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Warner Bros Animation Announces New Push Into "Anime and Action Animation"


Anime has been enjoying a surge in global popularity, largely powered by the growth of streaming services. Japanese animated films and series have been reaching new mainstream audiences as sites such as Netflix and HBO Max have given them increased visibility. This has in turn led to more western studios getting in on anime themselves, either through funding or co-production or by producing anime-influenced content themselves.

Warner Bros are among the latest mainstream studio to get involved, with the announcement of the animated spin-off Lord Of The Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, from acclaimed director Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost In The Shell: Standalone Complex). WarnerMedia has already dipped a toe into the anime world through the Adult Swim and Toonami brands, which are co-producing Fena: Pirate Princess, Blade Runner: Black Lotus (with Crunchyroll)  and Uzamaki. They were also previously involved in the sequels to cult classic FLCL and The Big O.

Now it seems they are diving in head first as Warner Bros Animation is set to make a major push into anime. It has been announced that Jason DeMarco is being promoted to a new role as Senior Vice President, Anime and Action Series/Longform at Warner Bros Animation and Cartoon Network Studios. DeMarco is the co-creator of Toonami, and can therefore be credited as one of those responsible for the increased prominence of anime in US and western culture.

DeMarco is an ideal person to spearhead this expansion, as he has first-hand experience in working with major Japanese studios on the co-productions at Adult Swim. He will also remain in his current role as Senior Vice President, Head of Anime and Action Series at Adult Swim, but will no longer be involved at Adult Swim beyond Toonami.

To be clear, WBA and CNS do not appear to be following in Netflix's footsteps and making western animation and calling it anime. DeMarco confirmed via Twitter that he's planning on working with bona fide Japanese studios and not just making 'anime influenced' animation.

Based on what we have seen so far, this could mean giving anime studios the ability to create new stories based on properties that are owned by WarnerMedia. We have already seen this happen with Blade Runner and Lord Of The Rings, but the potential for other franchises could be very exciting. Could we see series (or movies) based on franchises like Mad Max, Gremlins, Harry Potter or Westworld or maybe a new Animatrix? Or perhaps give anime studios access to DC characters? Alternatively they may fund adaptations of certain manga series (as is happening with Uzamaki, based on horror manga master Junji Ito's graphic novels). Or could they go to anime legends like Shinichiro Watanabe, Hideaki Anno or Hiroyuki Imaishi and offer to bankroll their dream project? There are many exciting opportunities.

The 'action' part of the new title indicates that as well as working with anime studios, DeMarco and his team will also be involved in the creation of original action series, presumably made inhouse at WBA or CNS. With Cartoon Network moving away from action series in favour of comedy over the past few years, this is great news for fans of action animation.

Demarco said:

I got into this business because I love action cartoons and storytelling. Being able to work in anime and action development, two areas of animation I care about deeply, is a dream come true. I can’t wait to bring everything I’ve learned from Toonami and Adult Swim to our animation studios.


The 'long-form' part indicates the intention to make features and specials as well as series.  Both series and long-form productions could end up on broadcast via Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, streaming via HBO Max or other apps, and in the case of movies, on the big screen.

In both anime and action, DeMarco will "pursue properties – original, library and third-party – to develop and produce series and long-form programming for all audiences." Among the first projects, he will work on will be on the Lord Of The Rings movie, which is being produced by WBA in association with New Line Cinema.