Does Disney Hold the Key to Anime’s Future?

Hey otaku, did you hear that Disney bought Marvel?

It’s an acquisition that has been the subject of many jokes and ridicule from the snarky community of the online peanut gallery.

Disney has been known for generations as the people behind the world’s most popular cartoon characters and family friendly kiddy fair. Most recently, the company has been striking major success with targeting the prepubescent female demographic, or “tweens” as it’s been called, with series like Lizzy McGuire, Hannah Montana, and the Jonas Brothers.

The acquisition of the major comic book company seemed completely random to the fanboy community as Marvel has very little to do with Mickey Mouse or Hannah Montana. So most, if not all, of the comments from that peanut gallery had to do with how Disney would change these super hero franchises in order to target these inappropriate demographics.

Otaku themselves had their own mini version of the Marvel acquisition when Viz Media announced that the popular Naruto Shippuden series would begin airing on the new TV network Disney XD. Naruto, a fairly violent action series targeted towards boys, seemed to also go against the ideal of Disney being the squeaky clean outlet for little kids and tweens. So once again came the snark of how Disney will ruin the popular anime franchise.

But if we nerds would take the time to stop ragging on Mickey Mouse and Hannah Montana for a second or two, we’d actually see that they might be on to something with this Disney XD channel.

In fact, Disney XD could be to anime in the upcoming decade what the Cartoon Network was to anime in the past decade.

Disney XD launched last February as a network purely aimed at boys aged 8-14, i.e. no girls allowed. No Hannah Montana. No Jonas Brothers. None of that girly stuff. Instead, we got a new original series from Disney called Aaron Stone, a sci-fi action show about a teenager who gets to live out the life of a video game hero in real life. The reaction to the show has been great, and the network is in the process of creating more original action programming for boys.

To fill up the rest of the 24-hours in this brand new network, Disney had acquired the rights to air many reruns of young male oriented programing from the past few decades. X-men, Spider-man, Pinky and the Brain, Gargoyles

Gargoyles, people! Gargoyles!

If you were a young boy in the 90’s, you’d know that Gargoyles was the most bad ass cartoon they ever dared to air on TV. In fact, a lot of the current programming on the network are reruns of the shows we all obsessed over growing up. Now a whole new generation of boys are able to check out these “classics” of Saturday morning TV.

This is the reason why the company bought out Marvel. It’s not to ruin the franchises with “Wolverine meets Hannah Montana”, it’s to grow out this new network with all the same type of cartoons that we used to – and probably still do – love. If it didn’t have the Mickey Mouse stigma attached to it, Disney XD would be a total fanboy’s paradise.

And initial ratings seem to indicate that it is working and that boys actually do love the network. So the move to add Naruto Shippuden to the network is going to introduce these kids to anime, which will probably lead to a new generation of American otaku.

A lot of otaku of my generation will talk about Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” animation block as their gateway into the medium. The channel’s heavily edited broadcasts of Dragon Ball Z, Tenchi Muyo, and Sailor Moon can be cited as a catalyst of the big anime boom at the start of the century. But Cartoon Network has been pulling away from anime in recent years, and gave the axe to Toonami on September 20, 2008.

Just the right time for Disney XD to take over that demographic.

So my fellow anime fans, get over the Mickey Mouse / Hannah Montana complex. Open your eyes to this amazing new network Disney is putting together full of action, sci-fi, superheroes, and soon, anime. They’re about to raise a whole new generation of fanboys, and 10 years from now, they may look back to Naruto on Disney XD the same way we look back at DBZ on Toonami.

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