North American fans of Japanese animation will soon have another source for getting their anime fix with the formation of Illumitoon Ent., a privately held distribution venture established by former FUNimation execs Barry Watson, Stephanie Giotes and Richard Ray. The company will compete with FUNimation, Central Park Media and others in acquiring anime and tailoring it for audiences in the U.S.
In addition to tweaking titles for mass-market appeal, Illumitoon will offer original Japanese audio tracks to appease serious anime fans, according to Watson, who serves as the company’s president and CEO. Giotes fills the role of COO and general counsel, while Ray handles exec VP duties. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, the triumvirate will operate out of a 43,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility that Illumitoon shares with CRM Prods.
Illumitoon’s first major acquisition is Toei Animation’s 78-episode series, Beet the Vandel Buster, known to Japanese audiences as Bouken Oh Beet. Based on a popular Shonen Jump manga, the show is currently airing in Japan and has a merchandising program in place with Bandai.
‘We’re obviously very excited about launching with this title,’ Watson comments. ‘It’s an extraordinary work from Toei Animation. We think it picks up where the Dragonball Z series left off.’
According to Watson, Illumitoon plans to release its first DVDs as early as January 2007. More information can be found at www.illumitoon.com.