Operation Moonrise Report(The following is an abridged version of the entire report that was sent to Toei and FUNImation. To give the fans an idea of the work that went into it, without getting bogged down in all the nitty-gritty details.)
Thank you for accepting our results package, and we hope that this will be useful in both the negotiations for Sailor Moon, as well as future production decisions for the series. These results are comprised of more than 1000 surveys from fans all over the world who are familiar with the English dub and they all want to see a potential re-dub done right. Many fans who adored the show when they were younger have fond memories of it. However as they got older and learned of the original Japanese version, many became disenchanted with the edits made for the English dub and they felt that while the dub had it's own charm, it was not as great as the original. Aside from all of this though, fans also felt that Sailor Moon didn't get a fair chance in North America. The series was really mismanaged in comparison to other popular series around the time. For example, Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon both had toys in fast food restaurants where Sailor Moon didn't - and it was just as popular as those shows in its heyday. Or, the split of series among two companies: the last two seasons and movies were licensed to Pioneer/Geneon, and the first two seasons went to ADV (and unfortunately very close to the end of the international license expiration).
We ran these surveys from the end of May until the end of September. We wanted Sailor Moon fans to have the chance to express their opinion on more specific aspects of the English dub than questions asked on the survey posted by FUNImation on May 21st, 2009 would have allowed. We also continue to run a letter writing campaign in between to Toei's offices in Los Angeles and FUNImation's headquarters in Flower Mound.
One single company did not have the rights to release the entire series on DVD. In 2000, Geneon got the rights to release the 3 movies, and the last two seasons. They began with videotape, but sometime around 2001-2002 they began releasing DVDs. ADV got the rights to only the English dub in 2000, and released 20 VHS volumes. Later, they released them on 14 DVDs. In early 2003, ADV finally got the rights to the original episodes in Japanese, and released the first two seasons in boxsets in mid 2003. However, there was a strange catch: episode 67 of the second season was a filler episode, and for some unknown reason Toei would not give them the rights to it. The fans did not have a problem with this episode, and it was even loved by many. ADV, as well as the fans, were angry with this. And then came the death of Sailor Moon in 2004. Let's look at this in a little more detail from the perspective of all the companies involved from then until now.
In the last week of February of 2004, the subtitled-only boxsets of the first two seasons dropped to half-price without any reason. Two weeks later, on March 11th, ADV announced that the first 86 episodes of the original Sailor Moon television series would no longer be available in the U.S. on home video after April 1st. They further announced, and we quote "Although the response of the fans and sales of this video series in both the dubbed- and uncut-subtitled format have been tremendously successful, the creators of the program have decided against continuing the availability of the home video in the U.S. at this time." There was a rift here between ADV, Toei, and Naoko Takeuchi (the creator of Sailor Moon), but we didn't quite know what it was.
Matt Greenfield of ADV had said several times over the years, in public, that he would have loved to acquire Sailor Stars (5th Season), but claimed that the "rights holder" had problems with its own content. This was obviously referring to Naoko. In 2007 Matt spoke at great length about his struggles with Sailor Moon with animenation.net. Toei was very adamant about not letting them have Sailor Moon R episode 67 (and no one knows why to this day, there was nothing offensive in that episode), and the masters that they were sent of the other episodes were not that great. ADV got the short end of the stick when it came to Sailor Moon. As of 2009 ADV has since sold off their assets including intellectual properties, their distribution arm, and the Anime Network to 5 different companies.
DiC had the rights to the first two seasons of Sailor Moon, and held them for 9 years. It was only supposed to be for 7 years and the rights were to have expired on May 31, 2002. However, the rights were extended for two more years because the show was still an immense success. However, after 2004, all of this changed. DiC was unable to get any more extensions with the series. It was rumored that Naoko Takeuchi wanted to do a lot more promotion with Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (aka PGSM - the live-action version of the show) than with the anime, and this was the reason that there was no anime calendar that year - instead it was replaced with a PGSM calendar. They could have offered both, but they did not.
DiC is no longer in business - it was folded in 2008 into the Canadian Entertainment company, Cookie Jar Entertainment. They have a long history in cartoons and have a lot of cartoons on the air right now, including Sushi Pack, Care Bears, Cake, and Horseland, which all air on CBS Saturday Mornings. Cookie Jar may hold the original masters of their dub of Sailor Moon (however we don't know for sure). Another option worth looking into is seeing if Andy Heyward (Producer on the show and former CEO and founder of DiC) may also still have a copy. As of July 2009, he has launched a brand new cartoon company called A-Squared Entertainment, and is in partnership with AOL to create several webtoons about celebrities, including Warren Buffet, Martha Stewart, Gisele Bundchen, and Astronomer Carl Sagan.
Pioneer/Geneon's releases of the S and SuperS seasons (3 & 4) were not as successful as they had hoped, and the company placed the blame on the fans saying that the series was too old to have any mass market appeal anymore, though it was the fans' opinion that the dub of these two seasons were just not of the same quality as the first two. The lousy ADR direction and the loss of the music cues created for the first two seasons, were not appreciated by fans. Also, it must also not be forgotten that since these episodes were licensed 5 years after the initial 65 episodes, this led to a difference in demographic. Not only were younger ones watching on TV, but many of the fans who watched the show back in 95-97 had become older. Yes, there were less edits made, but many of the changes in the voice acting and also the Japanese BGMs were not a hit with fans (they wanted the more vibrant English music cues back)! This was not a case with the movies, which all sold very well. Pioneer also had coproduction deals with the Cartoon Network and YTV which worked wonders with the movies since they were aired on TV, but if the last two seasons didn't work on television, then they just weren't as successful as they should have been on DVD. By Fall of 2004, or maybe even early 2005, they had also lost all of their rights. They did try to get Sailor Stars (5th Season), however Cartoon Network and/or other networks just didn't pull through, so then they tried to strike a deal by getting only a subtitled release. However, PGSM had begun in late 2003 in Japan, and Naoko was a little more focused on this than the anime, and it was impossible to get any more rights to any of the anime. PGSM aired for almost a year to dismal ratings. The series was released on DVD, along with two specials, a dance lesson, and a stage show.
Geneon met its demise in late 2007, but was resurrected in Japan this year through a new partnership with NBC-Universal. In November of last year, Dentsu (Geneon's parent company) announced that it was selling 80.1% of its ownership in the company to NBC Universal's Universal Pictures International Entertainment (UPI). UPI in turn, merged the company with its Universal Pictures Japan division to form a new company, and on February 1st of this year, Geneon Universal Entertainment Japan (GUEJ) was born! GUEJ has released some titles on Blu-Ray (in conjunction with RONDO ROBE, the new name for Pioneer Animation, a label under the Geneon umbrella specifically for animation and related entertainment) including ef - a tale of memories, Fate/stay night, To Aru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index) and Card Captor Sakura (which just got a big Blu-Ray boxset)! They have also released a few soundtracks and other music CDs.
In 2007 Toei launched Anime BB, an on-demand service where episodes can either be purchased in singles, or join one of a few monthly subscription plans and have access to a wealth of episodes and/or movies! The Sailor Moon anime series, specials, and movies were all included on this service and the franchise continues to be one of their most popular offerings. Toei offers this service online as well as through many cable TV providers. In 2008, Toei launched an on-demand service through Direct2Drive. However, there are not very many series available on this service in comparison with Anime BB. Toei has also launched a free, streaming, anime service with FUNImation with a few more popular series.
The Phase 1 and 3 survey results comprise over 1300 fan opinions. Though the sample size may not be as great as other surveys, we believe that we were able to get a significant amount of response from a very diverse group of fans, and these opinions are not significantly different than the debates over the different international versions that you would find on any Sailor Moon forum. We stand by these results and we consider these to be an accurate picture of the Sailor Moon fandom as it exists today.
For those of you fans wondering why we chose surveys, here are a few reasons:
- We wanted to provide the companies with as specific details as we could about specific aspects of the dub.
- The above, combined with substantial numbers will say much more than a petition that says "we want sailor moon back". It gives more of a "why" and "here's how to make it better" to the companies.
- Although letter writing campaigns can be effective, out of respect for the companies, we kept these addresses listed only on our forums. However considering that not many members actually joined our forums, we really couldn't try anything harder to convince you to send letters.
- Survey numbers are quantifiable and makes the fanbase look that much more serious to the companies involved. Rather than them (hypothetically) receiving 1331 letters from fans and having to keep track of what a fan would want to see in a dub.
We hope that these results aid in future decisions regarding a re-release and/or re-dub of Sailor Moon. The purpose of these surveys and campaigns was to give fans the opportunity to voice much more than what FUNImation asked in their survey, as well as bringing to light many aspects that FUNImation and Toei were not aware of from the fans' perspective. Many fans feel like they have been burned before when it comes to Sailor Moon, and wanted to get their thoughts heard. When using the results of our surveys in future presentations or meetings, please credit and acknowledge Moon Chase - we have spent 6 months running this campaign so far and it has been a lot of work to get the voices of the fans heard. This campaign was also a grassroots effort free of any corporate or professional influence.
Survey Results Discussion:
There are two big results that our surveys show. The first is that the fans want the old actors to reprise their roles. We compared them to actors on FUNImation's current roster, and the vast majority voted the old cast over FUNImation actors. There was one exception to this, and that was Kara Edwards being favored over Loretta Jafelice for the role of Diana. The second big result is that the fans really want to see a re-release of the old English dub. Now from what we have learned from the case of Italy where they were told not to touch the existing dub, we believe this may be the case with English language market. FUNImation, please do not get disheartened if this is the case. If there cannot be a re-dub, at the very least please re-release the old version. Our results show that fans are willing and ready to purchase this. However, fans want to know how the story ends, so at the very least please make some arrangements to have the very last season (Sailor Stars) released in North America. If it is not possible to dub this season, please consider releasing a subtitled version. Many fans have illegitimate releases of the last season and the quality isn't as great as an official release would be. They would love to get rid of their releases in favor of a legitimate one. The results from Phase 1 showed that nearly 96% of respondents want to see the last season.
We have a bit of a contrast in our survey. While we have a 50-50 split with fans who would want to purchase a hybrid boxset release with the old dub or a new re-dub, almost 61% are unsure that they would purchase a re-dub without watching it first. When comparing hybrid release of the two dubs in single volume formats, 10% more fans preferred the old dub over a new one. What can we conclude from this? The majority of fans still love the old English dub, despite its flaws. However, due to the massive amounts of editorial changes that were made the first time around, many fans still fear that it could be the same case again with a new re-dub. They want to be assured that a new dub will be very close to the original. Our previous survey indicated that the fans do not want to part with the Canadian actors. The fans would really like to see a new re-dub with the old actors. Or, at the very least, please dub the missing episodes, and the last season with the old actors. The fans really want to see the last season, Sailor Stars, brought to North America!
Another interesting result is how Sailor Moon fans have gone to great lengths to acquire Sailor Moon. This is shown in questions 3 & 4 of Phase 3. While a significant portion of respondents purchased the series, these were not a large percentage (Question 3). This indicates that not everyone was able to purchase every release. Question 4 showed that a much larger percentage of fans acquired releases that were not licensed for North America. Some purchased legitimate releases from Japan (of productions that were and were not released here), but the majority own illegitimate releases. We have reason to believe that this number may be even higher since some fans may have been afraid to answer this question truthfully. Since the rights were pulled somewhat quickly (especially in the case of the first two seasons with ADV) fans simply had no choice but to acquire the series through other means. Living without the show was too cruel an option. When looking at the data presented from Questions 5-8, you can see that fans are still willing to purchase legitimate releases, despite whatever releases they have already.
In the event that these decisions involve a TV deal, our demographic data shows that the fanbase has "grown up" and that certain aspects of the series (gender bending, homosexual characters, Japanese cultural norms) don't necessarily need to be censored or edited. However, younger girls (tweens and under) love to watch superhero shows where the girls have all the power! In Canada, a similar series had almost the same kind of possibly controversial material, however two versions were created and both were a success in 1999. That show was Cybersix, and the titular character Cybersix was a female cyborg superhero by night, and a male English teacher by day named Adrian Siedelman. During the daytime on the Canadian cartoon channel, Teletoon, an edited version of the show aired so that there wasn't any real hint that Adrian was Cybersix, and a scene in the first episode where Adrian changed into Cybersix was never shown. However, later in the evening (after 9PM) an unedited version of the show aired. This worked very well for the show and the network, providing two demographics with a successful show while still pleasing each one.
There is no reason that this could not work for Sailor Moon! Also appealing to both demographics could do wonders for merchandise sales as the kids as well as the older fans would purchase toys and other products. There are always creative ways to work around these plot issues for the younger generation. One foreign dub of Sailor Stars got around the Gender bending issue by using careful script so kids could not make the connection between a boy band and the female superheroes (the heroes were special women the band would call forth). Sailor Neptune and Uranus could just be best friends, Uranus could be the tomboy of the two, and close scenes involving the two may be cut out. But please, do not forget where the majority of the fandom's demographic lies from our survey results!
Please, work on a TV deal with a channel that is easily accessible by all cable providers in not only the United States, but also Canada as well. Canada currently doesn't have very many channels that are willing to show anime anymore, and many Canadians feel that they are deprived of anime when they look at programming schedules in the United States. This has been the issue for years. Anime is just as popular up north as it is in the United States, and it would mean a lot to fans on both sides of the border if this show was on the air in both countries!
Also, Sailor Moon is meant to be enjoyed for every episode that it has. We've noticed that Toei recently reached some licensing agreements with William Winckler productions for some old series to be reworked into some movies featuring a few of the major scenes. These old series are hugely popular with hardcore anime fans, and many who read this story when we posted it on our site were dismayed. One of our readers, ShinraiTenchi, commented "Wow. Toei has really been acting odd the past few months; I wonder why they would give off such important titles to a small, anonymous company? I thought for sure Funimation would get the rights to Captain Harlock since Funimation's website is currently streaming all of the episodes of Galaxy Express 999." Please, do not use this approach with Sailor Moon. Fans do not want to see a few important moments of the series laced together into movies! It is just not the same as watching the episodes.
And as far as DVD release distribution goes, please do not forget about Canada. Even anime industry members in Japan feel that around the world "the bubble of a few years back is well and truly burst. With declining birth rates and a recession it is downhill from here on. The industry has gone from boom to bust, and restructuring looks likely." Yasuo Yamaguchi, is a well-respected figure in the anime industry in Japan and current chair of the Canada-Japan Forum (and also Executive Director of Japan's Association of Japanese Animations). He was also a producer on Sailor Moon. He stated earlier this year that the anime industry was in trouble. Japanese anime companies, he suggested, need to look at better methods of distribution in overseas markets, including North America. In addition, we hope that there will be some allowance for a release of the older versions, as due to the same distribution problems, many fans never got the chance to own the series. Our results show that the fandom is evenly split between those who want a re-dub and those who want a re-release.
Please also keep as much of the original cast as you possibly can. There are plenty of dubbing studios in Canada (especially in Toronto now) and we are sure that there must be some way of working out a deal similar to how it was in the past. The English dub's story and scripts were produced and written in Los Angeles under the guises of DiC or Cloverway, and the recording itself was completed in Canada. The vast majority of fans feel that no one else can play these roles like the original cast could and they would be heartbroken to lose these voices. This was nearly the same case with Dragon Ball Z's recent re-dub by FUNImation - while the fans were mostly pleased with the choice of actors, they were displeased to lose some of the Canadian talent (especially the very versatile and memorable voice of Scott McNeill). Over the years of the blog's existence, we have kept in touch with some of the cast members and they poured a lot of their hearts and souls into the show. The show is very special to them and they would reprise their roles if they had the chance to, almost 15 years later. Also, with regards to the music cues, Michael Benghiat of The Music Kitchen likely still has masters of the songs - however the rights may still lie with EMI Music Canada or Koch Records (which is now known as E1 Entertainment). Please make your best efforts to find these music cues. These cues worked much better with the English dub than the original music cues did (and our survey reflects this). They were much more vibrant and carried a better sense of action when they were played during battles and transformations!
If you re-release the old English dub, please revise the credits, especially for the three movies and the third and fourth season. Many of the voices for the major villains were never credited (and fans don't know who played them with certainty), and some names are even spelled wrong. For example, in the Sailor Moon S movie DVD, there is a bit of a contrast between how the Japanese credits are listed, and how the English credits are listed. The Japanese credits list each cast member down to minor characters. The English credits do not list who played what character, and only credited the heroes. We learned only days ago that Linda Ballantyne was in fact the voice of the major villain in that movie, after years of her being rumored to have been played by someone else. Also, two names were misspelled in the credits. Sarah Lafleur's last name was spelled "Lafluer" and Sabrina Grdvich's last name was spelled "Grdovitch". We can understand why minor characters were not credited, but major villains? We don't know how these errors escaped the many supervisors on the show.
Operation Moonrise has also inspired two other campaigns internationally. In Italy, a group of fans has begun a campaign for a complete, unedited, redub of the entire series. In Brazil, Save Our Sailor Brazil is running a survey ordered by a licensor, Luiz Angelotti.
Naoko Takeuchi's Whereabouts:
Since Sailor Moon ended, Naoko Takeuchi published a few short manga series, but their success never took off as well as Sailor Moon. She has not published anything new since 2006, however twice every month a new chapter or short story on the official Sailor Moon website (http://sailormoon.channel.or.jp/) appears animated in flash. These chapters and stories consist mainly of highlights, and they are animated to music from PGSM. While this is impressive, many fans are sad that these are coming from the renewed editions of the manga, which has never been officially translated in English. These episodes also always end with something to the effect of "Want to know how this ends? Buy this volume at your local bookstore!" But the manga has been out of print since 2007. It is very difficult to find copies on the internet through Japanese online stores, and with the recent resurgence of the series there has been no word on whether or not the manga will be reprinted.
We have only heard from Naoko Takeuchi twice since the end of PGSM. In 2008, her husband, Yoshihiro Togashi, wrote the following in a message to fans at the end of a chapter of Hunter X Hunter, which was published in Jump Magazine. "My wife saw a monkey in the garden. He escaped to the junior high school in the neighborhood after that. The people in the junior high school have seen that monkey recently, even though we live in the same neighborhood and just noticed it now." Even though this is really "small potatoes", any news of what Naoko was up to meant a lot to the fans. In January of 2009, Sailor Moon Channel posted a letter and a photo from Naoko. She had visited Bandai Hobby Center (BHC) last October, and drew a picture of Sailor Moon in a Gundam Uniform for them. This was the first picture of hers that anyone had seen in years, and she was looking happy drawing Sailor Moon again. In May of 2009 we discovered even more pictures of Naoko on the official BHC blog (posted just a few days after her visit). Sailor Moon Channel has promised to post more letters and photos from Naoko, but since last January there has been absolutely nothing. While fans respect her need for privacy, it seems very odd to all of us that she has not answered any paramount questions such as: Why did the lockdown occur in 2004? Has Naoko retired from manga? If Naoko hates the anime, then why?
Since the end of PGSM, Naoko Takeuchi has barely been seen or heard.. In 2004, she visited a very small student journalism group, which was visiting from the USA (and she was not granting any interviews at the time). In 2005, she gave a lecture to some students in December at Ritsumeikan University about business skills and interspersed it with her life experiences. She also had a blog on the site, however it was pulled in late 2006. Since then, she doesn't want anyone to know of her, (or her work it seems), and she is not welcome to any communication with any fans. She keeps her company address (Princess Naoko Planning) under secrecy and the address is not published in any business directory in Japan. Also, there is no mention of the anime in Japan's character licensing directory anywhere - which is a surprise to both business professionals, executives, and fans. Moreover, it is a disgrace and a shame that she has not bothered to mention anything about these new DVDs or rebroadcast on the official site of Sailor Moon for some time. On October 1st, 2009, she posted a small token mention of the rebroadcast on the official site, just a month after it began. This was probably prompted after several fan letters. She featured one on the site from an older fan, and here is our translation. Note this is rough, and we didn't correct too much for grammar since it is hard to keep the integrity of the original.
From Miss Risa, 25, of Kanagawa Prefecture:
The rebroadcast of the animated cartoon 'Sailor Moon' started 9/1 on ANIMAX, and when I was in grade school I looked forward to watching it happily every day! I loved Sailor Moon!"Luna's" response:
I am turning 25 years old and the cartoon is still a big favorite of mine (*laughter*). I am happy! Please continue with the forever lasting eternal Sailor hero that I wanted to be when I was younger!
Sailor Moon finally began rebroadcasting! Please continue your support and everything else you are doing and watch it everyday! Broadcast details are on the right of the home page above the News.In every other letter she has responded to, she has always seemed more energetic and always added a dose or two of show-related humor. This response just seemed really empty in comparison, and it just appeared to be a token mention probably prompted by several fan letters via the official website.
While we do not completely understand what is going on with the rights in Japan, we fear that Sailor Moon is under a very tight schedule. The newest DVD releases are scheduled to begin in December of 2009 and then cease printing in December of 2011. This is a few months shy of Sailor Moon's 20th Anniversary (of the anime)! Aside from this, 2 years is not a lot of time, and we are unsure what will happen in 2012. It could be that the series goes under a lockdown again for who knows how many years after the releases cease! Having any kind of news about a license in 2009 looks a little slim since there are not many months left in the year, and we worry that a license in 2010 may not give FUNImation a lot of time to re-dub all 200 episodes.
Unfortunately, it seems that everyone who has been in charge of the series since its inception, including the creator, has mismanaged it in some way and the show never got to have the chance it fully deserved. The show had many cartoon greats of the United States working on the show from the beginning, including Andy Heyward and Fred Ladd. However, since this was a different kind of show for North America, this was a new production that many did not know exactly how to handle this. Sailor Moon has been through more trials and tribulations than any other cartoon. This is why we sincerely hope that Toei and FUNImation make better decisions should they acquire a license for a Sailor Moon re-release in North America.