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ANNCast - Lance Heiskell

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  • ANNCast - Lance Heiskell

    Widgets Magazine
    Industry veteran and former Funimation Director of Marketing Lance Heiskell takes a magical and occasionally terrifying journey through his storied career during the American anime DVD bubble of the mid-2000s. Strap in!

    My 2 hour @AnimeNewsNet ANNCast is up!


    Post questions in the forum thread and I'll answer them just like old times.

    (Pic circa 2004-ish)
    RT to old anitwitter farts you know.

  • #2
    ^ I do recommend to listen to this if you get a chance. It's a rather nostalgic podcast. And Lance is taking questions @ https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/bbs....php?t=3095450.


    • #3
      Speaking of, question for Lance (I'm only halfway through the episode so maybe this comes up). Funimation is the one licensor that was really strong before and after the bubble, and one apparent side effect is that some old shows they licensed have hung around for 15 years or more now Not just the Dragon Balls and Fruits Baskets, but the real deep catalog stuff, like Kiddy Grade, Moonphase, Rumbling Hearts, Peach Girl, Desert Punk, Suzuka, that kind of thing. All still available to stream, or buy on DVD or download. Were those licensed in perpetuity, or do they come up for renewal every few years and the terms remain acceptable to all parties?

      Yup. Kiddy Grade is still one of my favorites. Partially for my first full brand launch. The only problem about Kiddy Grade was that the plot was finally revealed in the middle of the show. If you judged the show buy the first volume or two and dropped, you missed out on a good show.

      Shows are typically licensed for 5 to 7 years. We had a good formula for keeping shows out in retail shelves with box sets, Classic and SAVE lines. We also made certain that the shows were available for streaming. Based on survey data that I collected, a lot of consumers (like 70%) watched the entire show either online or on TV before purchasing the series.

      Most of the titles we licensed were profitable, so we kept renewing the license. The renewal was based on

      A) if the show still had an audience to purchase
      B) estimate units we could sell in 1 -3 years based on wholesale price
      C) streaming and digital download revenue

      Acquisition would negotiate a price that was base for FUNimation and the Japanese licensor and HUZZAH! FUNimation got the show again.
      My favourite bubble memory was when FUNimation decided to cancel the Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Uncut Special Editions in favour of the Orange box sets without compromise to the patrons who put their trust and money into the release prior while under the impression that said patrons were supporting the industry. Those same patrons also got laughed off the forums because their contributions towards anime recognition were minor compared to that of cable network viewers and fansubbers.

      I was so focused on all the anime other than Dragon Ball Z. It was always more of a Wal-Mart mass market show with Home Video, licensing and production. There were many internal owners of the show.

      I wish we could have continued the Dragon Box Sets. That decision was beyond my control.

      I did make certain that the Ocean Dub got a release. My initial pitch was a standard DVD box set with just the discs at an affordable price that could stay on retail shelves for a long time. As you know, it got packaged all together in a weird box format for an expensive price. Unfortunately, that thing went out of print because it was expensive to procude due to it's size and shape for additional print runs of 1,000-2,000. That thing would never fit on retail. I don't think it even got placed in Canada.

      Lance, what do you think went wrong with Case Closed? As in like biggest single defining factor for why it didn't sell?

      We had to purchase the series in 52 episode chucks, not the usual 13 or 26 episode variety.

      There is a breakeven number of units to recoup the expense of dubbing a series. Dubbing 52 episodes is a significant expense. Then you take into account licensing a popular show in Japan that is not that well known. Those advances do add up as well.

      So you have 52 episodes of licensing and dub production costs on a show that just does ok in sales.

      Sales on the show were ok compared to any anime series. Long running shows need to maintain a sales level and Case Closed didn't hit that level.
      The movies did ok. Movies for any show do ok to keep acquiring.

      This was before the norm of subtitled only releases. Back then you had to factor the cost of an English dub.

      1.) Do you have any sense how the Fafner scifi/mecha franchise did for Funimation? You released the first series and movie on DVD and Blu Ray a while back (circa 2012), but the prequel OVA and modern sequel series haven't been touched. Is it a matter of sales or just licensing issues with King Records? (The production values on this franchise have really gotten impressive in recent years, so I'm surprised it's mostly stayed in Japan. Crunchyroll streamed the Fafner Exodus season, but that's the closest it's gotten to an official release overseas.)

      Fafner did not perform for Geneon. When FUNimation did the box set, that didn't perform.

      Maybe that's why they aren't doing anything for the other titles. That's after my time there.


      • #4
        I did make certain that the Ocean Dub got a release. My initial pitch was a standard DVD box set with just the discs at an affordable price that could stay on retail shelves for a long time. As you know, it got packaged all together in a weird box format for an expensive price.
        That would explain this originally planned release...
        Last edited by NJ_; 04-21-2019, 01:20 AM.
        Avatar: From Sailor Moon S Episode 118 "The Battle in a Demonic Dimension! The Sailor Soldier's Bet"


        • #5
          Seemed as if because Funi was the ambitious "new kid", competing with the other companies to show "We're more than just DBZ!" in the 00's, they were actually a few years ahead of the Bubble:
          They figured out that Boxsets were selling more than the Singles that fans (and retail) were mutinying against, and they got into Streaming even before the getting was good. (If they'd waited, we might have an app that works as well as Crunchyroll's, but we'd all be worse off for it.)

          As for my questions for Funi insiders, marketing decisions, and relations with CN/AS, I don't have a single question for Funi that doesn't have the words "Sgt." and "Frog" in it. And if they're smart, they KNOW the question.

          We put out the first 13 episode Part 1 and Part 2 with Ouran in 2008. Retailers were not taking in volumes 4, 5, 6 on titles if the sales weren't good for Volume 1 and 2.

          So we tested the waters with 13 episode parts and it worked. Retailers took Part 1 and then took in Part 2. I think our last volume release at FUNimation was Claymore.

          Nope of the boxset singles theory. VIZ had Naruto and Bleach. Naruto was more popular than DBZ at the time.

          Sgt Frog didn't sell. Anime consumers don't collect comedy as much as other genres. They watch and stream comedy but few collect it. That's why Sgt Frog didn't stick around. Comedy is always a gamble for home video.

          Based on the interview, it sounds like you weren't responsible for these, but any insight on what really happened with those uncut DVDs of 4Kids shows? Were they just not selling enough to justify creating new dubs for them? I remember a weird conspiracy theory from some fans, speculating that they sold too well. That 4Kids were mad they were upstaging their edited version.

          FUNimation only distributed the 4KIDS releases. No production nor content decisions, that was all 4KIDS. Uncut versions had low sales numbers.

          Lance, not sure if you can answer this, but why did FUNimation decide to start doing this very bland disc art starting in August 2012? Everything used to have this beautiful full-color disc art, then when Fractale and Panty & Stocking (DVD-only release) hit, you got this bland nonsense that's similar to Hollywood movie studio releases. Though recently shows that get LEs have disc art again as of like 2016.

          I wasn't involved in that decision. Sometimes it's a cost of goods decision. Calculate all the discs produced in a single year and if you cut a cost, sometimes the savings is so significant that it's made.

          I was so focused on all the anime other than Dragon Ball Z. It was always more of a Wal-Mart mass market show with Home Video, licensing and production. There were many internal owners of the show.

          Wait, I'm confused. Am I to take this to mean that Wal-Mart sales had a hand in FUNimation's decision to cancel the Ultimate Uncuts?

          No, the consumers had a hand. Consumers didn't buy those volumes in quantities of past Dragon Ball Z volume releases. Wal-mart and other retailers bought less and less because the consumers didn't buy it. Sales are consumer driven.

          So, the DBZ box sets - the "orange brick" season sets were the result of that.


          • #6
            Very nostalgic and insightful trip down memory lane. I miss Lance. He's always seemed like one of the most genuine industry figures, up there with the Dark Lord.
            My Top Anime | Manga
            My Collection 1 | 2 | 3
            My FP Reviews | Twitter
            FPR Episodes | Apple


            • #7
              Wow Fafnir really did that tragic?!
              AOTY 2015: Food Wars!, AssClass, Seraph of the End, Fafner Exodus, UtaPri3, Herobank, MajinBone, Durarara!!x2, Buddyfight, Vanguard G, Yugioh Arc-V MAL|


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