Production I.G., WIT Studio Producers Are Very Happy About Overseas Collabs
posted on by Kim Morrissy
Production I.G producer Hiroshi Ito and Wit Studio producer Tetsuya Nakatake gave some insight into the current state of overseas collaborations at TIFFCOM's "Global Strategies of Japanese Animation Studios -Our Positive Global Strategies-" seminar. Overall, they welcome overseas partnerships and especially appreciate the arrangements with fellow otaku who understand Japanese anime's appeal.
Before they went into the details, they gave some context about the different kinds of collaborations they work with. They started with animators—this is the most common circumstance in which overseas talent applies to anime. Digitizing the animation process makes it easier to incorporate work drawn remotely into the typical production pipeline; many animators use Clip Studio Paint, which is easy to use and affordable.
It is also easier than ever now to scout talent on social media. Both producers remarked on how they've been able to find some remarkably skilled artists this way from countries like China, France, Taiwan, and Brazil. Many of these young animators are in their 20s, have grown up with anime available via streaming, and are incredibly passionate about what they draw. In the producers' own words, they possess "passionate otaku hearts."
The producers commented that despite overseas market growth, it is still a challenge for anime creators to create something that can appeal to otaku and ensure it reaches them. In that sense, things haven't changed since anime only catered to Japanese audiences. At the same time, Japanese studios are increasingly being asked to create anime based on foreign IPs such as Star Wars; the producers expect to see more Hollywood creators inspired by anime in the future.
Speaking of Star Wars, the producers dedicated quite a lot of time to discussing the Star Wars: Visions anthology project. Ito said he enjoyed doing that project because he was in the right generation for Star Wars mania. At the same time, Nakatake commented that he found Kinema Citrus and Kamikaze Doga's shorts interesting. Ito said it was very nice to receive so much trust and creative freedom from Disney, and Nakatake agreed that this allowed for some incredible works to be made.
The two also spent some time talking about their collaborations with Netflix. The good thing about working with overseas streaming partners, they commented, was that they guaranteed that the production costs could be accounted for up-front, making anime a safer investment and allowing for bigger budgets.
Nevertheless, neither producer believed that working with foreign partners necessitated significant changes in the Japanese approach. Although the producers noted the need to think globally, given that the overseas market surpassed the Japanese market in 2020, they stated that what's most important for impressing the overseas market is production ability rather than marketing. In their opinion, Attack on Titan and Ghost in the Shell became hits because of the creators' enthusiasm. Ito mentioned the animated part in Kill Bill and remarked that it was a big realization of just how cool anime could be.
Ito and Nakatake hope that as relations between Japanese and overseas partners tighten, there can be more direct and personal relationships. That way, they can move away from separated work environments and aim for a more fluid division of labor. What's most important, they note, is enthusiasm. If one side doesn't have it, the other will notice. For them, working with blockbuster IPs is a good sign, and it's nice that relationships are changing so that they can have more creative freedom.
Finally, they highlighted some of their favorite overseas collabs in recent years: Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Arcane, the Super Mario Bros. film, and Batman Ninja. Regarding that last title, they remarked that Batman Ninja wasn't Batman anymore—in a good way, of course. In that sense, you shouldn't just hire Japanese artists to draw things exactly as they were originally; you need to let them go wild and show the world what's great about anime.
On that note, they concluded the business seminar by asking companies to reach out with offers. Their enthusiasm for the next wave of overseas collaborations was infectious.
Source: TIFFCOM 2022 Online Seminar