Interview: Right Stuf

This interview is being conducted with Shawne Kleckner, CEO of Right Stuf International. Right Stuf is one of the largest distributors of anime in North America. Right Stuf also releases commercially licensed anime titles.

Anime News Network: Thank you for allowing me the time to talk with you.
Shawne Kleckner: No problem, as always, I'm happy to work with you guys.

ANN: Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got involved in anime?
Shawne: This would be a long, boring story. The condensed version is we started out looking for classic Japanese cartoons, specifically those imported and released domestically in the early to mid 60s. Our first release was the classic "Astro Boy," based on the Japanese "Tetsuwan Atomu" program, one of Japan's most known characters.

ANN: What are some of your favorite series or titles?
Shawne: In terms of Anime titles, my favorites of late are Tylor (I enjoy Tylor's attitude toward life). I also like Tenchi, Project A-Ko, Dirty Pair, Slayers... It's really hard to get time to watch the commercial releases at this point. There's so many of them!

ANN: Do you have any time to watch anime or read manga?
Shawne: I try... my schedule gives me limited time to do so, though.

ANN:Who and what is Right Stuf? What is the history of your company?
Shawne: The company was established in 1987. Our first video release was in 1989, with "Astro Boy." The company was focused on the release of classic cartoon series. As new companies entered the marketplace with subtitled and dubbed new anime, we began to look at this as a natural extension from the "classic" to the "modern." Jeff Thompson has an excellent essay on our website which discusses, as he calls them, the "waves" of programmingreleases. We became more of a hybrid publisher/distribitor in the mid 90s, as we responded to the demand of our customers who could not obtain the product they were looking for at their local store.

ANN: Your website has a great history of anime section. Did you write all of that?
Shawne: Actually, almost all of this material was written by our designer, Jeff Thompson, [email protected]Right

ANN: How many employees do you have working for you?
Shawne: About 20.

ANN: Do you have any job openings in your company?
Shawne: Always, although not really in the "glamour" jobs. Most people who want to work for us want to work in editing or production. We have openings in our call center and fulfillment center, especially as we continue to expand, but there really are limited jobs in production and working with the Japanese studios.

ANN: Can you list off all the anime titles that your company has licensed to release?
Shawne: Astro Boy (1963), Gigantor, Tobor, the 8th Man, Kimba, the White Lion, Ai City, Toward the Terra, Legend of the Forest, God Mars, Weather Report Girl, Leda: The Fantasic Adventures of Yohko, Cool Devices, Irresponsible Captain Tylor TV, Violence Jack [uncut], Irresponsible Captain Tylor OVAs, Tylor TV Music File 1 CD, Tylor OVA Music File CD. There are many more here which have not been announced. Next year will be a busy year for us.

ANN: When will you be announcing future acquisitions?
Shawne: Generally, we announce our product when it is ready to ship, rather than when it is acquired. Once some product is ready to ship, you'll see announcements from us. We have several titles in production now, a couple of which maysurprise you.

ANN: Do you plan to start releasing some of your titles on DVD next year?
Shawne: Yes.

ANN: When is the new catalog coming out?
Shawne: It's availble now to download off our website in a PDF file right now. Hardcopy editions are available for $3.00. There were like a dozen semi loads of paper used for the job.

ANN: At Otakon this past July in Baltimore, your comapany announced that you'll be starting your own anime music label. Can you elaborate on this?
Shawne: We feel this is an area in which the marketplace is under-served, and as such, look to get some product out there in the marketplace. We'll be starting pressing on the first Tylor CD shortly, and this CD will be released at a $14.95 list price. Many others are planned.

ANN:What is the name of your music label you're starting up and how different is it to license anime titles from Japanese
companies versus soundtrack titles?
Shawne: The name of our music lable is StufToonz. It's even slower trying to get music licensing rights compared to getting anime.

ANN: What are you convention plans for next year so anime fans have an opportunity to meet you in person?
Shawne: Our catalog designer attends many of the east coast conventions, and I usually hit 1-2 per year myself, such as Anime Expo (since it is close toVSDA).

ANN: One of our latest acquisition you announced over your website. Do you prefer to do this or do you prefer to announce new titles at anime conventions?
Shawne: Well, since it's on the front cover of the new catalog, we figured we'd better announce it. :) Generally, I like to announce the new product at a convention and have it on the website at the same time so that people who are not at the convention itself can know about our new title. With Kimba, we likely will have limited product available prior to the holidays, but will not begin retail shipments until February.

ANN: Where do you see the anime industry heading in the years to come?
Shawne: This is a tough one.. the industry is beginning to mature; the new fans created from the successes of Pokémon Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon, will be with us for many years, as they "graduate" to other programming in the genre. As long as there is availablity of source material from Japan, I see the industry continuing to grow.

ANN: Where do you see Right Stuf heading in the future?
Shawne: We'll be there to serve these fans with our product as well as product which they can't find in the store. Shelf space issues will continue to be a problem as more product is available. The market will continue to expand, and we expect to be doing more of the same.

ANN: How much communication do you and your company have with all the anime and manga companies here in North America?
Shawne: We maintain a good relationship with all of the industry players. It's still a pretty small industry, compared to the Video Market as a whole. I talk regularly to people at the other firms.

ANN: What is your relationship with Pioneer? Viz recentely announced that all there VHS and DVD titles will be distributed by Pioneer like AnimeVillage/Bandai Entertainment. Do you plan to be your own distributer or will you go another route?
Shawne: We have a contractual relationship with Pioneer in which we handle their consumer-oriented sales and information requests. At the moment, we are our own distributor, although our products are also sold through Central Park Media. We are examining what our future strategy will be.

ANN: How does Right Stuf handle being both a wholesaler of other anime goods, as well as being an anime distributer? Is there any conflict of interests?
Shawne: Not really. You're selling the same product, it's just a matter of dealing with credit lines and such. In some ways, it actually helps because we can offer a diverse mix of products to both types of customers.

ANN: Do you have any final thoughts or remarks you'd like to make to our readers?
Shawne: I think that it is important that fans provide feedback to the studios... people do read them (at least I do.)

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