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Anime Expo 2004
Anime Expo - FUNimation Productions

by Christopher Macdonald,
Company representative: Lance Heiskell - Anime Brand Manager

Heiskell lightened up the mood a bit by starting the panel off with his morning stretch routine, which he started doing earlier this year. With the stretching out of the way, the panel proper was started.

First, Heiskell went over the list of upcoming releases notable items included:

Blue Gender: The Warrior on July 20th
Case Closed on August 24th
Sakura Wars: SUMIRE in October
Spiral on November 9th
Fruits Basket Box Set (Tentative) November 9th
Fullmetal Alchemist on January 18th

He mentioned that there were delays in the release of Sakura Wars: SUMIRE due to difficulties securing the services of all the original voice actors that Geneon used in its previous Sakura Taisen dubs.

A preview of Blue Gender: The Warrior was shown at Anime Expo.

Anime Expo also marked the return of FUNimation's popular Fruits Basket hats, first avialable at A-Kon earlier this year. The hats were so popular that they could often be seen on the heads of employees of other studios and many dealers and exhibitors in the dealers' room.

FUNimation plans to do something “very special” with the first volume of Fullmetal Alchemist, but at this time no details were available. Tofu Records will be holding a special event for Fullmetal Alchemist at Otakon with L'Arc-en-Ciel present (L'Arc-en-Ciel provided the second opening theme for the TV series, only that opening theme will be used on Cartoon Network). FUNimation also had a life-sized, 7 foot tall Alphonse at its booth and will be bringing him with them to Otakon and other conventions this year.

The Case Closed DVD will be include “alternate angles” preserving the original Japanese on screen text where it was changed for the Cartoon Network broadcast.

Following this, trailers for various FUNimation properties were shown, including trailers for two new licenses. The trailers shows were:

Fullmetal Alchemist
Kiddy Grade
Kodomo no Omocha
Case Closed
Yū Yū Hakusho
Gunslinger Girl
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OAV 3
Burst Angel

Following the trailers, Heiskell stated that it was a “Very good acquisition year” for FUNimation. The company will be releasing Bakuretsu Tenshi, called Burst Angel in North America, and the third Tenchi Muyo! OVA series in 2005.

Before opening the Q&A session, Heiskell took a brief minute to talk about FUNimation's anime club support program, Operation Anime. Stating that, “If it wasn't for anime clubs we wouldn't have these really huge conventions,” he briefly explained how the program works. Anime club execs can go to OperationAnime.com, to sign up and be accepted. They can then request screening permission for FUNimation titles online, FUNimation will send them the DVDs to screen. The clubs get to keep the DVDs and will be provided with coupons that club members can use to buy the DVD online (at Z-Store.com) for 40% off. In return, all FUNimation asks for is that the club fill out some questionnaires.

During the Q&A session, it was asked if FUNimation would be releasing an unedited version of 4Kids title One Piece. Heiskell declined to comment on One Piece but did confirm that they would be releasing unedited versions of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Shaman King.

It was explained that Case Closed is aired on Adult Swim because certain episodes contain content (A mother killing her son, or a child falling out of the trunk of a moving car for example) that was unacceptable for Y7 broadcast.

Once again the episode count question was brought up. Episode count is largely determined by the desires of retailers, most of which prefer to see cheaper DVDs. In order to provide DVDs at a cheaper price point, FUNimation may release them with fewer episodes. Heiskell suggested that people look at the price per episode.

Regarding the Lupin movies, it was explained that contracts delayed their release, however with that out of the way FUNimation is planning to begin releasing them shortly. They will probably start with the theatrical feature, Voyage to Danger. There will also be a re-pricing on the already released Lupin material, and this re-pricing should get the DVDs into more stores (it was noted that some people had difficulty finding them when they were first released).

Regarding Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OAV 3, FUNimation will try to get as many of the original voice actors (from the Pioneer / Geneon release) as possible. It was difficult for FUNimation to secure the services of these voice actors for episode 17 of GXP mostly because of the limited time frame available to record one episode. In some cases the actors only had a couple lines and it was not logical for them to travel for the work, in other cases they had other commitments at the time that the episode was recorded. However, with Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OAV 3 being a long running series, it becomes much more feasible for the FUNimation and actors to make the necessary arrangements. In the case of actors that can not be secured, FUNimation will use "sound-alikes," replacement actors who sound similar to the original actor.

Regarding extras for Fullmetal Alchemist, Heiskell was not aware of the details at this time, but as a rule FUNimation generally tries to get as many of the original extras as possible.

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