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Funimation Productions, LLC[3] (commonly known as Funimation) is an American entertainment company that specializes in the dubbing and distribution of foreign content, most notably anime. Sony Pictures Entertainment, 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 alongside Viz Media, Sentai Filmworks, Aniplex of America, and more. Their most popular property is Toei Animation's action-adventure franchise Dragon Ball.

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)
ParentSony Pictures Television (95%)
Group 1200 Media (5%)
SubsidiariesFunimation Films[2]
Manga Entertainment (UK)
Websitefunimation.com

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 including Fukunaga and John A. Kuelbs 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. 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. 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.[6][7] The deal was closed on October 27, 2017.

From 2016–18, Funimation had a partnership agreement with Crunchyroll,[8] and in May 2019, Funimation acquired the British anime distributor Manga Entertainment.

Contents

HistoryEdit

 
The original Funimation logo used from 1994 to 2005

The company was founded on June 14, 1994 by Japanese-born businessman Gen Fukunaga.[9] Fukunaga's uncle, Nagafumi Hori, was working as a producer for Toei Company; Hori approached Gen 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. 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.[10] They initially collaborated with other companies on Dragon Ball, such as BLT Productions, Ocean Studios, Pioneer and Saban Entertainment. 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 United States as it had elsewhere. This led Funimation to license other anime to the U.S.

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.[11]

Purchase by Navarre CorporationEdit

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, the president 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.[12][13]

In 2007, Funimation moved from North Richland Hills, Texas to Flower Mound.[14] Funimation moved into the Lakeside Business District with a ten-year lease.[15]

Acquisition of Geneon and ADV licenses and online streamingEdit

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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

In 2009, Funimation signed a deal with Toei Animation to stream several of its anime titles online through the Funimation website and Hulu.[19]

Sale from Navarre, Nico Nico partnership and distribution dealEdit

In the first quarter of 2010, Navarre Corporation reclassified Funimation as "discounted operations" and began preparations to sell the company.[20] Navarre released a statement in April 2011 confirming that Funimation has been sold to a group of investors, including original owner Gen Fukunaga, for $24 million.[4] It is speculated that Funimation was sold at such a low cost (in comparison to how much it was originally purchased for, almost $100 million in cash and $15 million in stock in 2005) because Navarre wanted to continue distributing goods in relation to the products, but not handle the publishing. Navarre remained as exclusive distributor of Funimation's titles until 2013 when the company shutdown.

On October 14, 2011, Funimation announced a permanent 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.[21] The deal has since been severed.

In 2014, Funimation released Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods to theatres in partnership with Screenvision.[22] Based on its success, Funimation launched its own theatrical division in December 2014.[23]

 
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 will allow UPHE to manage distribution and sales of Funimation's catalog of titles.[24] Universal began distributing Funimation's titles in October of that year.[25]

FunimationNow and partnership with CrunchyrollEdit

In January 2016, Funimation announced a new streaming service, FunimationNow, along with a new logo. The service also is available in the UK and Ireland, the first time the company has expanded beyond North America.[citation needed]

On September 8, 2016, Funimation announced a partnership with Crunchyroll.[8] Select Funimation titles will be streamed subtitled on Crunchyroll and select Crunchyroll titles will be streamed on FunimationNow, including upcoming dubbed content. In addition, Funimation and Universal will 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.[26]

On October 18, 2018, Funimation announced that their partnership with Crunchyroll has ended as a result of Sony Pictures Television's acquisition of Funimation and AT&T's acquisition of Crunchyroll's parent company Otter Media.[27]

Acquisition by Sony PicturesEdit

In May 2017, it was reported that Universal Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment were interested in purchasing Funimation; however, Universal decided not to proceed with the bidding.[28] 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.[29] This deal allows Funimation to have synergies with Sony's Animax and Kids Station divisions and "direct access to the creative pipeline".[30] The deal was closed on October 27, 2017.

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.[31]

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.[32]

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 will end on November 9, 2018. Despite the home video releases being unaffected and still going on as planned, select Funimation content will be removed from Crunchyroll, and subtitled content will return to FunimationNow. Also, Funimation will be removed from Otter Media-owned streaming service VRV entirely, being replaced by Hidive.[33] On February 1, 2019, Gen Fukunaga announced that he would be stepping down as general manager, and transitioning to chairman of the company,[34] with Colin Decker assuming the role of general manager in May 2019.[35]

On December 4, 2018, Funimation inked an exclusive multi-year first-look SVOD deal with Hulu.[36]

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.[37]

On May 29, 2019, Funimation announced that they had acquired Manga Entertainment UK, and immediately consolidated Funimation's UK business into Manga Entertainment.[38]

Legal actionsEdit

Anti-piracyEdit

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 of the major torrent sites.[citation needed]

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.[39] 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.[40]

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.[41] Funimation dropped the suit in March after a Northern Texas judge, having already indicated that the court would appoint attorneys for the defendants,[42] 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.[43]

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.[44] Funimation nevertheless maintains 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."[45] 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.[46]

Two months after the failure 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.[47]

Disputes with partnersEdit

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.[48] The lawsuit was settled in mediation in 2014. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.[49]

Vic Mignogna lawsuitEdit

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.[50] 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 are seeking a monetary relief of over $1 million.[51]

Kojicast lawsuitEdit

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.[52]

Foreign distributionEdit

Funimation does 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.[citation needed]

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.[53] Funimation later distributed My Hero Academia in the region through Universal Pictures UK in 2017,[54] and later through Sony Pictures UK, along with other select titles, in 2018.[55] Funimation later began sub-licensing titles to Manga Entertainment in late 2018, prior to its acquisition in 2019.[56]

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.[57][58]

Funimation ChannelEdit

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

When the channel first launched, it was available to a few cities via UHF digital signals.[59] The service was temporary as the channel was trying to gain a foothold in the already crowded digital cable landscape. Another short-term service was the syndication of a Funimation Channel block to one of OlympuSAT's affiliate networks – Colours TV.[60] Both services were discontinued in favor for a more successful expansion on digital cable, fiber optics and DBS systems. The channel launched its HD feed on September 27, 2010. On December 31, 2015, Funimation & Olympusat ended their deal and no longer broadcasts Funimation titles on the channel.[61] The channel relaunched as Toku, while Funimation announced plans to relaunch Funimation Channel in 2016.

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.[62][63][64] In 2009, they licensed Buso Renkin, Honey and Clover, Hunter × Hunter, Nana and Monster from Viz Media (their fellow rival) for the channel.[65][66][67] 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.[68]

Alternative distributionEdit

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.[69] Three titles were part of the launch, Gunslinger Girl, Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase, and The Galaxy Railways, with entire seasons of each made available.

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.[70] 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.[71][72] 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.[73] The application launched for PlayStation 4 in March 2015.[74]

Simuldub programEdit

In January 2014, Funimation dubbed episodes of Space Dandy and broadcast them on Adult Swim's Toonami block a day earlier than the Japanese broadcast. 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.[75] 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.[76]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  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.

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

  Media related to Funimation at Wikimedia Commons