DreamWorks to Lure Anime Fans with New Division

DreamWorks SKG may not have any more 2D animated films in production, but they haven’t abandoned traditional animation alltogether. The studio has just launched Go Fish Pictures, a specialized distribution arm that will make its bow with the Sept. 12 release of director Satoshi Kon’s anime feature Millennium Actress. The film will open in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and Boston.

Go Fish will be topped by DreamWorks’ head of nontheatrical sales, Joan Filippini, and overseen by president of distribution Jim Tharp.

Tharp tells Animation Magazine Online, “The whole idea of Go Fish is just to give a movie like [Millennium Actress] time and try different marketing ideas to get the word out about it. And it’s not necessarily going to be all anime. We will look at live action. There have been a number of live-action movies that the head of marketing and I would like to have taken on as a project but because of the time we spend on our wide releases, it was difficult. So this is an apparatus that allows us to spend the kind of time required.”

Tharp and publicity and marketing head Michael Vollman will have their work cut out for them as Millennium Actress will have different marketing campaigns for each of the six markets. “We liked the movie, and it was a project we decided we would like to take on and see if we could come up with slightly different and unique approaches to it,” Tharp notes.

It will indeed be interesting to see how Go Fish handles Millennium Actress, which contains action sequences but is actually more of a sentimental love story with mature sensibilities. “It’s a good movie but it could be a difficult sell,” Tharp admits. “I think the best way to do it, from our standpoint, is to just show the movie to critics, as well as college groups and different audiences and get word of mouth going.” He adds, “Obviously, these kinds of movies have a great video life, so we’re going very quickly into the video market in late October.”

While Go Fish releases are not likely to end up at your local megaplex, Tharp tells us, “We do have commercial venues slated for Millennium Actress. The Metreon in San Francisco is both commercial and art. We’d like to go, in most cases, beyond the arthouse. We think there’s a group of people in every market that will support movies like the ones we’re talking about.”

Go Fish’s next release will be director Mamoru Oshi’s much-anticipated sequel Ghost in the Shell II, slated to hit theaters during the first quarter of 2004. Like Actress, it will be released in both subtitled and dubbed versions. “One of the problems with subtitles in animation is if you have kids there under six years old, they can’t read so you do need to dub them,” Tharp explains, indicating that the films won’t be marketed strictly to the young adult crowd that typically gravitates to anime.

DreamWorks currently has no plans to distribute in-house productions under the banner and will focus primarily on acquisitions.

Look for our cover story on Millennium Actress in the October issue of Animation Magazine, available by subscription and at Barnes & Noble booksellers.