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'Sgt. Frog' Dissected

Interview with ADV CEO John Ledford

Published: 11/21/2006 12:00am
John Ledford

On Monday, ADV Films announced the acquisition of Sgt. Frog, a major ongoing franchise property in Japan, with over 130 episodes and counting.  The alien frog-starring character comedy has lots of otaku in-jokes, coupled with humor that has broad appeal. 

 

Although this will be the first release of the anime, Sgt. Frog is not a new property to the States; Tokyopop has released 11 of 13 manga volumes, and Diamond will be importing figures (see 'Diamond To Import Sgt. Frog Figures').

 

We interviewed ADV CEO John Ledford to find out more about this major acquisition.   

 

Diamond's February Previews listed the first DVD for Sgt. Frog, with a ship date of February 28th.  Then on Monday they issued a retraction, saying that ADV had rescheduled the release for a date to be determined.  What happened?

Sgt. Frog is a huge franchise with a lot of interested parties.  I can't say specifically why it was delayed, but there's good reason.  Suffice it to say that things are looking very good for Sgt. Frog.

 

Has ADV licensed all the episodes of the Sgt. Frog anime series (132 according to one source)?  Is the series still on-going in Japan?

Yes, we have it all, and it's still ongoing.  With the ratings it's getting in Japan, we expect it'll be on the air for some time!  This isn't just a fan phenomenon in Japan -- children, teens, tweens and adults all love Sgt. Frog!  This is truly a mainstream franchise.

 

Has ADV licensed the Sgt. Frog feature film?

I really can't comment on that, except to say that I'm a big fan of the movie.

 

Does ADV have any plans to bring over and distribute any of the large number of Sgt. Frog merchandise items?  Does ADV have the rights to license the property for merchandise here in North America?  Does ADV have the rights to sell Sgt. Frog episodes via Internet downloads?

ADV is the master toy, merchandising, and interactive game licensing representative for Sgt. Frog in the English-speaking world.  Apparel, trading cards, figurines, puzzles... just about anything you can imagine, we have the rights.  Sgt. Frog is a special show, and merchandise is definitely an important component in our plans to extend the franchise globally.

 

Judging from its success abroad, the merchandising potential for Sgt. Frog is huge.  You can't go anywhere in Japan without seeing Sgt. Frog. It's a true pop culture phenomenon.  Have you seen the Sgt. Frog cell phone yet? 

 

It's been less than a week since people learned we have the anime, and hundreds of emails have been pouring in.  Fans are asking about all kinds of merchandise -- including a few items we didn't even know about.  So there's already great interest here in the States.  That's sure to grow once the show takes off. 

 

The Internet is also a big factor in Sgt. Frog's future, as is mobile.  Anyone who's been paying attention knows that ADV is very aggressive when it comes to new media!  

 

Does ADV have TV rights to the series?  Are there any deals in the works to get the series on the Cartoon Network, or any other linear cable channel?

Yes we do have broadcast rights, and we are evaluating a number of very interesting offers.  Stay tuned!

 

When will the series be available via VOD on ADV's Anime Network?

There are a few other issues to tackle before we settle on Anime Network's exact role with Sgt. Frog.  Anime Network is an important part of our program to increase awareness of anime and grow the market.  Anime Network has helped break out many of ADV's hit series, like Maburaho and Elfen Lied.  There's no doubt Anime Network could do the same for Sgt. Frog; however, Anime Network is just one of our many broadcast options.  Right now we're exploring variety of offers, so it's too early to say exactly what role Anime Network will play with Sgt. Frog.

 

How does ADV plan on marketing the series, which reportedly depends on parodies of other anime series and anime stereotypes for much of its humor?

If you go on the fan forums, you'll see a lot of discussion about the in-jokes and parodies that are embedded within the show, and that is one aspect of Sgt. Frog's appeal.  But Sgt. Frog is one of the most iconic characters in anime.  This is an incredibly accessible show, and you don't have to be an anime fan to laugh with it.

 

Take the Gundam references.  Okay, if you know your anime, this is a really rich vein of humor.  But let's say you don't have that history.  You still have an alien frog blowing off his invasion plans of Earth to build model robots in the basement.  That's funny! 

 

People are going to enjoy Sgt. Frog on many different levels, just like the Simpsons or the Venture Brothers or any one of a number of smart comedy series.   

 

Sgt. Frog should be a hit with hardcore anime fans, but do you think it has the potential to reach a wider audience?  Why?  How?

Everywhere Sgt. Frog is broadcast, it's a hit.  Why would America be any different?

 

Sgt. Frog is going to succeed because it's smart, it's funny, and Americans love their anti-heroes.  In that respect, Sgt. Frog has the same qualities as Homer Simpson. 

 

Tokyopop has published the Sgt. Frog manga here in the U.S.  Do you plan to do any cross-promoting of the property with them?

We've worked with Tokyopop before, most recently with a Saiyuki cross promotion.  We're in touch with Tokyopop about Sgt. Frog and definitely hope to continue to coordinate with them.

 

I should say that I think Tokyopop has done a fantastic job introducing Sgt. Frog to the North American market.  They did a first-rate job launching the manga series, and they've been great stewards of the franchise.  The name recognition Sgt. Frog enjoys in the States says a lot about Tokyopop's strong marketing efforts.

 

Since your deal with Sojitz (see 'Japanese Investment Bulks Up ADV'), ADV has announced some major acquisitions for 2007 including Sgt. Frog, Chevalier D'Eon, and Air Gear -- do you expect the quantity (and quality) of ADV's 2007 releases to be closer to what you did in 2005, or in 2006?

This is a whole new era for ADV.  The quality and diversity of our line has never been this rich.  What we've announced so far is just the tip of the iceberg.  I think people are going to be blown away by what the rest of 2007 holds!

 
 
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