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Japanese Animation Catching on in U.S.
AP via Yahoo ^ | Thu Dec 9, 3:30 PM ET | By YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer

Posted on 12/09/2004 10:24:12 PM PST by Simmy2.5

By YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer

TOKYO - Animation in America once meant Mickey Mouse, Snow White and Winnie the Pooh. These days, it's just as likely to mean Japanese fighting cyborgs, doe-eyed schoolgirls and sinister monsters — thanks in large part to people like John Ledford.

The 36-year-old American is one of the top foreign distributors of Japanese "manga" comics and animation, known as "anime," building his fortune on a genre that is rapidly changing from a niche market to a mass phenomenon.

Ledford, who's so busy his dubbing studio in Houston runs 24 hours a day, says the key to the success of Japanese manga and anime in the United States is their widely varied, cutting-edge subject matter.

"We're kind of like the anti-Disney," Ledford, a bespectacled, fast-talking man with a friendly smile, said during a recent visit to Tokyo. "Disney is very family type. We are appealing to the video-game, PlayStation, Generation X, Generation Y kind of crowd in America."

Although American animation releases, such as "Toy Story," "Shrek" and "The Incredibles," continue to wow audiences, they are largely aimed at children. Japanese anime and manga spans a wide range of topics, including science fiction, horror-thrillers and soap-operatic melodrama. At American video-rental shops, whole shelves are taken up by titles like "Ninja Resurrection," "Neon Genesis Evangelion" and "Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040."

One animation, "Ghost in the Shell" takes place in a futuristic world, where memories become individual identities that jump like spirits from one mechanical body to another, a dark science fiction that raises questions about death and the metaphysical threat from technology.

Another, "Apocalpyse Meow," chronicles the adventures of three brave rabbits fighting as American soldiers in the Vietnam War. The rabbits tromp through jungles dressed in camouflage and wielding machine guns, taking part in nightmarish battles amid smoking explosions and hovering helicopters.

Kathie Borders, who runs Wizzywig Collectibles, a store devoted to manga and anime in Ann Arbor, Mich., which carries Ledford's videos and books, says the popularity of Pokemon and YuGiOh! — perhaps the best-known characters — has propelled a boom in anime that's not only for the usually male, 20-something video-game-loving crowd. It's now drawing fans of all ages, and increasingly, women.

"They're fascinated by the difference in the culture," Borders said in a telephone interview, giving as an example stories starring Japanese schoolgirls. "They like reading something that's not the normal, run-of-the-mill story that they might have been used to."

The heroines may wear uniforms and go to schools that have strict rules compared to American schools, but universal themes, such as falling in love and growing up, transcend cultural boundaries, she said.

Ledford, who speaks a little Japanese, started out by bringing video games from Japan to the United States after dropping out of college. He later expanded into manga and anime.

His first anime deal was in 1992 for the cartoon version of his best-selling video-game "Devil Hunter Yoko," about a teenager who defeats goblins — an investment returned in full in just three months. More recently, Ledford's A.D. Vision Inc. has been taking part in funding for Japanese animation. His film unit now records $150 million in annual sales.

Ledford also has 1,000 manga books under license and publishes Newtype USA, the English-language version of a top manga and animation monthly magazine. His Anime Network moved from video-on-demand to a national cable network in July.

Manga and anime may not be for everyone with their heavy dosage of corny romanticism, blood-splattering violence and pubescent sense of erotica. But both are clearly no longer just for Japanese geeks as their counterparts in the United States, Europe and other parts of Asia simply can't get enough.

Shoji Udagawa, vice president at Kadokawa Pictures Inc., a major Japanese film studio, said Ledford understands anime and can help create works that will appeal to Americans as well as to Japanese. Americans tend to like anime with a darker ambiance such as those with robots, he said.

"He fits in well with Japanese but he has something that Japanese don't have," Udagawa said.

Bandai Co. Ltd., a major Japanese toymaker, and electronics and entertainment giant Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE - news) (news - web sites). also distribute anime in the United States, such as "Gundam," "Astro Boy" and "Cowboy Bebop." But the established companies tend to look for sure winners, Ledford says, while he offers a broader lineup.

Pokemon alone earned about $29 billion around the world since 1997, and the U.S. anime business, including licensed character goods and box-office revenue, is estimated at $4 billion a year, according to the Japanese government.

Works like "Spirited Away" by Hayao Miyazaki, which won an Oscar and the Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival, are helping raise anime's reputation.

Kelly Lamb, a 14-year-old Ann Arbor high school student, has never been to Japan but is an avid anime fan and sometimes makes her own anime-inspired costumes.

"It's so funny and so hysterical," she said of "Excel Saga," one of her favorites. "If you're really feeling down, it's so funny it cheers you up."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Japan; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: anime; antidisney; astroboy; disney; gospeedracergo; japan; kimbathewhitelion; occult
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Being a fan of Japanese Animation, from dark sci-fi series like Ghost in the Shell, Evangelion, to more light hearted series like Tenchi Muyo or Spirited Away, it is becoming clear that it is becoming a phenomenon here (especially with some series like Pokemon. :-/ Though I'm not a fan of this, you can't argue that even now it still has appeal). Some of the stories are truely amazing that I wished more American animation would offer. Now yes, many are quite violent or have a butt load of unnesscessary sex (and yes, themes that would raise eyebrows here). Like all formats, it has its extremes. But, with the ones I've seen, they all offer great stories that are missing from Hollywood. Just as long as you keep away from the more bizarre and quite disgusting ones.

I am still a fan of American animation, especially with great movies like The Incredibles. But, as of right now, it is clear that anime is pretty much taking over.

1 posted on 12/09/2004 10:24:13 PM PST by Simmy2.5
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yeah but what about tentacle pr0n


2 posted on 12/09/2004 10:25:23 PM PST by KneelBeforeZod (Deus Lo Volt!)
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To: Simmy2.5

Took way to long for Lupin III to be released over if you ask me. Too much mecha and not enough variety in what gets imported (Japan DOES have diverse productions).


3 posted on 12/09/2004 10:27:21 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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To: Simmy2.5

I had to double-check the dateline.

This would have been news in 12/1999.
Done deal now.


4 posted on 12/09/2004 10:28:14 PM PST by Boundless
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To: Boundless

Obviously some people are a little slow on this trend...like the AP.


5 posted on 12/09/2004 10:29:15 PM PST by Simmy2.5 (Kerry has been relieved of duty!)
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To: KneelBeforeZod

Yeah, those tentacle monsters sure seem to have sex on the brain.


6 posted on 12/09/2004 10:30:27 PM PST by elmer fudd
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To: Simmy2.5
But, as of right now, it is clear that anime is pretty much taking over.

What I've seen of it looks dark, perverse, violent, sexual repressed and sexually explicit (at the same time!), immature, and misogynistic.

Other than that it's pretty good....

7 posted on 12/09/2004 10:31:46 PM PST by freebilly
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To: KneelBeforeZod

Like I said, it does have its extremes. And I do mean extremes! :-P

And I truely never understand the appeal of this. And I hope I never! All well, I'm going to stick to more saner anime thank you.


8 posted on 12/09/2004 10:32:47 PM PST by Simmy2.5 (Kerry has been relieved of duty!)
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To: Simmy2.5
This isn't exactly new...


9 posted on 12/09/2004 10:33:02 PM PST by swilhelm73 (Dowd wrote that Kerry was defeated by a "jihad" of Christians...Finally a jihad liberals oppose!)
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Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: Boundless

AP picked it up from a local story in the Houston Chronicle (local business recently inked a cable deal).

The Comical also ran a hackwork piece on "midnight movies" yesterday that hyped one theater and few "cult" movies. If you can rent it at Kroger's video department, there is little need to screen a second run movie for $8. Can't even bring alcohol into the theater now (they applied for a beer and wine permit).


11 posted on 12/09/2004 10:36:53 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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To: freebilly
What I've seen of it looks dark, perverse, violent, sexual repressed and sexually explicit (at the same time!), immature, and misogynistic.

This sounds like the tv commercial I saw for ABCDisney's new tv show Desperate Housewives.

12 posted on 12/09/2004 10:38:19 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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To: Simmy2.5
Let's see Witch Hunter Robin, R.O.D, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, Wolf Rain, and Trigun, but the best of the crop is Hellsing.

These are the assertional anime and the ones that happen to be in my collection. Of course the only other animation I have are the two heavy Metals, American POP and Batman Beyond.

I have come to dislike any of the so called main stream animation.

13 posted on 12/09/2004 10:38:48 PM PST by dts32041 (When did the Democratic party stop being the political arm of the KKK?)
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To: Simmy2.5

I used to watch 'Robotech' and both versions of 'Voltron' when I was a kid. Good stuff.


14 posted on 12/09/2004 10:39:57 PM PST by LdSentinal
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To: Simmy2.5

I was geek before geek was cool.


15 posted on 12/09/2004 10:41:05 PM PST by Liberal Classic (No better friend, no worse enemy. Semper Fi.)
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To: weegee
What I've seen of it looks dark, perverse, violent, sexual repressed and sexually explicit (at the same time!), immature, and misogynistic.

"This sounds like the tv commercial I saw for ABCDisney's new tv show Desperate Housewives."

Either that or an NBA game....

16 posted on 12/09/2004 10:42:31 PM PST by freebilly
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To: Simmy2.5

I've got 20 year old imported laserdiscs of Osamu Tezuka films: Cleopatra Queen Of Sex (1969) and a double disc collection of short films (3minutes to 40+ minutes) with work from the mid 1960s up into the 1980s. Both have interviews with Tezuka (in Japan) and Cleopatra even has a commentary track.

Too bad my Japanese isn't that good (I was only able to fit one semester into my schooling, got an A).

Again, what I want isn't what gets celebrated by the mainstream anime fans.


17 posted on 12/09/2004 10:42:35 PM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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To: Simmy2.5
Okay, I'm an old stick-in-the-mud, but cartoons ought to be ... funny.
I've seen some of these Japan-made toons and IMO the drawing is not to my taste and the few attempts at humor are pathetic.
Give me Foghorn Leghorn, Tom & Jerry, etc. any-day.
18 posted on 12/09/2004 10:46:14 PM PST by Mustng959 (In loving memory of those that gave their all to preserve our Freedoms!)
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I'll put these guys up against any japanimation heros any day!
19 posted on 12/09/2004 10:51:28 PM PST by KneelBeforeZod (Deus Lo Volt!)
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To: KneelBeforeZod

lol


20 posted on 12/09/2004 10:53:51 PM PST by mastercylinder (This country was founded on freedom so you're free to love it or leave it)
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To: Simmy2.5
I think Spirited Away is my favorite.
21 posted on 12/09/2004 11:06:18 PM PST by supercat (To call the Constitution a 'living document' is to call a moth-infested overcoat a 'living garment'.)
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oh I think US animation at the top of its game

22 posted on 12/09/2004 11:13:10 PM PST by KneelBeforeZod (Deus Lo Volt!)
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To: swilhelm73
Wow, I sure never expected to see that book on FR. I co-wrote and -drew that book (and the other Star Blazers comics) for Voyager ten years ago. It's nice to know there are fans of the good old Yamato (and of my old work) here on FreeRepublic!
23 posted on 12/09/2004 11:21:39 PM PST by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: Simmy2.5

24 posted on 12/09/2004 11:32:38 PM PST by martin_fierro (Make a jazz noise here)
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To: Simmy2.5

Just a small sample of my faves!

BTW, someone said it earlier, but this is NOT news. Anime has been big for a while now.

25 posted on 12/09/2004 11:36:58 PM PST by Future Snake Eater ("Stupid grandma leaver-outers!"--Tom Servo)
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To: martin_fierro

some people don't know but Speed Racer was/is one of the Godfathers of Japanese animation that made it's way to US television in 1967 and still lives today in one form or another. Go Speed Racer Go!


26 posted on 12/09/2004 11:37:16 PM PST by RacerX1128
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To: Future Snake Eater
Well I knew that the anime phenomenon started a while ago. Just interesting that the MSM FINALLY caught on to the obvious.

As for Akira...haven't seen it yet. While I'm seeing many of the recent animes, I never get to see some of the ones that are touted as the ones that started it all.

Though yes, Speed Racer and Robotech were here before then I believe.

Interesting fact about Robotech's three season...they are actually THREE COMPLETELY different series, made into one by an American company. Given that Japanese anime series don't go beyond 26 episodes, and many times less (with exceptions of course [cough]Dragonball[cough]), in order to have the typical 60 episodes, they combined three similar series into one (the original first season of Robotech, known as Macross, did have sequel series/movies after it, but not at the time the American company showed it here [and, well, needed something else to hook it up then). It would be like someone taking Star Trek, and hooking it up with Babylon 5, and some how connecting the two (of course, it did sort of work for Robotech given that the similarities and, well, dubbing animation is obviously easier then live action series). Still, what a way to sell a series in the states.

Unfortunately, because of what the American company did to this series, we now have a pretty messy situation if anyone else tried to bring over the Macross series that is NOT Robotech. Way to go!
27 posted on 12/09/2004 11:48:25 PM PST by Simmy2.5 (Kerry has been relieved of duty!)
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To: freebilly

Watch Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Grave of the Fireflies, and Millennium Actress, then report back to me on the intelligence of anime.


28 posted on 12/09/2004 11:52:18 PM PST by baseballfanjm
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To: Simmy2.5

Both my kids (14 and 17) are now in taking third-year college Japanese, thanks to an interest in anime.


29 posted on 12/09/2004 11:52:18 PM PST by AZLiberty ("Insurgence" is futile.)
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To: Mustng959

Personally, I think it's wrong to pidegon-hole animation to comedy. The films of Hayao Miyazaki can be mind-blowing in their imagination, and can really make one re-think what animation is capable of.

But hey, to each their own. :-)


30 posted on 12/09/2004 11:54:12 PM PST by baseballfanjm
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To: Boundless
It would have been old news in 12/99. Did this guy just now crawl out from under a rock?!
31 posted on 12/09/2004 11:54:28 PM PST by Redcloak ("FOUR MORE BEERS! FOUR MORE BEERS! FOUR MORE BEERS!" -Teresa Heinz Kerry)
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To: Simmy2.5

Oh man, you haven't seen Akira yet? What are you waiting for? Just be sure to get the DVD version. They did an excellent job re-dubbing it and getting the original print cleaned up digitally. Then, if it interests/confuses you, check out the full 6-part manga series just released a couple of years ago. The movie barely scratches the surface of the original story. They are both excellent.

I never really watched Robotech. I have seen one of the newer Macross Plus movies, and it was pretty wild. I enjoyed "Ghost in the Shell," though it was a lot more metaphysical than I had anticipated. "Dragonball Z" has been one of my guilty pleasures since college, but I haven't seen it in a long time, although it really started to go downhill towards the end.

If you haven't seen "Cowboy Bebop" yet, then also do yourself that favor. It's a 24-episode series (with one recently-released movie, too) that is just superb. "Akira," while very good, has somewhat dated animation, but "Cowboy Bebop" is top-notch, and the English dub is actually, in my opinion, far superior to the original Japanese.


32 posted on 12/09/2004 11:55:37 PM PST by Future Snake Eater ("Stupid grandma leaver-outers!"--Tom Servo)
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To: KneelBeforeZod

That is just wrong.


33 posted on 12/09/2004 11:55:49 PM PST by Redcloak ("FOUR MORE BEERS! FOUR MORE BEERS! FOUR MORE BEERS!" -Teresa Heinz Kerry)
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To: Simmy2.5

Christ, it has been catching on for 20 years. Akira is the sh!+ but my favorite is "Grave Yard of The Fireflies" ...


34 posted on 12/09/2004 11:57:01 PM PST by Porterville (I'm not sensitive....I'm reflective....so go blank yourself.)
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To: Simmy2.5
Although American animation releases, such as "Toy Story," "Shrek" and "The Incredibles," continue to wow audiences, they are largely aimed at children.

An adult friend and I saw "The Incredibles" yesterday. No children were in our entourage. Loved it and will see it again.

For me, a large part of the enjoyment was observing the intricacies of the artistry.

35 posted on 12/09/2004 11:57:49 PM PST by GretchenM (Because the wicked never stop, the righteous must work even harder.)
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To: swilhelm73

I haven't seen Star Blazers or even a refrence to Star Blazers since I was knee high to a b!_ch liberal... man thank you for helping me find it. I use to watch it everyday religously befor GI JOE.


36 posted on 12/10/2004 12:00:04 AM PST by Porterville (I'm not sensitive....I'm reflective....so go blank yourself.)
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To: Porterville

I saw "Graveyard of the Fireflies", simply an amazing movie. Certainly A heck of a lot better then the stuff Hollywood pushes on us recently. Gripping and powerful.


37 posted on 12/10/2004 12:00:55 AM PST by Simmy2.5 (Kerry has been relieved of duty!)
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To: Porterville
I love both those films, but my favorite anime (and favorite movie, period) is:

These pictures make it look like an action film though, which it isn't.

38 posted on 12/10/2004 12:04:09 AM PST by baseballfanjm
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To: baseballfanjm

Seriously? I thought it was too cartoonish... I must be missing something. I enjoyed the vampire movies, but most of all I enjoyed "Grave Yard."

What I find really interesting is how cartoons like batman and the superfriends has taken on many of the aspect of Japanese cartoos.


39 posted on 12/10/2004 12:07:26 AM PST by Porterville (I'm not sensitive....I'm reflective....so go blank yourself.)
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To: Simmy2.5
Grave Yard of the Fireflies is like "It's a Wonderful Life" No other movies make me as crazy as those two... except when Audry Hepburn is tossed in the mix.
40 posted on 12/10/2004 12:08:55 AM PST by Porterville (I'm not sensitive....I'm reflective....so go blank yourself.)
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To: GretchenM

American animation still has its place. IMO, the only reason why they are slowly being pushed aside by Japanese anime is because American animated movies and cartoons no longer have the great stories they used to tell. This IMO, is due to Disneys (which dominated the format before anime and is when the idea that cartoons are a 'kids' thing) basically abandoning the format, and what they are pushing on us is crap (you can even argue it's due to liberalism [especially if you look at the themes of the cartoons they now produce [Pocohantas for example]). Pixar might be the exception, but as you know, Pixar is not a part of Disney. And despite what some people say, it isn't because of the animation style. "The Incredibles", with its great story, would've worked whether it was hand drawn or CGI. As for Pixar, once Cars is out, they will leave Disney. Many animators left Disney because of the change of direction there.

Another interesting thing to note, some of the few animated American series I love, are anime influenced. "Teen Titans" (yets, kids show. But an intelligent kids show) has many obvious anime influenced design. Also true for "Totally Spies" (umm...hehe. Yeah, I like this series too. Don't ask why).


41 posted on 12/10/2004 12:12:29 AM PST by Simmy2.5 (Kerry has been relieved of duty!)
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To: Mustng959

You may like some of the Tezuka shorts. He created Astro Boy (first as a comic book) but in his later years he was experimenting with different styles.

His shorts toured the animation short festivals (back when Spike & Mike were funny rather than pushing bad taste).

I like all sorts of animation. Right now I'm more geared for the Rocky & Bullwinkle boxed sets, Private Snafu's collected shorts, and Disney's Victory Through Air Power.


42 posted on 12/10/2004 12:16:40 AM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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To: Porterville

Yep. I love it.

Cartoonish? I wouldn't say so. Its style of animation is different from most anime I suppose. A bit... brighter, more fluid, I guess.

No big deal though. It's a movie that I don't expect people to like quite as much as I do. It just gets to me on some deep down, personal level. I love the story, the moral ambiguity of the whole situation, the characters, etc. I just love the movie.

And you're right about "Fireflies". Pretty gutsy film when you think about it. I bet even most Japanese filmmakers wouldn't want to tackle that story as an animation. It would NEVER get made in Hollywood. Even if Hollywood started making anime style films, they wouldn't make a "Grave of the Fireflies".

And it's true, American cartoons are taking on anime aspects. The eyes are most notable.


43 posted on 12/10/2004 12:17:41 AM PST by baseballfanjm
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To: Porterville

The DC-Warner Bros. superhero cartoons also modeled themselves off the 1940s Fleischer Superman cartoons.


44 posted on 12/10/2004 12:18:28 AM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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To: baseballfanjm

"Taking on Japanese stylings"?

Little animation has been done in America for decades. Even Japan farms it out now.

Easier on the art team. Lousy for a viewer seeking some variety.


45 posted on 12/10/2004 12:20:16 AM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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To: Boundless

Or maybe the 60s:

Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer
he's a demon on wheels

And Kimba the White Lion!


46 posted on 12/10/2004 12:21:17 AM PST by raccoonradio (Boston: Home of the $15 billion car wash (Big Dig Tunnel).)
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To: Simmy2.5

No studio wants to tell an animated story these days if it is not a "musical". Feh. MOR adult pap songs or retro videos for 70s hits.


47 posted on 12/10/2004 12:21:33 AM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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To: elmer fudd; KneelBeforeZod

And what exactly is wrong with tentacle monsters having sex on the mind? Maybe if those schoolgirls didn't wear such cute outfits, there wouldn't be such a problem.


48 posted on 12/10/2004 12:22:52 AM PST by DreadCthulhu
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To: weegee

Well, I don't think there has been an animated musical since Disney abandoned that style a few years ago. It's all about 3-D now. Disney even closed down their 2-D film studios.


49 posted on 12/10/2004 12:23:41 AM PST by baseballfanjm
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To: Future Snake Eater

FWIW, the Australian DVD of Akira contains BOTH studios' English dub soundtracks.

Australia tries to throw a little something extra to the market since they are generally last to release a title.


50 posted on 12/10/2004 12:24:30 AM PST by weegee (WE FOUGHT ZOGBYISM November 2, 2004 - 60 Million Voters versus 60 Minutes - BUSH WINS!!!)
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