Funimation

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Funimation Productions, LLC
Formerly
FUNimation Productions (1994–2005)
FUNimation Entertainment (2005–2011)
Subsidiary
IndustryEntertainment
FoundedMay 9, 1994; 25 years ago (1994-05-09)[1]
FounderGen Fukunaga
Cindy Fukunaga
Headquarters,
U.S.
Area served
North America, British Isles
Key people
Gen Fukunaga (founder & chairman)
Colin Decker (general manager)
ProductsAnime, motion pictures, Japanese/Asian cinema
OwnerSony Pictures Entertainment (Sony) (95%)
Gen Fukunaga (5%)
ParentNavarre Corporation (2005–2011)
Independent/Group 1200 Media (2011–2017)
Sony Pictures Television (2017–present)
DivisionsFunimation Films[2]
SubsidiariesManga Entertainment
Websitefunimation.com

Funimation Productions, LLC[3] is an American entertainment company that specializes in the dubbing and distribution of foreign content, most notably anime. Sony Pictures Television, a division of the Japanese conglomerate Sony, is its majority owner. Based in Flower Mound, Texas, the studio is one of the leading distributors of anime and other foreign entertainment properties in North America.

The company was founded on May 9, 1994 by Gen Fukunaga and his wife Cindy as FUNimation Productions, with funding by Daniel Cocanougher and his family, who became investors in the company. Funimation was acquired by Navarre Corporation on May 11, 2005 and the company was renamed FUNimation Entertainment.

In April 2011, Navarre sold Funimation to a group of investors that included original owner Gen Fukunaga for $24 million.[4] Around the same time, the company's trademark ball, star and blue bar were dropped from its logo and the company was renamed to simply Funimation.[5] In May 2013, Funimation consolidated its divisions under its new holding company Group 1200 Media. Kuelbs became Chairman of Funimation/Group 1200 after the acquisition from Navarre. John A. Kuelbs and Fukunaga continued to make additional investments into Funimation. A new senior management was brought on and a multi-year distribution deal was announced with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. From 2016–18, Funimation had a partnership agreement with Crunchyroll.[6] In January 2016 FunimationNow, a new ad free HD anime streaming service with Sony subscription, was announced at the CES show in Las Vegas. On July 31, 2017, Sony Pictures Television announced plans to acquire a 95% stake in Funimation for $143 million while Gen Fukunaga would retain his position with a 5% share;[7][8] the deal was closed on October 27, 2017.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

The original Funimation logo used from 1994 to 2005

The company was founded on May 9, 1994 by Japanese-born businessman Gen Fukunaga.[1][9] Fukunaga's uncle, Nagafumi Hori, was working as a producer for Toei Company; Hori approached Fukunaga about licensing Dragon Ball to the United States, he proposed that if Fukunaga could start a production company and raise enough money, Toei Animation would license the rights to the franchise. Fukunaga met with co-worker Daniel Cocanougher, whose family owned a feed mill in Decatur, Texas, and convinced Cocanougher's family to sell their business and serve as an investor for his company;[10][11] the company was originally formed in Silicon Valley, California as Funimation Productions in 1994, but eventually relocated to Flower Mound, Texas, located near Fort Worth.[12] They initially collaborated with other companies on Dragon Ball, such as BLT Productions, Ocean Studios, Pioneer and Saban Entertainment.[13][14] By 1998, after two aborted attempts to bring the Dragon Ball franchise to a U.S. audience via first-run syndication, it finally found success through Cartoon Network's broadcast of the Dragon Ball Z series on its Toonami programming block, and the Dragon Ball phenomenon quickly grew in the country as it had elsewhere.[15][16] This led Funimation to license other anime to the U.S.[17][18][19]

Starting in September 2003, Funimation, along with British company Maverick, has distributed titles from Canada-based Nelvana, including Redwall, Pecola, Tales from the Cryptkeeper, Timothy Goes to School and the Disney Channel TV special The Santa Claus Brothers.[20]

Acquisition by Navarre Corporation[edit]

On May 11, 2005, Funimation was acquired by the now-defunct Navarre Corporation for US$100.4 million in cash and 1.8 million shares of Navarre stock. As part of the acquisition, Gen Fukunaga was retained as head of the company, transitioning to the position of CEO, and the company's name was changed from Funimation Productions to Funimation Entertainment.[21][22]

In 2007, Funimation moved from North Richland Hills, Texas to Flower Mound.[23] Funimation moved into the Lakeside Business District with a ten-year lease.[24]

According to an interview in February 2008 with Navarre Corporation CEO Cary Deacon, Funimation was in early stage negotiations to acquire some of the titles licensed through Geneon's USA division, which ceased operations in December 2007.[25] In July 2008, Funimation confirmed that they had acquired distribution rights to several Geneon titles, including some that Geneon had left unfinished when they ceased operations.[26]

At Anime Expo 2008, Funimation announced that it had acquired over 30 titles from the Sojitz catalog that had previously been licensed by ADV Films.[27]

In 2009, Funimation signed a deal with Toei Animation to stream several of its anime titles online through the Funimation website and Hulu.[28]

Independent company[edit]

On May 27, 2010, Navarre Corporation announced that it began negotiating a potential sale of Funimation, it was also announced that if the sale took place, Funimation would be reclassified as a "discounted operation" starting in the first quarter of 2011.[29] On September 16, 2010, Navarre announced that six potential buyers were interested in acquiring Funimation.[30]

In the first quarter of 2011, Navarre reclassified Funimation as "discounted operations".[31] On April 4, 2011, Navarre released a statement announcing that Funimation had been sold to a group of investors that included original owner Gen Fukunaga for $24 million,[4] it was also announced that Navarre would remain as exclusive distributor of Funimation's titles.[4]

On October 14, 2011, Funimation announced a partnership with Niconico, the English language version of Nico Nico Douga, to form the Funico brand for the licensing of anime for streaming and home video release. From this point on, virtually all titles simulcasted by Niconico were acquired by Funimation.[32]

In 2014, Funimation released Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods to theaters in partnership with Screenvision.[33] Based on its success, Funimation launched its own theatrical division in December 2014.[34]

Funimation logo from May 11, 2005 to January 7, 2016. The colored version was used until April 2011.

On June 22, 2015, Funimation and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment announced a multi-year home video distribution deal; the deal allowed UPHE to manage distribution and sales of Funimation's catalog of titles.[35] Universal began distributing Funimation's titles in October of that year.[36]

Partnership with Crunchyroll[edit]

On September 8, 2016, Funimation announced a partnership with Crunchyroll.[6] Select Funimation titles would be streamed subtitled on Crunchyroll, while select Crunchyroll titles would be streamed on FunimationNow, including upcoming dubbed content. In addition, Funimation and Universal would act as distributors for Crunchyroll's home video catalog.

On May 18, 2017, Shout! Factory acquired the North American distribution rights to In This Corner of the World, with a U.S. theatrical release to take place in August 11, 2017, co-released by Funimation Films.[37]

On October 18, 2018, Funimation announced that their partnership with Crunchyroll had ended as a result of Sony Pictures Television's acquisition of Funimation.[38]

Acquisition by Sony Pictures[edit]

In May 2017, it was reported that Universal Studios and Sony Pictures Television were interested in purchasing Funimation; however, Universal decided not to proceed with the bidding.[39] On July 31, 2017, Sony Pictures Television announced that it would buy a controlling 95% stake in Funimation for $143 million, a deal that was approved by the United States Department of Justice on August 22, 2017;[40] this deal allowed Funimation to have synergies with Sony's Animax and Kids Station divisions and "direct access to the creative pipeline".[41] The deal was closed on October 27, 2017.[42]

On February 16, 2018, it was reported that Shout! Factory's Shout! Studios division acquired the U.S/Canadian distribution rights to Big Fish & Begonia and partnered with Funimation Films again for distribution.[43]

On July 12, 2018, it was announced that Funimation Films had picked up licensing rights for Dragon Ball Super: Broly in North America and that its English dub would premiere in theaters sometime in January 2019 in the United States and Canada, only around a month after its national premiere in Japan.[44]

In August 2018, WarnerMedia fully acquired Otter Media, owner of Crunchyroll. On October 18, 2018, Funimation and Sony Pictures announced that their partnership with Crunchyroll would end on November 9, 2018. Despite the home video releases being unaffected and still going on as planned, select Funimation content would be removed from Crunchyroll, and subtitled content would return to FunimationNow.[45] Additionally, it was also announced that Funimation would be removed from Otter Media-owned streaming service VRV entirely, being replaced by Hidive.[46][47]

On December 4, 2018, Funimation inked an exclusive multi-year first-look SVOD deal with Hulu.[48]

On February 1, 2019, Gen Fukunaga announced that he would be stepping down as general manager, and transitioning to chairman of the company,[49] with Colin Decker assuming the role of general manager in May 2019.[50]

On March 23, 2019, at AnimeJapan 2019, Funimation announced that they had partnered with Chinese streaming service Bilibili to jointly license anime titles for both US and Chinese markets.[51]

On May 29, 2019, Funimation announced that they had acquired Manga Entertainment UK, and immediately consolidated Funimation's UK business into Manga Entertainment.[52]

On August 31, 2019, Aniplex of America announced on Twitter to be partnering with Funimation Films to co-release Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl theatrically in the U.S. on October 2, 2019, and in Canada on October 4, 2019.[53]

On September 24, 2019, Sony Pictures Television and Aniplex announced that they were consolidating their international anime streaming businesses under a new joint venture, with Funimation general manager Colin Decker leading the joint venture; the joint venture would operate under Funimation's branding, and allow Funimation to acquire and distribute titles with Aniplex subsidiaries Wakanim and Madman Anime Group (AnimeLab). The first title under the joint venture, Fate/Grand Order - Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia, would receive a 30-day exclusivity on FunimationNow, AnimeLab and Wakanim, and provide Funimation exclusive rights to the English dub for one year.[54]

Legal actions[edit]

Anti-piracy[edit]

In 2005, Funimation's legal department began to pursue a more aggressive approach toward protecting the company's licensed properties, they started sending "cease and desist" (C&D) letters to sites offering links to fansubs of their titles. This move was similar to that taken by the now-defunct ADV Films several years before with several major torrent sites.[55]

Funimation's legal department served C&D letters for series that had not yet been advertised or announced as licensed, including Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Black Cat, and SoltyRei, with a few known series also mentioned in the letter.[56] Funimation revealed more licenses on October 6, 2006 when it sent letters to torrent sites demanding that distribution of xxxHolic's TV series, Mushishi, Ragnarok the Animation, and other series cease.[57]

Since October 2009, Funimation has routinely filed DMCA takedown notices to get unauthorized distributions of its and its partners' properties removed from Google search results.[notes 1]

In January 2011, Funimation filed a lawsuit against BitTorrent users in the U.S. for allegedly downloading and uploading One Piece.[58] Funimation dropped the suit in March after a Northern Texas judge, having already indicated that the court would appoint attorneys for the defendants,[59] ruled that the defendants were not "acting in concert" and thus could not be sued as a group; each would have to be sued separately.[60]

The One Piece film at issue was a fansub, an unauthorized copy distributed with fan-produced, translated subtitles. Soon after the lawsuit was abandoned, Funimation was reported to have long been deriving dubs from fansubs.[61] Nevertheless, Funimation continues to hold their stance that fansubbing is harmful to the anime industry, stating "The practices of illegal downloads and 'fansubbing' are very harmful to our Japanese partners and [...] we have been asked to monitor and take action against unauthorized distribution of these titles. Because we believe that this will benefit the industry, we have agreed to do so."[62] Sites which distribute fansubs or separate fan-created subtitles remain a frequent target of civil actions by Funimation and other anime companies, as well as criminal prosecution in at least one case.[63]

Two months after failing to sue BitTorrent users in the North Texas district, Funimation engaged in forum shopping and proceeded to sue 1,427 defendants in the neighboring East Texas district for acting "in concert" to infringe copyright on The Legend Is Born: Ip Man; this case was allowed to proceed.[64]

Disputes with partners[edit]

In November 2011, Funimation sued A.D. Vision, AEsir Holdings, Section23 Films, Valkyrie Media Partners, Seraphim Studios, Sentai Filmworks and its CEO, John Ledford and Switchblade Pictures for a sum of $8 million, citing "breach of contracts" and other issues. Funimation said that ADV's transfer of assets were made with "the intent to defer, hinder or defraud the creditors of ADV [Films]." Funimation sought ADV's sale of assets as void.[65] The lawsuit was settled in mediation in 2014; the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.[66]

Vic Mignogna lawsuit[edit]

In early 2019, allegations of sexual misconduct against voice actor Vic Mignogna were brought forward on Twitter. Funimation conducted an internal investigation of the matter and announced on February 11, 2019 that they had ended their relations with Mignogna.[67] On April 19, 2019, Mignogna filed a civil suit against Funimation, and voice actors Jamie Marchi, Monica Rial, and Rial's fiancé, Ron Toye. Mignogna and his attorney were seeking a monetary relief of over $1 million.[68] On June 12, 2019, Funimation filed a response denying Mignogna's allegations.[69] On July 1, 2019, Funimation filed an anti-SLAPP motion for Mignogna to dismiss his lawsuit.[70] Rial, Marchi, and Toye then filed their anti-SLAPP motions on July 19, 2019.[71] A hearing was set for September 6, 2019 to consider the defendants' anti-SLAPP motions.[72] On September 6, 2019, John Chupp, the judge presiding over the case, dismissed the civil suit against Marchi.[73] On October 4, 2019, the civil suit against Funimation, Rial, and Toye was dismissed.[74]

Kojicast lawsuit[edit]

On April 24, 2019, Kojicast filed a lawsuit against Funimation claiming that the company's FunimationNow streaming service was an infringement on Kojicast's patent.[75]

Foreign distribution[edit]

Until 2016, Funimation did not directly release its properties in non-North American (English language speaking) markets, and instead sub-licensed its properties to other companies such as Revelation Films, MVM Entertainment, Manga Entertainment, and Anime Limited in the United Kingdom until 2016, and Madman Entertainment and Siren Visual in Australia and New Zealand until 2017. Funimation has also attempted to distribute Dragon Ball Z to Spanish speaking audiences, and has released a number of Spanish-language DVDs of the series.

In 2016, Funimation began directly releasing some of its titles in the United Kingdom and Ireland with Funimation branding, with Funimation handling licensing and localization, and Anime Limited handling distribution and classification.[76] Funimation later distributed My Hero Academia in the region through Universal Pictures UK in 2017,[77] and later through Sony Pictures UK, along with other select titles, in 2018.[78] Funimation later began sub-licensing titles to Manga Entertainment in late 2018, before acquiring the company in 2019 and releasing titles directly.[79]

Funimation also began directly distributing its titles in Australia and New Zealand in 2017. Similar to the UK and Ireland, select titles were released through Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment from 2017 to 2018. From September 2018, Funimation transferred distribution to Madman Entertainment, with Madman handling distribution and classification within the region.[80][81]

Funimation Channel[edit]

Funimation Entertainment, along with OlympuSAT, launched the Funimation Channel on September 29, 2005, the second 24-hour anime digital cable network in North America (the first being A.D. Vision's Anime Network).[82][83] OlympuSAT was the exclusive distributor of the channel.[83]

On March 23, 2006, a syndicated block was announced for Colours TV.[84] A few months later, it was announced that the channel was launched in a few cities via UHF digital signals.[85][86] Both services were discontinued in favor for a more successful expansion on digital cable, fiber optics and DBS systems;[87][88] the channel launched its HD feed on September 27, 2010.[89] On December 31, 2015, Funimation & OlympuSAT ended their deal and no longer broadcasts Funimation titles on the channel;[90] the channel relaunched as Toku, while Funimation announced plans to relaunch Funimation Channel in 2016.[91][92]

Back in 2007, Funimation Entertainment licensed Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie, the Record of Lodoss War series, the Project A-ko series, Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer and Grave of the Fireflies from Central Park Media and played them on the Funimation Channel on television in the United States.[93][94][95] In 2009, they licensed Buso Renkin, Honey and Clover, Hunter × Hunter, Nana and Monster from Viz Media (their fellow rival) for the channel,[96][97][98] they also licensed Ninja Nonsense and Boogiepop Phantom from Right Stuf Inc.'s Nozomi Entertainment division for it as well. The only title licensed for Funimation Channel which was not licensed by Funimation, neither Viz Media, nor Nozomi Entertainment or Central Park Media was Haré+Guu, which was licensed for North American distribution by AN Entertainment and Bang Zoom! Entertainment and had its North American DVD release published by Funimation, while its licensors were the producers. The only Enoki USA titles Funimation licensed for Funimation Channel were Revolutionary Girl Utena and His and Her Circumstances.[99]

Alternative distribution[edit]

In July 2008, Funimation and Red Planet Media announced the launch of a mobile video-on-demand service for AT&T Mobility and Sprint mobile phone subscribers. Three titles were part of the launch, Gunslinger Girl, Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase, and The Galaxy Railways, with entire seasons of each made available.[100]

On September 19, 2006, Funimation created an official channel on YouTube where they upload advertisements for box sets, as well as clips and preview episodes of their licensed series. In September 2008, they began distributing full episodes of series on Hulu.[101] In December of the same year, Funimation added a video section to their main website with preview episodes of various series. In April 2009, they began distributing full episodes of series at Veoh.[102][103] Full episodes are also available on the YouTube channel as well as on Netflix, the PlayStation Network (PSN) Video Store and Xbox Live/Zune Marketplace;[104] the application launched for PlayStation 4 in March 2015.[105]

Simuldub program[edit]

In January 2014, Funimation dubbed episodes of Space Dandy and aired them on Adult Swim's Toonami programming block a day before the Japanese broadcast, becoming one of the first moments where an actual anime premiered in another country before Japan. After the simuldub method gained success, Funimation announced a simuldub program in October 2014, which would be exclusive to subscribers on their website. For anime series, getting simuldubs confirms that the anime series will get US home video releases from Funimation;[106] the program first began with simuldub versions of Psycho-Pass 2 and Laughing Under the Clouds, episodes of which were streamed roughly three weeks to one month following their original Japanese broadcast.[107]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ As of October 2012, the Chilling Effects search engine is broken, but Google search results for site:chillingeffects.org funimation reveal the DMCA notices received and processed so far.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Media related to Funimation at Wikimedia Commons