What Animation Does Sony Own?
A continuing series in which we map out what major corporations own in terms of characters, studios, and distribution platforms.
Today we’re looking at Sony Group Corporation, the tech and media multinational headquartered in Tokyo. Prominent in many fields, Sony has a large presence in animation and character-related entertainment, both in Hollywood and through its video game and anime businesses.
What follows is a list of animation-related companies/divisions and content Sony owns or co-owns, compiled to the best of our knowledge. This, and future entries in the series, will be updated as new information becomes available.
- Sony Pictures Animation, the production company behind the Hotel Transylvania films, the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and the recent Netflix release The Mitchells vs. the Machines. SPA mostly produces features but is increasingly moving into series and other formats. In 2019, the division unveiled an international initiative that will see it collaborate with artists and studios overseas (the forthcoming Chinese co-production Wish Dragon is an early product of this).
- Sony Pictures Imageworks, an animation and vfx studio in Los Angeles and Vancouver. The company animates most of SPA’s films as well as outside projects, including Over the Moon (for Pearl Studio and Netflix). It started out exclusively in vfx, and continues to provide services in this area: recent projects include Disney’s Mulan and Columbia’s Jumanji: The Next Level.
- Silvergate Media, a production company specialized in kids’ shows, including underwater-set preschool series Octonauts, Netflix’s Hilda, and Nick Jr.’s Sunny Day. The company, which Sony Pictures Television acquired in 2019, has close ties to China, including 49% interest in a joint venture with Beijing’s Wanda Group (which holds the rights to Octonauts). Sony also has a minority stake in Silvergate BP Bidco Limited, which produces the Peter Rabbit tv series.
- Classic theatrical shorts. Sony owns hundreds of Columbia Screen Gems theatrical animated shorts produced in the 1930s and ’40s. In the late 1940s, Columbia outsourced its theatrical shorts to the modernist animation studio United Productions of America (UPA), famous for Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing. Sony still owns the rights to UPA’s theatrical shorts as well, however it does not own the rights to Mr. Magoo himself.
- Characters and franchises. Sony own classic characters from its Columbia shorts catalog, though none have any name recognition with contemporary audiences. Perhaps the best known characters are Scrappy and Fox & Crow. Further, it owns film franchises like Ghostbusters and Men in Black, which have previously been adapted to television animation. Sony also owns 39% of Peanuts, which is due to the popularity of the characters in Japan. Its Japanese consumer products division Sony Creative Products runs a robust licensing program with the characters. Speaking of Sony Creative Products, the unit owns a number of original properties: Gaspard & Lisa, Mofy, Tama & Friends, Daifukukun, and Tinny & the Balloon. Meanwhile, Sony Interactive Entertainment, see below, owns dozens (if not hundreds) of video game characters and franchises, some of which have been transferred to film, such as Ratchet & Clank and the upcoming Uncharted.
- Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Responsible for distributing films to home entertainment, the division handles both films that Sony owns (American Pop, Eight Crazy Nights, Heavy Metal, Planet 51, features by Sony Pictures Animation) and films for which it has distribution rights (The Swan Princess, The Red Turtle, The Triplets of Belleville, Waltz with Bashir, Steamboy, Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation)
- Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan, the company’s Japanese film studio, which has been involved in the production and distribution of anime, including films by Satoshi Kon. It also holds a minority stake in Madhouse animation studio.
- Animax and Kids Station, 24-hour satellite channels dedicated to anime, which operate in Japan and other territories. Kids Station is aimed at younger viewers. Both channels are managed by AK Holdings, which is majority-owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan.
- Aniplex, an anime and music production company headquartered in Tokyo. Owned by Sony Music Entertainment Japan, Aniplex has been involved in the production and distribution of many high-profile anime franchises, including Fullmetal Alchemist and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Its subsidiaries include Japanese animation studios A-1 Pictures and Cloverworks, U.S. distributor Aniplex of America, and German distributor Peppermint Anime.
- Funimation, a major distributor of anime and (less frequently) non-Japanese animation. It operates a popular streaming platform with a focus on dubs. The company is run as a joint venture between two Sony units: Sony Pictures Television and Aniplex. It contains several subsidiaries of its own:
- Funimation UK, the recent rebranding of London-based anime distributor Manga Entertainment.
- Wakanim, an anime streaming service based in France.
- Madman Anime Group, an anime distribution company that operates in Australia and New Zealand.
- AnimeLab, an anime streaming service run by Madman Anime Group.
Note: Sony is in the process of purchasing Crunchyroll, another major anime distribution company, from AT&T’s Warnermedia for $1.175 billion. If the deal goes through, Crunchyroll will be integrated into the Funimation group. But the U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly extended its antitrust review of the sale.
- Sony Interactive Entertainment is the subsidiary that develops the Playstation gaming console. Within this subsidiary is the division Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios (SIE Worldwide Studios), which is a collection of studios that produce software (and by extension, characters and franchises) for Sony’s gaming consoles. SIE Worldwide Studios currently owns 14 studios:
- Bend Studio
- Guerrilla Games
- Insomniac Games
- Japan Studio
- London Studio
- Malaysia Studio
- Media Molecule
- Naughty Dog
- Polyphony Digital
- San Diego Studio
- San Mateo Studio
- Santa Monica Studio
- Sucker Punch Productions
Pictured at top: IP owned by Sony includes the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise, the “Uncharted” game franchise, “Peanuts” and Scrappy.