41   Link #13
Kyuu
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There is one episode in Ore no Imouto, which pits Kirino as a creator presenting her product in front of a production committee. While yes, it's an anime and doesn't depict the real thing -- you can still infer as to which kind of things happen in there as well as what a production crew considers before even taking on a project.
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Old 2011-10-21, 17:01   Link #14
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Originally Posted by Kyuu View Post
There is one episode in Ore no Imouto, which pits Kirino as a creator presenting her product in front of a production committee. While yes, it's an anime and doesn't depict the real thing -- you can still infer as to which kind of things happen in there as well as what a production crew considers before even taking on a project.
I believe Yamakan said something about it:


Said something on how he realized how animators treat/feel about the producers... etc.
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Old 2011-10-22, 06:49   Link #15
Sides
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Originally Posted by Taufiq91 View Post
Okay. let me ask this question as an investor & producer:

I want to make an anime about wine. it's about a Japanese owner of a wine farm in Napa Valley, California and the oddballs who work there (Think of Working!! meets Sideway). Now, i want Kyoto Animation to produce it since i'm a huge fan of their work on K-On!! and Haruhi, and i want it to be 26 episodes as a co-production between KyoAni and Comedy Central.

Now, what are the risks involved and what are the chances of success for this anime in the US comedy market & the Japanese anime market?
Well if you are a producer who also funds the project, it doesn't really matter, you are still the or one producer, so it would be your job to get things done. Most producers do run an own company, with a lot of underlings, to get things sorted, and i reckon it is pretty much the same in japan. So the question you were asking, would be part of the job of a producer/production company.
To be honest, I don't really understand your question, what exactly do you want to do? If you want to write and direct your own series, sent the idea to a production company. If you want to create you own production company, it would be better to do an internship or some volunteer work at one, to get the experience and contacts you want. Of course if you have money you can buy in, but prepared to get ripped off.
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Old 2011-10-22, 07:13   Link #16
Pachael
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A combination of explanations from zepy (come back zepy) and omo should suffice, the former for production committees and the latter for explanation of sales and profit vis a vis midnight animu versus the rest.
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Old 2011-10-22, 10:39   Link #17
ahelo
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Originally Posted by bhl88 View Post
I believe Yamakan said something about it:


Said something on how he realized how animators treat/feel about the producers... etc.
Lol I thought that was Chiaki Kon. That Oreimo episode pretty much described him in every way.

Oh wait Chiaki kon's a she.
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