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Foreign animated movies released direct-to-DVD in America – by Fred Patten


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Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Woody Woodpecker PosterAre you going to see Woody Woodpecker: The Movie? It’s coming out on October 5th.

In Brazil.

But it’s a Universal movie. Or at least Universal is distributing it there.

The American public may not have noticed it, but one of the cinematic trends of the 2010s has been the production or subsidizing by American movie companies of movies featuring their famous cartoon stars, for theatrical distribution worldwide by those companies – except in the U.S. We get them as direct-to-DVD children’s movies.

Examples: this Woody Woodpecker movie in Brazil, Pica Pau – O Filme. It’s distributed by Universal Pictures/Studios there. It will premiere in Brazil on October 5th, and be released in Chile as El Pájaro Loco (The Crazy Bird; woodpecker would be El Pájaro Carpintero Loco) on November 9th. It should be released in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Spain, and the United Kingdom later in 2017 (probably as a kiddie Xmas movie) or in early 2018. And also probably as Woody Woodpecker: The Movie, a U.S. direct-to-DVD kid’s movie.

Universal has owned Woody Woodpecker ever since Walter Lantz introduced him in an Andy Panda cartoon, Knock Knock, on November 25, 1940. Lantz’s animation studio was subsidized by Universal. But the new movie is not produced by the main studio. It’s a production of Universal 1440 Entertainment, a.k.a. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal’s home video division since 1980. Besides releasing Universal’s movies on DVD for home purchase, UPHE also distributes the DVDs of, to mention just the animation companies, DreamWorks, FUNimation (anime), GKIDS, and Open Road Films (The Nut Job).

Woody Woodpecker: The Movie is a live-action/CGI animation combo. UPHE produced the live-action in British Columbia. Since it’s premiering in Brazil, the live-action features Brazilian actress Thaila Ayala. But the director is American Alex Zamm, who has specialized in direct-to-DVD children’s films such as Inspector Gadget 2 for Disney and Jingle All the Way 2 for 20th Century Fox. Woody’s voice actor is Hasbro/Nickelodeon/Warner Bros. Animation veteran Eric Bauza. Universal Pictures International is the division that handles theatrical distribution in Australia, China, Germany, Spain, the U.K., and most of those other countries where this Woody Woodpecker movie will be shown.

How about Top Cat? The TV cartoon series was created by Hanna-Barbera in 1961, and acquired by Warner Bros. in 1996. WB gave copyright permission and subsidized the production of two Top Cat animated features by Ánima Estudios in Mexico City in 2011 (Don Gato y Su Pandilla, a.k.a. Top Cat: The Movie) and 2015 (Don Gato: El Inicio de la Pandilla, a.k.a. Top Cat Begins). The first is in cartoon animation; the second is CGI. WB got theatrical distribution in Mexico and other countries; its division for that is called Worldwide Marketing and Distribution. Of course, the two movies were direct-to-DVD home video releases in the U.S.

Not a famous American cartoon, but Warner Bros. has subsidized the production costs of Happy Family, an August 24, 2017 theatrical release (for Halloween?) in Germany – by WB – that looks like a mashup of The Addams Family, The Munsters, and Hotel Transylvania. The theatrical releases include almost every country in Australia, Europe and Latin America, plus Canada – for WB. What do you bet that it will be a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release in the U.S.? The CGI production company is Rothkirch Cartoon Film in Berlin.

Tinker Bell Movie Poster

Disney is producing its own own theatrical/DVD releases, most often subcontracting to Prana Studios in Mumbai, India for the animation. The six Tinker Bell movies — Tinker Bell (2008), Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure (2009), Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (2010), Secret of the Wings (2012), and The Pirate Fairy and Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast (both in 2014) – were planned, written, storyboarded, and voice-recorded by Disneytoon Studios in Hollywood, sent to Prana for animation production, then returned to Disneytoon for marrying the voice track to the animation, adding the sound effects, and the music. Taking The Pirate Fairy as an example, it was released between February 2014 in Argentina, Denmark, Ireland and the U.K., and the Baltic nations, and August 2014 in Hungary, Poland, and Portugal. The U.S. release was on April 1st, as a DVD. It was a DVD release in at least five other countries, but Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures released it theatrically in Argentina, Germany, Greece, Hungary, France, and the Netherlands.

I haven’t tracked every furry movie, but the number of them coming out as DVD originals is increasing. The Japanese invented the OAVs (Original Animation Videos) with Studio Pierrot’s s-f Dallos in December 1983. As an anime fan in the 1980s, I remember when we all wanted the American studios to make American OAVs. When we finally got them, they were called direct-to-videos. The first one was furry, too: Warner Bros. Animation’s Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation, on March 11, 1992. Today, who knows how many original home videos there are, and with more and more of them made abroad and/or getting theatrical releases. (And in this case, Canada counts as “abroad”.)

– Fred Patten

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