Netflix has closed its first-ever feature animation studio deal in Japan in the form of a three-picture deal with A Whisker Away producers Studio Colorido.
After rumors of cancellations within Netflix Animation were confirmed earlier this week, many began eulogizing the company’s cartoon prospects. Perhaps the news of Netflix’s animation demise was premature though, and the company is instead diversifying how it produces original animation. A co-production deal in one of the world’s most prolific animation countries might be an outlier, or it could be the first step down a new path.
Announced earlier this week, the deal will see Colorido produce three animated features for Netflix. The first, Drifting Home, will land on Netflix worldwide September 16. The streamer also dropped a trailer for the light-hearted film, which turns on a group of kids who enter an abandoned apartment building that is washed away into a great mysterious sea. Hiroyasu Ishida (Penguin Highway) directs.
“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,” said Netflix’s director of Japan content Yuji Yamano in an in-house interview published by the company. “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.”
Studio Colorido president Koji Yamamoto added: “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.”
Netflix and Colorido’s relationship was born from the pandemic. In 2020, the theatrical release for A Whisker Away was postponed several times. So, the Colorido team opted instead to send the film to streaming. The film proved a hit, charting on Netflix’s Top 10 film lists in more than 30 countries.
The Netflix-Colorido origin story does not, however, mean that Netflix’s Colorido co-produced films won’t get theatrical releases in the future. Yamano explained that Netflix will consider theatrical windows for other upcoming co-productions as well.
“The first example of that will be Drifting Home, which will premiere on Netflix and in theaters on the same day,” he pointed out.
Whether or not that model will be implemented in other territories, and whether any 100% Netflix-produced titles could get theatrical runs, remains to be seen.