The Strange World of licensed Disney anime and manga


When you think of anime studios, Disney is not the first thing that comes to mind. When you think about anime characters, fans definitely don’t think about the Lilo Stitch and the glory of the Stitch. Disney’s recent anime venture is quite famous for licensing the exclusive streaming rights to Summertime Render and creating its own adaptation of Twisted Wonderland based on a game released under a Disney license of the same time. But in fact, Disney has been experimenting with anime for much longer.

Disney is a leader in family entertainment with original and licensed companies such as Mickey Mouse and Friends, Disney Princesses and Pixar, as well as theme parks and a variety of brands. In the anime world, they have created several manga and anime subsidiaries of media companies they own, and have also obtained exclusive anime streaming rights to stream anime created by other production companies.

Disney’s Complicated History with Disney

Before Disney released its own anime and manga, the company became the sole international distributor of Studio Ghibli. Prior to the partnership , Manson International distributed the 1984 film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds by Ghibli . However, this company cut 22 minutes of the film for international distribution. This caused discontent with Ghibli, but there were few companies willing to distribute anime before this medium became mainstream. This was the case until 1996, when Disney became the only international distributor. Several films were distributed with minor edits to adapt to an international audience through Disney, and everything went smoothly until Princess Mononoke appeared.

Harvey Weinstein, who is a notorious figure in his own right, wanted to shorten the two-hour film. When this became known to Ghibli, producer Toshio Suzuki sent a samurai sword with a note “no cuts”. The excessive gesture sent a message, and the film remained as Miyazaki intended. Although this story was called an Internet rumor, Miyazaki confirmed that it really happened.

The next important part of the history of Disney and Ghibli, and perhaps the most significant, was the release of “Gone with the Ghosts.” Previously, Ghibli films were released in limited editions through Disney distribution, it was John Lasseter who jumped at the chance to become the producer of the English release and fight for wide distribution. Lasseter’s campaign worked even with a limited marketing budget. Not only did “Gone with the Ghosts” break records that still hold in Japan, as it grossed over 200 million before reaching the US, but it also became the first and only anime to win an Academy Award.

However, the next few Ghibli films also failed to sell, and this meant that GKids took over Disney’s partnership with Ghibli in 2017. This is surprising now, given that some of these films are selling poorly to an international audience. such classic works as “The Walking Castle” and “Ponyo”.

Disney’s Attempt at Media Related Manga and Stitches

At the height of the Disney-Ghibli partnership, Disney experimented with manga. Most of them were one-off or one-volume adaptations of films such as “Monster Corporation”, “Lilo and Stitch” and “Kingdom of Hearts”. However, one of the most notable examples is Princess Kilala, where the star was an original character named Kilala. In the five-volume series, she was a little girl obsessed with all the Disney princesses and embarks on a magical adventure inspired by the princess movies.

Two other franchises from Disney have worked longer in the field of manga. There are several collections of stories about Tinkerbell and other Pixie Hollow fairies. Another franchise has been much more successful in the manga field; Lilo and Stitch. More precisely, Stitch himself. One was called simply Stitch!, where he meets a girl in Japan and learns all about Japanese culture, and it consisted of two volumes. Another series, released in 2020 and again consisting of two volumes, was “Tonosama for Stitch,” in which Stitch lands in Sengoku-era Japan.

Disney: Twisted Wonderland

A unique jewel in the notorious crown of Disney and Otaku culture is Disney: Twisted Wonderland. The creator of Black Butler herself was responsible for the storyline and character design. The game works according to the Gacha system, which distributes characters inspired by Disney villains among players for use in battles, mixing elements of a visual novel rhythm game. The game has been incredibly popular in Japan, but the next step Disney is taking with the franchise is to attract an international audience to the game.

Disney has announced that there will be an anime adaptation of Disney: Twisted Wonderland, which will be broadcast on Disney+. As news of the announcements was quiet until recently, when it was announced that more information about the adaptation would be revealed at this year’s D23 Expo.


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