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World Masterpiece Theater (世界名作劇場, Sekai Meisaku Gekijō) is a Japanese TV anime series that showcased an animated version of a different classical book or story each year from 19:30 to 20:00 on Sunday on Fuji TV. It aired from 1969 to 1997 and from 2007 to 2009. Commonly abbreviated to Meigeki (名劇, Meigeki).
The first several series were produced by Mushi Production and sometimes Tokyo Movie Shinsha, often commissioned by Zuiyo Eizo, and then by Zuiyo itself. The series was then continued by Zuiyo's division Nippon Animation, which was officially established in June 1975 during the run of A Dog of Flanders. In both cases, the series originally aired primarily on Fuji TV. Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata both worked on several of the series. World Masterpiece Theater as produced by Nippon Animation lasted for 23 seasons, from A Dog of Flanders in 1975 to Remi, Nobody's Girl (家なき子レミ, Ie Naki Ko Remi, Sans Famille) in 1997. Nippon Animation restarted the series in 2007 with the release of Les Misérables: Shōjo Cosette, which premiered on BS Fuji on 7 January 2007, with Porufi no Nagai Tabi (The Long Journey of Porphy) subsequently airing on the same network beginning on 6 January 2008, making it the 25th World Masterpiece Theater series. The most recent and 26th series is Kon'nichiwa Anne: Before Green Gables (lit. Hello Anne ~ Before Green Gables).
To date, only seven series were ever dubbed in English for the North American market: Fables of the Green Forest (1973), Tom Sawyer (1980), Swiss Family Robinson (1981), Little Women (1987), The Adventures of Peter Pan (1989), The Bush Baby (1992), and Tico & Friends (1994). The anime satellite television network, Animax, who also aired numerous installments of the series across Japan, later translated and dubbed many of the series' installments into English for broadcast across its English-language networks in Southeast Asia and South Asia, such as Princess Sarah (小公女セーラ, Shōkōjo Sēra), Remi, Nobody's Girl (家なき子レミ, Ie Naki Ko Remi), Little Women (愛の若草物語, Ai no Wakakusa Monogatari), and others. The serials also found success in Europe, with Anne of Green Gables (1979), Miyazaki's last work for Nippon Animation before leaving the studio), Heidi, Girl of the Alps, as well as the aforementioned Princess Sarah.
The series has been known by various names over the years (as shown below), but "the World Masterpiece Theater" is the name most commonly used by viewers. Nippon Animation's official English name for the series is "The Classic Family Theater Series".
Starting in 2017 Amazon Prime Video made various series available in HD quality, but cropped for 16:9 displays in the US and UK markets. However Amazon did not use the "World Masterpiece Theater" label and only kept the subtitle for each series.
In March 2023, Capcom teamed up with Nippon Animation to promote Resident Evil 4 with a mini-series called Resident Evil Masterpiece Theater: Leon and the Mysterious Village (バイオ名作劇場 ふしぎの村のレオン, Baio Meisaku Gekijō: Fushigi no Mura no Reon), with voices provided by the game's development team.
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The stories adapted by World Masterpiece Theater tended to have the following features in common.
- The main character's family environment is an orphan or a single-parent family. The main character loses either or both father and mother.
- The main theme is family, and the influence of a deceased parent remains until the end.
- An animal character appears.
- The stage is set in a real city.
- The era is set between the 19th century and the end of World War II.
- No prince or princess was added. (After Andersen Stories ended.)
As these backgrounds, the time when this series was broadcast (1975–1997), it was common that TV was possessed by "one per a family", anime which are easy to put regardless of age were preferred, and were oriented for family. Videos became widespread in Japan in the late 1980s, and the time that TV was possessed by "one per a person" became common is after the Cold War (since 1992).
As an exception to the above, the double-parents family is Tales of Little Women (1987), the fictional world is The Adventures of Peter Pan (1989), and the work set after the World War II and without the original novel is Tico of the Seven Seas (1994).
Companion volume edit
Apart from Fuji TV, there was also a companion volume of the World Masterpiece Theater, which was broadcast on TV Tokyo from 19:30 to 20:00 on Thursday. This is sponsored by Sumitomo Electric Industries alone, but it is characterized by the theme of a specific field rather than the family. Moero! Top Striker (1991) and Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (1992) are works of this companion volume.
Recurring casts edit
The following people frequently appeared in the World Masterpiece Theater, including the companion volume on TV Tokyo.
- Kōzō Kusuba
- Yoshio Kuroda : Other than the director, he also worked on storyboards and series composition, for example.
- Sound director
- Voice actor
Before Nippon Animation – Calpis Comic Theater (1969–1974) edit
Note: These are the only series that are not included into the World Masterpiece Theater franchise.
- Dororo/Dororo and Hyakkimaru (どろろと百鬼丸, Dororo to Hyakimaru, 1969), 26 episodes: Adapted from the manga Dororo by the Japanese manga artist Osamu Tezuka. Produced by Mushi Production. The only series in black and white.
- Moomin (ムーミン, Mūmin, 1969–1970), 65 episodes: Adapted from the Moomin books by the Finnish author Tove Jansson. Produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha, Mushi Production and Zuiyo Enterprise.
- Andersen Stories (アンデルセン物語, Anderusen Monogatari, 1971), 52 episodes：Adapted from several stories by Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish fairy tale writer. Produced by Mushi Production and Zuiyo Enterprise.
- New Moomin (新 ムーミン, Shin Mūmin, 1972), 52 episodes: A remake of the 1969–1970 Moomin series, based more closely on the books. Produced by Mushi Production and Zuiyo Enterprise.
- Fables of the Green Forest (山ねずみ ロッキーチャック, Yama Nezumi Rokkī Chakku, 1973), 52 episodes：Adapted from the stories of animal-themed children's writer, Thornton Burgess. Produced by Zuiyo Eizo.
- Heidi, Girl of the Alps (アルプスの少女ハイジ, Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji, 1974), 52 episodes：Adapted from Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Produced by Zuiyo Eizo.
Nippon Animation – Calpis Children's Theater (1975–1977) edit
Note: These are the 26 official entries of the World Masterpiece Theater franchise.
- A Dog of Flanders (フランダースの犬, Furandāsu no Inu, 1975), 52 episodes：Adapted from the novel of the same name by Maria Louise Ramé (aka Ouida). First series produced by Nippon Animation but still credited to Zuiyo Eizo and broadcast in the Calpis Comic Theater only in episodes 1 to 20 and 24 to 26.
- Marco, 3000 Leagues in Search for Mother (母をたずねて三千里, Haha o Tazunete Sanzen Ri, 1976), 52 episodes：Adapted from a small part of Heart, the chapter named "From the Apennines to the Andes", written by Italian author Edmondo De Amicis.
- Rascal the Raccoon (あらいぐまラスカル, Araiguma Rasukaru, 1977), 52 episodes：Adapted from Rascal by Sterling North.
Calpis Family Theater (1978) edit
- The Story of Perrine (ペリーヌ物語, Perīnu Monogatari, 1978), 53 episodes：Adapted from En Famille by Hector Malot.
World Masterpiece Theater (1979–1985; no title sponsor) edit
- Anne of Green Gables (赤毛のアン, Akage no An, 1979), 50 episodes：Adapted from the novel of the same name by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (トム・ソーヤーの冒険, Tomu Sōyā no Bōken, 1980), 49 episodes：Adapted from the novel of the same name by Mark Twain.
- The Swiss Family Robinson: Flone of the Mysterious Island (家族ロビンソン漂流記 ふしぎな島のフローネ, Kazoku Robinson Hyōryūki: Fushigi na Shima no Furōne, 1981), 50 episodes：Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss.
- Lucy-May of the Southern Rainbow (南の虹のルーシー, Minami no Niji no Rūshī, 1982), 50 episodes：Adapted from the Australian novel Southern Rainbow by Phyllis Piddington.
- Story of the Alps: My Annette (わたしのアンネット, Watashi no Annetto, 1983), 48 episodes：Adapted from the English children book, Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John.
- Katri, Girl of the Meadows (牧場の少女カトリ, Makiba no Shōjo Katori, 1984), 49 episodes：Adapted from the Finnish novel Paimen, piika ja emäntä by Auni Nuolivaara.
- Princess Sarah (小公女セーラ, Shōkōjo Sēra, 1985), 46 episodes：Adapted from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
House Foods World Masterpiece Theater (1986–1993) edit
- The Story of Pollyanna, Girl of Love (愛少女ポリアンナ物語, Ai Shōjo Porianna Monogatari, 1986), 51 episodes： Adapted from Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up, by Eleanor H. Porter.
- Tales of Little Women (愛の若草物語, Ai no Wakakusa Monogatari, 1987), 48 episodes：Adapted from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
- Little Prince Cedie (小公子セディ, Shōkōshi Sedi, 1988), 43 episodes：Adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel, Little Lord Fauntleroy.
- The Adventures of Peter Pan (ピーターパンの冒険, Pītā Pan no Bōken, 1989), 41 episodes：Adapted from J. M. Barrie's play and novel, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up and Peter and Wendy.
- My Daddy Long Legs (私のあしながおじさん, Watashi no Ashinaga Ojisan, 1990), 40 episodes：Adapted from Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster.
- Trapp Family Story (トラップ一家物語, Torappu Ikka Monogatari, 1991), 40 episodes：Adapted from The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp, which also inspired the musical The Sound of Music and its film version.
- The Bush Baby (大草原の小さな天使 ブッシュベイビー, Daisōgen no Chiisana Tenshi Busshu Beibī, 1992), 40 episodes：Adapted from The Bushbabies by William Stevenson.
- Little Women II: Jo's Boys (Tale of Young Grass: Nan and Miss Jo) (若草物語 ナンとジョー先生, Wakakusa Monogatari: Nan to Jōsensei, 1993), 40 episodes： Adapted from Little Women's sequel, Little Men by Louisa May Alcott.
World Masterpiece Theater (1994–1997; no title sponsor) edit
- Tico of the Seven Seas (七つの海のティコ, Nanatsu no Umi no Tiko, 1994), 39 episodes: An original story.
- Romeo's Blue Skies (ロミオの青い空, Romio no Aoi Sora, 1995), 33 episodes：Adapted from Die schwarzen Brüder by Kurt Held (published under the name of his wife Lisa Tetzner).
- Famous Dog Lassie (名犬ラッシー, Meiken Rasshī, 1996), 26 episodes: Adapted from the short story Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight.
- Remi, Nobody's Girl (家なき子レミ, Ie Naki Ko Remi, 1996–1997), 26 episodes: Adapted from Sans Famille by Hector Malot.
House Foods World Masterpiece Theater (2007–2008) edit
- Les Misérables: Little Girl Cosette (レ・ミゼラブル 少女コゼット, Re Mizeraburu Shōjo Kozetto, 2007), 52 episodes：Adapted from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.
- The Long Journey of Porphy (ポルフィの長い旅, Porufi no Nagai Tabi, 2008), 52 episodes: Adapted from The Orphans of Simitra by Paul-Jacques Bonzon.
World Masterpiece Theater (2009) edit
Feature films edit
Two additional theatrical feature films remake were produced as part of the franchise:
- The Dog of Flanders: The Movie (劇場版 フランダースの犬, Gekijōban Furandāsu no Inu, 1997)
- Marco: 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (Marco 母をたずねて三千里, Maruko Haha o Tazunete Sanzenri, 1999)
Re-edited footage films of Heidi, Girl of the Alps, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, The Story of Perrine and Anne of Green Gables were also released in theater in Japan over the years. Subsequently, every series of the franchise received a re-edited footage OVA released on DVD by Bandai and later broadcast as TV Specials.
See also edit
- Elemental Note: Chronological settings of the World Masterpiece Theater
- The Room of links: Links of the World Masterpiece Theater
- "Program|NIPPON ANIMATION CO., LTD". www.nipponanimation.com. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- "Tales of Little Women". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- "Swiss Family Robinson". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 16 May 2020.