"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Produced by Toei Animation & Gale Anne Hurd

Art for the original 1976 series from Akio Sugino and Toei Animation!

After being announced as in development at 2010 Tokyo Animation Fair, heralded by an exciting promo trailer that set the web on fire around the world, the production of a live action adaptation of Toei Animation's popular 1976 super robot series, GIANT SPACE DRAGON: GAIKING (aka "Dino Mech Gaiking") fell silent. Initially, it was only announced that Toei's partners were to be Americans Jules Urbach (founder CEO Lightstage & Otoy) and Matthew Gratzner (visual effects supervisor of HUGO). Until now.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the story today that the film has now secured solid production partners in the form of veteran producer Gale Anne Hurd via Valhalla Entertainment, Toei Animation, and Danny Choo's All Nippon Entertainment Works (ANEW), who are teaming up to develop the property for the big screen. Of course, Hurd is no stranger to big-budget science fiction films, having produced such hits as ALIENS (1986), TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991), and is the executive producer of the AMC series, THE WALKING DEAD.

Here's the official press release from Valhalla Entertainment:

LOS ANGELES – December 18 , 2012 – Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment (“The Walking Dead”) and Toei Animation have teamed with All Nippon Entertainment Works (ANEW) to develop Toei’s iconic anime property GAIKING. This marks a new push for Toei into the U.S. marketplace and the first development deal for ANEW. GAIKING follows a young man who is recruited to serve as the lead pilot for the Super Robot Gaiking.

When Earth is threatened by an alien race intent on taking over the planet, he emerges as the only one who can pilot the massive robot. Together with his fellow co-pilots he must fight off the alien force in order to save mankind.

“I’m extremely excited to be working on GAIKING,” said Hurd, “which marks a huge step forward in adapting one of the best Japanese IP for a global audience.”

Valhalla Entertainment recently announced their USA Network pilot HORIZON for Universal Cable Productions. Additional projects on their development slate include THUNDER ROAD for Discovery Channel, RECONSTRUCTION at The History Channel, JANE WAYNE with USA Network, 11th COMMANDMENT with NBC, and AREA 51 at AMC.

On the feature side, Gale Anne Hurd executive produced the upcoming Sundance Premiere film, VERY GOOD GIRLS, and is moving forward on the action/thriller THE NAMELESS with Route One. Hurd is also known for her sci-fi blockbusters THE TERMINATOR 1 & 2, ALIENS, ARMAGEDDON, and THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

ANEW, led by CEO Sandy Climan, is dedicated to partnering with Japanese underlying rights holders to develop creative content, including films, books, toys, animation, and manga, into global English language motion pictures and television. It has an initial capitalization of $80M from the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), a public-private investment fund affiliated with the Japanese government. ANEW’s creative partners include a broad spectrum of the leading media and entertainment companies in Japan.

“ANEW’s mission is to bring the highest quality Japanese stories to a global audience in partnership with world-class producers,” said Climan, “I am thrilled that ANEW is joining with Toei Animation and Valhalla Entertainment in developing this landmark property into a major motion picture.”

Toei Animation is the largest animation production company in Japan and is responsible for thousands of hours of programming, including DRAGON BALL, SAILOR MOON, and SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK, which is being remade as a 3D CG animated feature film. Since it’s founding in 1956, Toei has produced more than 10,000 episodes of TV (191 titles) and over 200 animated feature films. Toei Animation is the original rights holder of the underlying GAIKING IP and a Co-Producer with Valhalla Entertainment.

“Gaiking has long been one of the most beloved giant robot animation franchises with a global fan base. We are very excited to be partnering with Valhalla Entertainment and ANEW to bring this title to a worldwide audience as a live-action feature film, which we hope to be the first of many more to come from Toei’s large stable of IPs,” said Yoshi Ikezawa of Toei Animation.

Gale Anne Hurd will serve as lead producer on the project. Yoshi Ikezawa of Toei Animation and Joseph Chou will also serve as producers. Sandy Climan, Tim Kwok, and Kozo Morishita of Toei Animation are executive producing. Kris Henigman, Director of Development at Valhalla, will oversee development for the company in association with Annmarie Bailey, Vice President of Creative Affairs for ANEW.

This is exciting news, and the production of GAIKING probably got a kick in the pants due to the frevor over the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro Japanese-inspired giant robot epic, PACIFIC RIM, opening world-wide next Summer — and it's about damned time.

Let's hope that GAIKING will be a huge success, so we can finally see spectacular live action adaptations of MAZINGER Z and GRENDIZER. And who knows, can we hope for a big screen versions of GETTER ROBO and DANGUARD ACE?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Shout! Factory's Complete Series DVD Box Set

Official cover art for Shout! Factory's newest tokusatsu acquisition! 

Shout! Factory does it again! Hot on the heels of their recent ULTRA SEVEN release, comes the eagerly-awaited and long overdue home video debut of Toei TV Productions' 1967 tokusatsu series, GIANT ROBO, adapted by American International Television as JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT, on March 26, 2013!

Back in the days when ULTRAMAN and THE SPACE GIANTS were all the rage on syndicated television, JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT struck a special cord with kids. Why? Because it's tells of the adventures of a youngster and his giant robot in their fight to save the world — the ultimate boy's wish-fulfilling fantasy.

And even after 45 years, JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT has not lost any of it's outre, mondo-offbeat style nor it's earnest, tongue-in-cheek charm — accompanied by a swingin' jazz spy soundtrack — which set the stage for the pantheon of Toei Superheroes to come, such as the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai series.

Follow the far-out exploits of Johnny Sokko, a young secret agent with the Unicorn Peace Organization, as he battles the evil forces of the extraterrestrial dictator Emperor Guillotine, and his nefarious Gargoyle Gang! Joining the fight to save the world is an atomic-powered giant flying robot — armed with a fantastic array of super weapons — which only Johnny can command with a special remote-control watch!

Take JAMES BOND, JOHNNY QUEST, and stir in ULTRAMAN, and you get JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT! Created by the makers of GIGANTOR and KAMEN RIDER, all 26 action-packed episodes of outlandish adventure, colorful special effects, wild plots, outrageous villains, and even weirder monsters, Shout! Factory brings back this mind-bending classic in one complete, 4-disc box set — in all it’s uncut and unedited, English-dubbed glory — for only $39.97 MSRP.

As with ULTRA SEVEN, Shout! Factory's release of JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT will include a detailed liner notes booklet on the series written by Yours Truly!

"Giant Robot, use your Megaton Punch!"