This is the page devoted to bringing Creamy Mami to the United States.
Update: Number of people committed to the project as of January 4, 2003: 26
See the new FAQ below:
If you don't know anything about the series, click HERE
Here's the story:
We CAN bring Creamy Mami to the U.S., and itís not as difficult as you might think. What it would take is enough people putting their money where their mouth is - enough to acquire the rights and produce the first run. Acquiring the rights would take about $260,000 (and maybe just a bit more for the OAV and the movie - letís call it $275,000) - the bulk of the money necessary. About another $100K to actually produce the DVDs.
This makes a couple of assumptions. One being that the subtitling of the show can be done cheaply. This shouldnít be too difficult. Another one being that there isnít a lot in salaries to pay. There won't be because I'm volunteering to put this together myself.
I have no clue how many people are out there who are willing to buy the complete series. I would presume that the number of people who want this show is quite large, based upon the web and convention traffic, but I really have no idea. I would hope that weíre a large enough group of people to pull this off.
What I want to do is raise enough money to acquire the rights. If 500 people committed, that would be $550 per person. If 688 people committed, that would be $400 per person. Each person who committed to the acquisition of rights of the show would get the complete box set of the entire series in return. If enough people committed, it would wind up costing that person a lot less than buying a box set retail; certainly less than the $700 (retail) or so it would take to buy the Japanese version. The rest of the money necessary to put this together could be raised from advance sales to the general public. Once the DVDs are out there, any profit made could be put into acquiring another show.
HOWEVER, this lower price will only be available to those people who support the project in the beginning, when we need to raise the up-front money. After that a more traditional retail price will apply, and sales will only be made to persons within the area covered by the contract terms.
My proposition: If the money can be put together, I WILL ACQUIRE THE SHOW, Studio Pierrot willing. I will make the rest happen. I will CONTRACTUALLY bind myself to owing everyone involved a complete box set. I will get the project subtitled by a Fansubber we all know and respect, several of whom have already volunteered their services. I will get the packaging made, and I will get the sets into your hands. I will get the show to market. And I will certainly accept help from those who are willing to give it.
I want to do this quickly, so I am proposing that we try to get as many people signed on by December 15, 2002 as possible. If we can't get enough people involved by that time then I will have to accept that this may not be possible at all. But I want this series in the U.S. as much as you do, so I hope you will be willing to try.
Please understand, Studio Pierrot has nothing to do with this effort, and does not endorse it. This effort is being put together by fans for fans. I will not be contacting the distributor until I know we can successfully pursue the rights.
I started in the biz as an intern for Z channel (Los Angeles cable) in 1985. In 1986 I joined Group W Television. I put on a Producerís hat and over the next few years helped put together Comic Relief III, Court TV and the early concept of the Sci-Fi channel. I left TV in 1994 to put together my own music business, which I run to this day (which is why Iím not a rich man).
I discovered Creamy Mami in 1995. In 1997 I wrote a rather brazen letter to Studio Pierrot asking why Creamy Mami wasnít available in the U.S., and they suggested that I buy it myself - after vetting me for a month. I tried to put together a company to do this, but I failed (my partner - the money man - bailed on me). Some people in the biz heard about what I had done and asked me to do some negotiating for them on other shows, which I did. I made a second effort at doing this myself in 2001, but my investors got cold feet after the stock market started falling after 9/11. The idea Iím bringing before you now has been germinating in my head ever since. I have mentioned the concept to many people over the past year, and I have been approached by others about how to make the concept work, but this is the project I want to do myself.
I have met the people necessary to acquire the rights in person. Weíve had meetings, shared coffee, and on one occasion had a very memorable sushi lunch at hotel in Shinjuku. One of these men I consider a friend. I firmly believe that I can acquire the rights for Creamy Mami, and Iím willing to give it a go if you are.
So do you want in on this? If so, send an e-mail to me at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Give me your name, address, contact information (e-mail is fine). I will keep a running update going at the top of this page and will send periodic notes to everyone via e-mail.
If you have any questions, please contact me as well. I'm not going to put a form here for you to fill out - anyone can fill out a form. I want you to send an e-mail. I want you to ask questions. I want you to be serious about this, because if we get enough people involved, I will ask you to put your money where your mouth is.
I want this to work. I hope you do too, and are willing to support bringing Creamy Mami to the U.S.
The pictures that flow down the right side of this web site come from the series. Other pictures enclosed here are for illustration purposes and not actual cels or stills from the series, but original artwork by Takada Akemi. No copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred, and all rights belong to those persons or entities to whom those rights have been legally assigned.
Word of this type of project has spread quickly - in the interest of full disclosure, I should also point out that there is a Yawara! page that I have also lent my support to which predates this project. But in the case of Yawara! I am acting in an advisory role and will only be acquiring the series should the effort prove successful. I have lent my name to the project but am not the person collecting the information. With Creamy Mami, my commitment is complete and I will see the project through from beginning to end.
On October 12, I received an e-mail questioning a lot of what I've written above. The questions were good ones, so I thought I would share it with you. Here is the e-mail, and my own replies:
I read your proposal in the AnimeOnDVD forum and on your website,
and have a few thoughts...
It's an interesting idea, but as it currently reads, the plan sounds
like "we get enough people together to cover the licensing fee, then
magic happens". This is really not enough to convince lots of people
to sign on, certainly not myself! You really need a full-fledged
business plan; even if the plan boils down to something simple, you
need to state that you know what the issues are, and have contingencies
For example, let's start with the most obvious difficulty that I see.
As I understand your web page, you suggest that you use the initial
investment to cover the licensing fee, while any remaining costs will
be covered by retail sales handles in a preorder sign-up fashion.
However, to get people to buy the set (ignoring initial investors,
who are by definition crazy otaku -- myself included :-), you are
going to need to have a reasonable price -- reasonable by US standards,
not by import R2 standards! Supposing you get license for the TV
series alone, you're talking 52 eps; you can get decent quality by
putting that on 9 dual-layer discs, so call it $270 list price, with
a street price of $200-$250. But for the initial investors to enjoy
this price point, you've got to get at least 1000! Do you have any
plan for alternate compensation if you don't get that many?
Chris replies: I cannot guarantee a more reasonable price right now, not without more people on board. To get the prices you're talking about up there I would need about 1500 people signed up. We're not talking about $20 street price DVDs - we're talking about $35 street price DVDs, which I hate to say it the direction the market is going.
For that matter, do you have any firm go/no-go numbers? The web
page speculates on a couple of 'if we get this many, then we can
ask for so many $', but no firm numbers. I.e., it would be best
to say something like 'we need at least 500 people to sign up by
the drop-dead date, for a guaranteed maximum of $500 investment;
if we get more people, then we can drop that number. The money will
be collected on the drop-dead date.' (Note that I myself wouldn't
sign on unless that was a guaranteed maximum; sure, I could spend
more money and get the R2, but with the R2 I would have a guaranteed
product... besides, I don't understand Japanese, so I wouldn't get
the R2 anyhow. :-) And suppose everyone doesn't pay, despite the
agreement? What's your margin for error? (You might see if
AnimEigo will tell you how many people typically follow through
on preorders... there's the inevitable family emergency, sudden
bankruptcy, or bad budgeting causing cancels...) What about the mechanisms
for collecting the money, and for transferring to the licensor? Do
you have the percentages to cover transaction costs? Is the license
fee quoted in Yen or Dollars? If Yen, do you know the currency
conversion costs? Can you cope with changes in the dollar/yen rate?
If you are farming out money-handling to someone else, what are
their charges? What sort of insurance is required to make sure
the money is properly handled? These sorts of questions need to
be answered before you can say "yes, I can make this happen".
Chris replies: Good questions here. The firm number is the $260,000 to raise to acquire the rights. That figure comes from direct negotiations with Studio Pierrot's representatives. The guaranteed maximum will depend upon how many people we have in place to raise that much money. If there aren't enough people by my "drop-dead" date to make it financially reasonable, I won't go forward. The margin for error is built into the fact that I would never enter a contract that requires the money to be given to the distributor up front. Collecting the money is my problem, and I accept credit cards. ^_^. It would be in installments dependant upon delivery of materials, quality control, etc. Sales would continue in the meantime. The contracts would be written for money to be exchanged in U.S. dollars, so conversions into yen and exchange rates are irrelevant. There are no transaction fees, but instead a standard contract.
Beyond that, let's look at 'magic happens'. The web page makes some
vague noises about a fansub group handling stuff. Who does the
translation? Can you use existing fansub scripts, or do you need
fresh translations? If you use existing scripts, do you have in
writing the rights to use those scripts? (And, for that matter, is
the quality of those scripts generally approved by the otaku
community? There are any number of bad fansubs out there...) If a
new translation is required, what guarantees of performance do you
Chris replies: I will not name names of the fansubbers I have lined up at this time; I won't make empty promises or commit them when I still don't know if I can generate enough support. However, I can say that if you collect good ones, you probably have some of their stuff. Part of the contract with Studio Pierrot will be to include THEIR scripts, and translate from them. I also plan on having the translations handled by more than one source, for double-checking.
How about the masters? Do you know what form the masters will be
provided in? Can you get digital masters? If so, do you have equipment
to handle that? Or maybe the licensor will allow you to use DVD rips,
which would be awesomely convenient; but you better not try that
without permission from the licensor! If they can't provide the
digital masters (want to save the best for their version), do you
get video masters? or film masters? What do you do if they give you
film masters? Is your fansubbing group equipped to redigitize from
Chris Replies: Masters of a show that old generally come in 2-inch videotape. It will need to be converted into a usable format for translations, timing, etc. I can get that done for about $50 per half hour of tape and will front that cost myself.
What are the production costs for the DVDs? Do you have figures
from an icehouse regarding how much they charge to press discs?
And what about packaging costs? Given costs, are you certain you
can cover those out-of-pocket for the initial investors if no-one
signs on for retail sales? Do you have estimates of what you need
in later sales to cover production costs?
Chris Replies: Yes, I have these figures. I have the whole business plan in place, and have for 2 years. The only thing novel about my approach in the financing. Anyway, Production works about to a total of $3.70 per disc, as long as the lots are in the thousands, which they would need to be in this case. This is the biggest risk on my part, as I will need to front some monies to get discs out there. It is my firm belief that I can generate the sales to make this happen.
And let's not forget artwork; if you're talking a box set, you need
to have covers for each keepcase, and art on the box. Does your
license cover the artwork, or is that going to cost extra? Does the
licensor have specific requirements regarding artwork (e.g. Gainax
and Eva)? Is there any chance you can get the R2 artwork or boxes, and
what would that cost? If you have to do your own artwork, do you have a
graphic artist lined up? Can you cover her costs? Does the licensor
need to approve your artwork? How about production; do you have estimates
from printers on printing the covers? What about producing the actual
boxes? (Heck, maybe you can get Paul Champagne in on it, if he isn't
too tied up with ADV's stuff...) Re box production, I suspect
that there aren't too many US printers equipped to do that kind of
thing... And what will the DVD plant charge you to pack the discs
in the boxes? Or will you need to do that yourself?
Chris Replies: This is the easiest part - I would try to get the original artwork included in the contract. Takada Akemi's work is FANTASTIC, and I would love to be able to use it. However, if this is not possible, I can get the artwork covered within my own family. I am the son of an animator (Disney, Hanna-Barbara, Film Roman Studios), the brother of another (Axebaby studios - he does mostly industrial work), and the cousin of a third (Industrial Light and Magic). In addition, several graphic artists have also volunteered their services, and I will take them all up on it. This is the cheapest part of the equation.
How about shipping? Are you prepared to take delivery of hundreds
if not thousands of box sets, and be sure they get shipped off to
people in the appropriate way? Do you have the facilities to be
sure that you've got everyone's up-to-date information? Or perhaps you
can farm this out to a third party; do you have an estimate on
how much it will cost? If you're going to do it yourself, you'll
probably need to get some folks to help you, otherwise you'll be
doing nothing for a month but sending boxes; do you have people
who will do that?
Chris Replies: I will do this myself. I will be VERY happy to have to ship thousands of sets: that would mean I succeeded even beyond my own expectations. Yes, I have the means to do this.
Don't forget Quality Control, vital in any DVD production effort...
do you have people to be testers lined up? Can you test on a wide
variety of platforms (especially both high and low end configurations,
note vidoe problems that only show up on high end equipment, or playback
problems on PS2...)? Do you have plans for dealing with costs of
needing to remaster? Do you know what terms the DVD plant provides
if you can prove that a disc problem was from the plant, and do you
have the means to prove it should such a problem arise? Have you
guidelines to follow for disc production so's to irritate the fewest
number of fans (note AnimEigo's new production guidelines... ooh,
will the licensor require Macrovision? Better find out...) Do you
have people proofreading the script, and double-checking the subs?
Are your fansubbers used to producing for video, or are the digisubbers,
who tend to ignore stuff like 'title-safe' areas... And since you're
producing DVD, you probably want soft-subs anyhow, which subbers
don't as a rule do... do you have the software and hardware to do
real DVD production, or have access to such? Maybe you want to name
the group involved so people can assess their work...
Chris Replies: I plan on using a great plant for DVD production you may have heard of - Panasonic. What I will do is take the scripts, placement and timing as put together by the subbers on the project, and use the Panasonic Plant to create the Glass Masters. They will be soft-subs (which is how I like my own DVDs) and there's also a possibility that they will be available in more than one language. I'm EXTREMELY picky about subtitles myself, and there will be quality control exercised on this that I will oversee. Yes, the licensor will require Macrovision - I don't see a way around that, and the DVDs will be region 1 DVDs. And as I said above, I am not going to name names until I have everything in place, including the support.
For that matter, no offense intended, but what mechanisms do you
plan to use to make sure that the investors can trust you with a
quarter-million dollars? Maybe an escrow service? It would be
good to nail this sort of thing down before you want to start
collecting money... Is there any provision for getting money
back to the investors if the project unavoidably falls through?
Chris Replies: Agreed. My plan is to have the money controlled by the firm of Low, Ball & Lynch, which is based in San Francisco. Before anyone gives me any money, I want to have all the terms spelled out - keep in mind this is still in the experimental phase. If you give me money then I need to be on the hook legally to produce what I say I will - otherwise I can be sued and will go to jail. I don't want that to happen, I assure you ^_^. By the way, Anime Raiders, Inc. is a California Corporation. Feel free to look it up.
Maybe the plan is "We rips the discs, put our own subs on them,
burn them to DVD-R with this DVD-burner jukebox I've got, and
send them to people in Tyvek sleeves"; That's low-cost, but not
exactly what people would be expecting... :-) Best to make your
plan clear up front!
Chris Replies: Not only would that be a breach of trust on my part, I can assure that Studio Pierrot does not want their names attached to shoddy product. The plan is to give you a box set that will make people envious of you, and inspire your envious friends to buy it for themselves.
Basically, if you can put a full-fledged business plan (with
appropriate references for numbers and personnel) on your
page and publicize it to the forums, then you'll have a much
better chance of convincing people that this is serious, and
getting them to sign on... Also understand that the above commentary
is simply from common sense and time in the software industry; I'm
sure there are issues specific to video production that I don't
know about! Perhaps you've already thought about all these issues,
and have worked out the details; if so, great! But we need to
see the work... :-)
Chris Replies: I will give a full-fledged business plan to anyone who signs up, when I know we can go forward. It's not a question of being evasive, it's a question of not wasting your time or mine. The business plan as it exists right now is 34 pages of graphs, charts, and projections, based on the idea of founding a whole company that imports anime. This project is for the one title. If you're serious, and sign up, I will provide the finalized version to you BEFORE I ask for your money. If you're not satisfied with the whole plan at that time, walk away. My feelings won't be hurt.
I hope you can solve these issues; I would love to get in on
a project like this if the appropriate assurances were in place!
Chris Replies: I hope I've answered your questions. Please keep the questions coming!!!
Well, I got a feedback from another person who saw this website who flat-out doesn't trust me, and he raises a good point. Here's his e-mail:
Dear Mr. Reed,
I'll be up-front with you; I don't buy your reasons for not giving us
details of your business plan. No venture capitalist would
realistically accept your proposal of "once you're in, then you can see
my plans." Go ahead, and waste my time. If your business plan is any
good, it won't be a waste of time in the first place. You are not
instilling confidence with what you say is not evasiveness.
Here was my response:
You're absolutely correct of course, no venture capitalist would invest under those terms. But let's be clear - I will not be asking for money from anyone until I know this can be pulled off, and I will not ask for any money until the business plan is out and available.
This is all about making certain that there is a way to pull this off - that the series has enough support to try something admittedly radical. We all need to know that the interest EXISTS.
A full business plan does exist, for importing animation and growing a company. If you would like to see it in the position of a venture capitalist, I would be more than happy to send it to you. I have done so in the past, and imagine I will do so again. To create a growing anime importer would take a lot more money than $260,000 - more like $2 Million to do it properly.
In fact it will take more than that for just this series. However, as I do mention elsewhere on the website, I am confident that once the rights are in hand the remaining funding necessary to produce the sets can be raised through further sales and financing against future revenue. If I'm wrong, then I am the one out of money and on the hook. Not just to the people involved in the project but to Studio Pierrot as well. I refuse to find myself in that position, so I had better be right. And I do not want money from anyone not satisfied with my answers.
This project is about one series, one title, and nothing more. This isn't a method that will work with very many series, but I am trying to satisfy in my own mind that it is possible for THIS series.
I WANT people to question what I'm doing, so keep the questions coming!
About the series:
The following is from a review I did for a Magazine a few years back. It's been in a few places on the web as well.
Creamy Mami is the story of 10-year old Morisato Yuu, and adventurous and somewhat tomboy-ish girl whose parents own Creamy Crepes, a mobile crepe stand in front of their house. In the opening episode she spots an ark-shaped spaceship that no one else can see. She rescues the inhabitants from a dragon and as a reward is given a magic wand and two companions, small cats named Nego and Puji. Nego and Puji seem like ordinary cats to everyone else, but they can speak normally to Yuu.
The magic wand gives her the ability to turn into a teenager, plus a few other magical powers. Yuu has a crush on an older boy named Toshio, and she hopes that by being older that Toshio will fall for her. It happens, but not in the way she expected.
During her first outing as a teenager, she gets discovered by a music producer and is shanghied into being an idol singer. She immediately gets a first hand taste of some of the less glamorous aspects of being an idol singer, and decides to give it all up. (She calls herself Creamy Mami, after her parent's crepe shop, when asked her name). However, Toshio has fallen for Creamy Mami, and Yuu decides to keep the charade going.
The remainder of the series follows her adventures as both Yuu and Creamy Mami. Occasionally the aliens call on her for help, and from time to time you can see that Toshio really has feelings for Yuu as well, although he tends to hide them or disregard them. Although the series is a comedy, there are occasionally dark turns regarding some of the seamier aspects of the music industry, and competition between singers. One episode is actually a murder mystery, although the whole concept gets turned on its side by the end of the episode.
Other characters include Midori, Toshio's long suffering best friend who has a major crush on Yuu, the producer (Shuun), Megumi, another idol singer who sees Cramy Mami as her rival (and rightly so - Mami-chan begins to outshine Megumi's star power almost immediately), their manager (Kidokuro, about as hapless a man as you'll ever meet, and a very nice guy), Yuu's parents, and a very oily tabloid reporter named Snake Joe who wants to find out where Mami really came from. This is a problem for Yuu, because one of the conditions for her to keep the magic wand is that no one ever find out what she can do. If her secret is ever discovered, she'll have to remain as Creamy Mami and Morisato Yuu will be no longer. The fact that Yuu has the ability to spot other magical creatures and is overly curious doesn't help.
Every character evolves over the course of the series, even SnakeJoe (what happens to him comes out of nowhere, and it works perfectly). 52 Episodes, one OAV (which includes a recap of the entire series) which takes place about 3 months after the end of the series, and one movie which is about a year after that, which brings the series to a definite conclusion. The last episode of the TV series includes a montage of images that shows where all of the characters wind up in the future, and I guarantee it will choke you up.
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