Disney to work with two local animators

by Hiroko Nakata

Animation fans will soon be treated to two new cartoons sprung from collaborations between Walt Disney Co. Japan and two Japanese animation companies, the local unit of the U.S. entertainment giant said Thursday.

Walt Disney Television International Japan, which is in charge of Disney’s television business in Japan, will produce the features in cooperation with Japanese animation companies Madhouse Co. and Jinni’s Animation Studios.

“I’m happy to announce our new effort in Japan, which has one of the strongest animation production technologies in the world,” Walt Disney Co. Japan President Paul Candland said in a statement.

“To expand our business further in Japan, Disney’s second-largest market after the United States, it is necessary to provide the content that fits the market,” he added.

With Madhouse Co., Disney will produce the TV program “Stitch!” a new Japanese version of the Lilo & Stitch series in October. The show features Stitch, a blue alien, and a Japanese girl living on an imaginary island in Okinawa.

With Jinni’s, Disney will create a short 3-D animated TV program called “Fireball,” a futuristic tale starring two robots on another planet.

Disney will debut the two works at the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2008, an annual event involving more than 200 overseas and domestic companies scheduled for March 27 to 30.

The two new programs will be broadcast on satellite channels, Disney officials said.

Disney has its own animation and movie channels in more than 100 countries, including Japan, where it launched Disney Channel in 2003 and Toon Disney in 2005.

Thursday’s deal was initially reported by some media to involve Japan’s largest animation producer, Toei Animation Co., but Disney officials said the deal is a separate matter.

Disney has been working with Toei Animation since 2006 to jointly create a robot TV animation program using computer graphics to be broadcast in Japan and abroad this spring.