The Aussie Who's Pitching An Anime To Netflix And Japan

Image: Millennium Exile / Ty Hanson

Not being born in Japan doesn't mean you can't make your own anime.

That's Ty Hanson's idea, at any rate. Over the last several years, the Brisbane-based photographer and animator has been working on an anime of his own called Millennium Exile.

So rather than simply working on it as a labour of love, a fan project to be released on YouTube down the road, Hanson is going one step further: he wants to pitch his anime to Netflix, and through the content conglomerate, Japan as well.

But there's several thousand steps from turning a dream into a living, breathing series. And the journey didn't start out as a dream, but as an escape from reality.

"When I was 11 my mother lost her fight to lung cancer and this threw my life into disarray, with myself and my father struggling to cope with the grief," Hanson said. "My father was still struggling with having lost my mother, and with no friends, I found myself in a very dark place."

Ty found himself gravitating towards anime, away from the Western humour of shows like Tom & Jerry or Superted for shows that tackled heavy, human themes.

"I found myself gravitating towards [anime] ... because the darker and more mature nature of the stories held my interest. These stories weren't just the regular cartoons that kids my age were watching like Super Ted, Argh! Real Monsters or Tom & Jerry ... these shows dealt with war, hate, love and peace to name just a few."

It's a relationship a lot of anime fans understand. And after coping with his own struggles throughout high school by drawing inspiration from Tenkoman, Macross and Neon Genesis: Evangelion, Ty wanted to give back to the industry. Evangelion, and Hideki Anno's troubles in particular, resonated.

"Here was a man, suffering and fighting his very own demons," Hanson said. "However he used that suffering, and channelled it into creating a title that was becoming a worldwide sensation."

So while he was working his way through an animation and graphic design degree, Hanson started working on Millennium Exile.

It started with a character called Vincent.

Image: Millennium Exile concept art / Ty Hanson

"I created Vincent in a much more simplistic picture, almost like a beyblade Digimon design for an assignment," Hanson explained. Vincent was an orphan, blessed with a supernatural power from a previous era when all humans possessed magic.

The backstory was well received, but Vincent's early visual design didn't quite fit. So Hanson went back to the drawing board, and Vincent went from an early draft to the beginnings of a more complete character.

A before and after of Vincent's evolving character designs

Buoyed by the feedback, Hanson fleshed out the idea further. Having superhuman abilities meant that Vincent was a good fit for a superhero-style series, or battle manga. And since Hanson had also grown up in a time where shows like Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball, Claymore, Bleach had all found their mark, there was an obvious target market.

But there was one major hurdle: Hanson's art wasn't quite good enough. He needed better artists to help bring the world to life, and to build Millennium Exile into a proper series.

So he began commissioning artists through Deviantart, working part-time jobs, doing odds and ends to cover the bills. "I would just become a member of a particular artists comment community, follow them on social networks and decide if I thought their particular art style would work for Millennium Exile," Hanson said.

Cover art for a Millennium Exile artbook. Image: Hary Istiyoso

While the art started to form, Hanson continued working on the plot, characterisation, and the different factions that would make up the Millennium Exile world.

It's a tried-and-tested formula that has worked for countless anime series before. Our hero is an exceptionally powerful being, but a flawed one. Vincent is pitched in between good and evil, being a powerful asset for either. He's either society's saviour, or the harbinger of its demise.

Image: Millennium Exile

Magic doesn't flow through every town and village anymore, but Vincent's got plenty of supernatural folk to spend time with. There's clans of vampires, biomehcanical soldiers, forest-dwelling dragons, the Pope, immortal demons, and a whole host of magical beings stuck in between.

Having worked on the project for a decade, Hanson's had time to really flesh out the story. Each character, each faction, and every location has an extensive bio on the official site. Want to know the individual powers of each of the dragons? They're there. Want to know how Nexus's evil robots were made and where their powers came from? Here you go. Want to just look at a ton of concept art to get a gist of the world? There's plenty.

Hanson also started to corral voice-over talent from the United States to help put a demo reel together. He wouldn't name the artists publicly, but mentioned that they'd worked on shows such as Fate Stay Night, Naruto, Full Metal Alchemist, Neon Genesis and Dragon Ball Z.

And while the support sounds impressive, and the body of work is exhaustive, Hanson is still based in Queensland. Netflix isn't there, and neither is the anime industry.

So how does Millennium Exile go from a passion project to a fully-funded production?

For now, the entire project has been funded by Hanson's disposable income and the generosity of fans, donating to Hanson's PayPal. The Queenslander has tried to reach out for additional funding, particularly for government arts grants. One grant was apparently turned down because he was "working with 'international artists'". Another application to a philanthropic foundation also fell on deaf ears.

But the project has continued regardless, as many passion projects do. And it's progressed a fair way: despite being stuck in Queensland, Hanson's managed to secure international voice-over talent for the full demo reel, and the site has an extensive list of commissioned concept, environment and character art.

Whether it takes that step further? To a large degree, that's out of Hanson's hands. He'll spend this year actively lobbying Netflix, animation studios, and other contacts to try and get the anime over the line. And that process could have all sorts of influence on the end product. Executives have made all kinds of crazy demands about creative projects before.

Regardless of what happens, Millennium Exile's progress from a basic drawing of Vincent to a virtual world, complete with factions, weapons, magic, conflict and characters is impressive alone. The will to keep going, to keep funding something for so long, is something Aussie anime fans can be proud of.

"I'll work hard and make my own opportunity once the project is pitch ready, but if someone should notice [Millennium Exile] in the mean time then so be it," Hanson said. "I'll keep knocking on doors, making appointments and pitching until the day I die. I believe in my dream, in myself, and the story I have created."


Comments

    Has he discussed anything with Screen Australia?

    If he can get a funding from them to go with the show then Netflix might be more inclined to give it a shot as it means less money for them.

    Couldn't hurt to have a shot.

      I approached them a while back but they were unable to help at that time.
      If only hahahaha
      Thanks very much for the suggestion Grandmaster B-Funk :)

      Screen Australia are very difficult to deal with. They're more interested in working with established professionals than trying something as out of left field as this.

      They also will only commit about 12% of your budget, which you need to pay back when production begins and they will then have an aspect of creative control. So they'll ask you to make changes.

      Which is pretty interesting when you consider that the last 90 films funded by them failed to make a profit.

    i feel the art is suited more for illustration and graphic novels rather than animation, there are unnessary details which will only slow down the production. Also it feels like a japanese wanna be rather than something original, and i think thats abit disappointing.

      Thank you for your feedback som dud :)

      The artwork you see is merely for conceptual pitching....a highly detailed and polished representation in order to be as eye-catching and visually appealing as possible, not for a literal anime adaptation. Some studio's have their own flair and their own stylistic approach to artwork and I need to be willing to adapt to that down the track.

      I understand you may have intended the term "wanna be" as a cutting insult however in order to "do" anything, one must first "want" to do (or become it) it.
      By it's very definition, I am indeed a wanna be....I want to be a creative within the anime industry, and I'm proud of that fact.
      Every business owner, musician, actor or person to achieve anything, was once a "wanna be".

      All 'original' content is kept far away fro the Internet as to avoid plagiarism and copycats also.

      All in all, I appreciate your feedback and I apologize that I could not make a fan out of you...should Millennium Exile get made, I hope that you will give me another chance.
      Much love.

        Every champion was once a contender who didn't give up!

    I have a dream of becoming a manga artist, so i know the feeling of trying to keep the culture of manga and anime but having the restrictions whist also being a westerner (also aussie). It's not easy.
    I wish you the best of luck and I hope that your dream comes true!

      Thank you very much, please, do not give up on your dream either.....even if we fail in our endeavors, it is what we do with those failures that determine our future success.
      I wish you the very best of luck also!

      Hi Mishelly, are you trying to be a manga artist? Do you have some work? Are you really into manga/anime and/or Japanese pop culture? Would love to speak to you if you are. I'm a journalist, doing a story on Asian pop culture and its fans in Australia.

    Looks very interesting! Wishing Ty all the best!

      Thank you so much, you are too kind :) Still a LOT of work to do yet haha

    Look forward to sitting down one day and seeing your show pop up on Netflix or similar. Would blow my mind knowing you made it happen.

    Keep at it man.

    Cool looking Teknoman.

      Hahaha yeah,
      While Teknoman was certainly an inspiration for me, he does resemble him a bit too much (in this piece at least) lol.

    Heaps of cool looking characters and a cool art style, it worries me there are no female characters. I feel like that would be a big help when pitching to netflix. Especially the way women empowerment has been going the last couple of years :)

      Howdy, I feel you but trust me...there are some VERY super OP females in the show.
      A couple have already been released however I just got a little carried away with the male population within the story.
      In fact, a new female character is being released very soon :)

    Hey dude I could imagine you've made Reddit post promoting yourself and your work. I like the style you've gone with and if it's not convoluted and it's concise, you could have something awesome in your hands. Good luck

      Aww why thank you. Um I attempted to make a reddit post about MillEx but I'm pretty sure there are some serious rules about promoting yourself which prevent me from doing so :P
      Thank you so much for your feedback :)

    I wish him all the best in getting it greenlit on Netflix and beyond.

    The show definitely looks promising!

    Wow! Impressive..... I know a guy.... Going to send him the link to this article.
    I wouldn't bother with screen Australia. The initial funding is severely cut when you move into your second season and if you started by relying on that funding having that halved seriously puts pressure on keeping quality up and a team on board. The Australian film and TV industry is heavily dependent on government funding. Its an old / broken and unsustainable model that needs to go away. Much love for what you are trying to do!

    Oh man, thank you so much :)
    I really appreciate the support and the kind words of encouragement.
    I hope the guy you know likes what I'm trying to do hahaha

    While I admire the guy’s passion, this really looks like yet another anime-inspired series that simply mashes together a bunch of tired anime clichés and tropes. There’s already plenty of these out there. Rather than using the anime-inspiration as a crutch, why not produce something original that just happens to borrow visual elements from anime? I guess what I’m saying is less RWBY and more The Boondocks. Yeah, I said it, fucking come at me, bro!

      Hahahaha that's fantastic!
      Trust me, there is plenty of original content within the MillEx...I just cannot share it publicly yet.

      I hope I can change your mind later down the track :)

    From what I have gleened as an Anime fan, the majority of works that get turned into Anime are Manga or Novellas. Both of which must fall into being able to be turned into 12-14 episode seasons. Unless you're planning on doing a single one off movie of course.

    So starting with a short novel which is written to be able to fit into this format would be your best bet to crack into that industry.

    One thing that makes a lot of these work is that a lot of the worlds that are created have a lot of mystery surrounding them, rich detail that's not shared up front so the direction that the storylines take are a surprise to the reader (generally the manga or novels are read before the Anime). Explaining the whole world in a video can take away from the users experience, if they have expectations and they don't get that in the first season they can be disappointed.

    That and a great majority of them have some kind of social commentry on what's happening in Japan or the world at this point in time. That way the viewer/reader can relate to it.

    Thanks very much for your insight SavarnT,

    While I do somewhat give away a lot about the world of Ryner, there is a LOT more to the lore that remains unknown, and this all unfolds as our characters journey continues.
    There is lore behind the lore, and history that goes into different parts of the world.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me about this. :)

    When you make this anime a reality imma watch it straight away cos with the amount of effort you put in its definitely gonna be epic so good luck for you.

    Saying of the day: "The amount of effort you put in is the amount of rewards you receive." =)

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