Fantastical creatures and magical landscapes are coming to you in a big way via a collaboration between Netflix and Studio Colorido, famed in Japan for its feature-length anime storytelling.
This is the first time Netflix is inking a studio deal with a Japanese feature animation studio. After having success with A Whisker Away, we’re teaming up to produce three feature films, starting with Drifting Home premiering on September 16. One of the other two Studio Colorido films will be directed by Tomotaka Shibayama, launching on Netflix in 2024.
We spoke with Netflix’s Director of Japan Content, Yuji Yamano, and Studio Colorido’s President, Koji Yamamoto, about the significance of the partnership, and their early memories of animation.
Yuji Yamano (left), Netflix’s Director of Japan Content, and Koji Yamamoto (right), Studio Colorido’s President, celebrate their expanded partnership.
Netflix and Studio Colorido first started working together in 2020. How did that come about?
Koji Yamamoto: It was a combination of coincidence and opportunity. The theatrical release of A Whisker Away in 2020 had to be postponed repeatedly because of Covid-19. But we also knew, given our experience with Penguin Highway, that it may have been challenging for an original film like A Whisker Away to become an immediate box office hit. So we decided to pivot to premiere the film worldwide on Netflix.
Yuji Yamano: Audiences around the world loved the charming, whimsical romance told in A Whisker Away. It became one of the Top 10 most watched films in over 30 countries. To us, Studio Colorido’s ability to bring to life entirely original stories in high-quality 2D animation was magical.
What excites you most about this new partnership to co-produce new films?
Yamano: Studio Colorido has some of Japan’s finest animation creators who have been producing best-in-class original animated features over the last 10 years.
At Netflix, we place a premium on authentic material for our core fans as well as to draw in new viewers. This partnership extends our growing film slate in Japan, and also adds to our collection of more “lean-back” and family-friendly stories. We will also explore theatrical releases for upcoming films we co-produce, in addition to their Netflix premieres. The first example of that will be Drifting Home, which will premiere on Netflix and in theaters on the same day.
Yamamoto: A Whisker Away gave us the opportunity to see a business model where streaming and theater release could co-exist. Our first premiere on Netflix also broke the mindset that a Japanese film would be well-received only in certain countries. For us, it was exciting to discover a new segment of viewers, beyond core anime fans.
What does this deal signify for animated films in Japan and overseas?
Yamano: We’re sharing Japanese stories and talent globally, establishing anime as an artform with universal appeal. Hopefully, more people will realize that Japanese animation is no longer a business limited to Japanese consumers, but a global business with fans around the world.
Yamamoto: I hope this deal will signal to consumers, and to the industry, that theaters and streaming are complementary. We hope the partnership will be a successful example of giving consumers choice.
Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming films?
Yamamoto: In Studio Colorido, we have this term “magic-realism.” In our films, the goal has always been to transport viewers to a fantasy world from a setting close to their everyday lives. We typically target older teenage audiences and young adults. Those will be throughlines to our upcoming films, including the next film we’re currently developing, directed by Tomotaka Shibayama (A Whisker Away) planned to be released in 2024.
What’s your first or favorite memory with animation?
Yamamoto:Castle in the Sky and Mobile Suit Z Gundam. I dreamt of joining Studio Ghibli as a young man. When I was about 20, I applied to be trained as a director under Studio Ghibli co-founders Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. I wasn’t accepted. But Castle in the Sky continues to inspire our studio’s works.
Yamano: I was about five years old when I first saw Castle in the Sky from Studio Ghibli. I watched it over and over again. Now, I have a four-year-old daughter who loves Studio Ghibli films too. I think we’ve watched My Neighbor Totoro over 50 times! I’m lucky to have a job where I get to continue celebrating the art of filmmaking and pass along stories to my own family.
Drifting Home will premiere on Netflix September 16. In the meantime, catch up on A Whisker Away.