ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.03 - JUNE 2000
Gundam Wing: Americas Next Pokemon?
by Jacquie Kubin
A Gundam hero envisions himself emerging victoriously in the gaming outlets of America. © Bandai America, Inc
Gaming studios have a history of borrowing from established cartoon properties that first jumped from the funny page to the comic book to the silver screen and then on to Saturday morning cartoons to create instantly branded video games. Since its earliest days, game developers have turned to established cartoon characters that already share a history with the consumer.
"Superman for the Atari 2600 was probably the first branded cartoon character turned video adventure game," says Jayson Hill, manager of public relations for Hasbro Interactive. "By the time of the cartridge's 1978 release, Superman had been in comic strips, books and in various cartoon incarnations for many years."
The present day animation bastion, The Cartoon Network has looked far East from its Atlanta home to Japan, importing anime programming for its after school Toonami time slot.
"Toonami combines the word cartoon with the Japanese word Tsunami, meaning tidal wave," explains Sean Akins, Senior Writer/Producer for Cartoon Networks Production Development. "Three years ago we started showing anime not to get on or start any bandwagon, but looking at all the shows that are out there, these were the shows that I thought had the best stories, looked the best, were the most interesting."
For 1999, the network reported being in nearly 60 million households with its all-animation programming being the second highest-rated basic cable channel. And it is packed with anime shows like Thundercats, Ronin Warriors and Dragonball Z.
A Gundam warrior aims for explosive success! © Bandai America, Inc
A Japanese Hit
The latest anime hit for the network has been Gundam Wing, a television series based on the extremely large, multi-layered Gundam Universe that is more than twenty years old. In Japan the universe includes eight television series, eight feature films, four direct to video releases, a toy and model line and numerous video game releases. The Cartoon Network is broadcasting the show as pure to its original Japanese showings as it can.
"Working with these shows is an honor and dream come true and I feel Gundam Wing is the first time that anyone has been able to take an imported anime show and really do it right," says Akins. "You read stories about the different anime properties that, while huge hits in Japan don't perform as well in the U.S. The reason is they get cut to pieces and they make the plot lines goofy. They underestimate the audience, the kids, who are sophisticated enough to follow a story with multiple characters and in-depth plot lines."
Created by Yoshiyuki Tomino, who worked with Dr. Osamu Tezuka on the development of the cult classic Tetsuwan Atom (or Mighty Atom, which became Astroboy when licensed by NBC), Gundam Wing takes place in the future when mankind has moved into space, establishing five space colonies that have evolved into their own nations, or countries. The tale begins during a time of revolution in space and on Earth with each faction having built its own robot "suit," a giant mobile weapon that is piloted by legions of young teenage boys. Made of a new material Gundamian, the Gundam warriors are the dominant fighters in this battle.
The show revolves around the lives of more than thirty continuing characters, almost forty different types of mobile weapons and numerous vehicles bringing children back every day to find out what happens next.
"These cartoons are continuing sagas. Its an epic, sweeping tale and it is a great show that is very complicated and if you miss one you can get totally lost," says Akins. "It is a serial, which is against the grain of the traditional thought process of children's programming that normally you want heroes within a whole story that you can tell in twenty-two minutes and that ends every day."
The Cartoon Network is working with the original films imported from Japan. Though some changes need to be made for the American youth audience, including cutting more violent or adult scenes, adding or subtracting vocal tracks, and re-laying the vocal tracks from Japanese to English. For any paint work needed done, the Atlanta-based group uses Discreet Logics smoke*, flame* and flint* softwares. Tracking is accomplished using a motion picture compositor that is of the same size and power as the kind used in Hollywood on major motion pictures. Shows are mixed on a Fairlight, a sophisticated digital audio workstation, which is the standard production tool in its arena.
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