Ellation and Crunchyroll announce a new division focused on original content

AT&T-owned digital media company Ellation is moving into the original content business with the launch of Ellation Studios, which will produce series for the company’s anime streaming service Crunchyroll.

The meaning of the “originals” label is a bit fuzzy, with streaming services applying it to everything from shows where they’ve acquired the exclusive rights (sometimes just in one country), to series that they’ve fully produced and own.

When asked where Crunchyroll Originals will fall on that spectrum, Ellation’s new head of studio Margaret Dean said, “It’s an important question. We’re still talking about it. At what point do we put [the Originals label] on all those types of deals?”

Dean (an industry veteran and current president of Women In Animation) noted that Crunchyroll started out with a licensing model before getting more involved in the financing of new shows, and then moving into co-production. Ellation Studios seems like the next step in that direction, with production facilities in Burbank and Tokyo.

Ellation and Crunchyroll aren’t announcing the full slate of originals yet, but first up is High Guardian Spice, a fantasy series telling the story of four girls at High Guardian Academy. It’s created by Raye Rodriguez will be staffed by an all-female writing room and is scheduled to premiere in 2019. (Dean, Rodriguez and others will discuss the show durring a panel at the Crunchyroll Expo next month.)

Dean said everything on the originals slate will be anime-inspired, but will cover a variety of stories for a variety of audiences.

“Animation is a medium, not a genre,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be limited to kids — or to if it’s adults, to comedy. It can be a wide range of different styles and genres.”

She added that one of the reasons she was excited to join Ellation being told that the goal is to be “everything to somebody, not something to everybody.” Dean described a “sense of liberation” on hearing those words: “We could go deep in things. We could make great art.”