In the latter half of 2014, the Under the Dog kickstarter campaign finished its funding at over $850,000 with over 12,000 backers. Now, after months of silence, Creative Intelligence Arts, LLC (CIA) has announced that they're leaving the project. Here's why you should or shouldn't be worried.
The Under the Dog Project's Structure
To understand this situation, let me break down what the structure of this animation production was. The creators of the Kickstarter campaign, Creative Intelligence Arts, acted as a organization that handled executive decisions surrounding finances, marketing, and high-level goals for the project. If Under the Dog was a company, they were the CEO.
Kinema Citrus is the animation studio attached to the project. You'll know them from series like Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Black Bullet, and Barakamon. They were the company that animates the movie and works with the production team (writer, director, etc.) to bring the story to life.
In addition to these companies, CIA and Kinema Citrus probably have other companies contracted for in-between animation, sound production, 3DCG, and any other number of utilities.
Clear? Good, because now comes today's news. CIA has officially pulled out of the project. In their place is now Kinema Citrus, who are assuming all of CIA's responsibilities in the project.
What this means is that Kinema Citrus is now going to manage the project from animation to management and negotiate on behalf of the project for things distribution and localization. They're both the animators and the "CEO" of the project.
That's Good Right?
Probably, but I'd like to point out that the most recent Kickstarter update has wording that reflects a less-than-ideal exchange of power between CIA and Kinema Citrus.
In the very first part of the announcement the trouble is already clear. Emphasis mine.
I sincerely apologise for the silence, it must have been a very painful few months for most of you as we weren't able to make any kind of announcements. This will be the last update as the Producer of Under the Dog from me, as I attach the Press Release in which we are about to send to the media.
I hope you all understand that I did my best to do what's right for the project, and I hereby regrettably resign from my post. Please feel assured that you will be in the good hands of the great creators I gathered for this project and they have given me their solemn vow to complete the Anime as intended.
This is speculation based on a single line, but this sounds like a reference to production differences. If we read further into the press release, similarly worded passages unfortunately appear.
After a brief hiatus and silence from the project on the Kickstarter page, the team managing the UTD project, Creative Intelligence Arts (CIA) is announcing its departure from the UTD project and handing over the management of the project to Kinema Citrus. Hiroaki Yura and his company, CIA, spearheaded the overall production and Kickstarter campaign for UTD.
"In order to comply with certain requests from members of the UTD creative team, and to deliver an unhindered product to our backers, CIA is hereby removing itself from the UTD project," said Producer for UTD and CIA founder Hiroaki Yura.
What this says to me (please don't take this as fact) is that there were some sort of creative disagreements between Kinema and CIA over the handling of the project that eventually made the partnership untenable.
So Should I Be Worried?
This is difficult to say. On one hand, I read this press release as a reluctant admission of defeat by CIA and they've decided to get out of the project. On the other hand, certain passages in the release do in fact make it sound like CIA did this to give Kinema Citrus control over the project because of their enthusiasm:
"We were very excited to concept and develop UTD but believe this decision is in keeping with our goals for enabling creative teams to retain as much rights and autonomy as possible and to have production move forward with full force. It is also an effort to more directly link backers and fans of anime with the creators making the works that they love.
Still, I'd say it's rare for a producer to simply bow out of what could be a financially beneficial project simply because the animators really love the project. It seems like this runs deeper than that.
Furthermore, it's probably important to note that the new executive producer is Koji Morimoto whom is, unfortunately, not the Koji Morimoto that founded Studio 4°c. He's a former Bandai Visual producer that worked with Kouichi Nakamura and Jiro Ishii on the creation the anime Canaan as an executive producer.
Time will tell if this upheaval has larger implications on the project, but for now it seems Under the Dog is undergoing internal problems.
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