Netflix has ordered the animated series Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles, based on the globally successful 35-year-old comic book, Usagi Yojimbo, from award-winning creator Stan Sakai. Sakai will serve as executive producer of the CGI series, along with Gaumont, Dark Horse Entertainment and Atomic Monster.
The new animated series takes place in the far future, set in a world that mixes modern high-tech images with classic Japanese references and follows the teenage Rabbit Samurai Yuichi, descendent of the great warrior Miyamoto Usagi, on his epic quest to become a true samurai.
But he isn’t alone! He leads a ragtag team of misfit heroes – including a roguish bounty hunter, a cunning ninja, an acrobatic pickpocket and a faithful pet lizard – as he battles depth-charging moles, metal-tipped winged bats, and monsters from another dimension, all in the pursuit to become the best samurai Usagi!
The series is produced in partnership with Stan Sakai, who will serve as Executive Producer, along with Gaumont (Executive Producers Nicolas Atlan, Terry Kalagian, Sidonie Dumas and Christophe Riandee), Dark Horse Entertainment (Executive Producers Mike Richardson, Keith Goldberg and Chris Tongue), and Atomic Monster (Executive Producers James Wan, Michael Clear and Rob Hackett).
Candie and Doug Langdale (Maya and the Three, The Book of Life, Puss in Boots, Niko and the Sword of Life, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness) are attached as executive producers and showrunners. Ben Jones (Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teen Titans, Iron Giant) is Supervising Producer while Khang Le (Big Hero 6, Little Big Awesome) will serve as Art Director on the series.
Mumbai-based 88 Pictures (Trollhunters, 3Below: Tales of Arcadia, Fast & Furious Spy Racers) has been appointed as the CGI animation studio.
The work of Stan Sakai, the characater’s sole creator, author, and artist, Usagi Yojimbo – the epic saga of Miyamoto Usagi, a samurai rabbit living in late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth-century Japan – is one of the longest independent serialised comic book series in existence, first appearing in the anthology Albedo Anthropomorphics in 1984, and later in the Fantagraphics Books anthology Critters, before appearing in his own series in 1987.
The Usagi Yojimbo series has been published by four different companies. The first publisher was Fantagraphics Books, the second was Mirage Publishing, and the third, Dark Horse Comics. As of June 2019, Usagi Yojimbo is now published in full colour by IDW Publishing, which broke Top 100 comics last year as IDW’s highest sold IP that month.
Usagi Yojimbo: Bunraku and Other Stories, a collected edition of IDW-publishwed stories, was released in April.
Usagi Yojimbo has also been named on Empire Magazine’s Top 50 comic-book characters of all time, IGN’s Top 100 comic-book characters of all time and Rolling Stone’s Top 50 non-superhero graphic novels.
“All of us at Gaumont were honoured when Stan trusted us to develop his iconic property into an animated series,” said Nicolas Atlan, President, Gaumont US. “This is a first for Usagi Yojimbo.
“We are thrilled to have Netflix on board as our creative partner so we can together, with the combined artistic talent of Stan Sakai, Dark Horse Entertainment and Atomic Monster take this iconic brand to the next level.”
“It is a pleasure working with Gaumont and Netflix,” said Stan. “I am involved in each step of the production and am enthusiastic with the direction we are going into.
“It is wonderful to expand the Usagi universe by collaborating with so many talented people. I am working with an awesome team and I’m looking forward to finally seeing an Usagi series on the screen! I thank my wonderful fans, friends and family for their support and encouragement over the last 35 plus years.”
Stan Sakai was born in Kyoto, Japan, and grew up in Hawaii. He began his comic book career by lettering Sergio Aragonés’ Groo the Wanderer. He also worked with Stan Lee, lettering The Amazing Spider-Man Sunday newspaper strips for 25 years.
Sakai is most famous for his original creation, Usagi Yojimbo, an epic graphic novel saga that began in 1984 and now spans more than 34 volumes, featuring Miyamoto Usagi, a samurai rabbit living in early-seventeenth-century Japan. Usagi has been published in sixteen languages and Sakai has been honoured with a number of awards, including six Eisner Awards, two Harvey Awards including one for Best Cartoonist, the Japanese American National Museum’s Cultural Ambassador Award, Parent’s Choice Award, and an American Library Association Award.
Skilful weaving of history, folklore, and Japanese culture into his work has made Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo a favourite among educators as a curriculum tool. Usagi has also been a part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their TV series, comic book crossovers, and toy lines. Stan is married to artist Julie Fujii Sakai, with whom he collaborates on Chibi Usagi and other projects.
Formed in France in 1895, Gaumont is the first film company in the world, celebrating 125 years of history and innovation. With offices in Paris, Los Angeles, London, and Berlin, Gaumont remains an industry leader, producing and distributing high-quality TV programming and films.
Specialising in producing local stories with global appeal, Gaumont’s current slate includes talent-driven, diverse, and distinctive titles across multiple languages for the world’s leading global streaming platforms and channels. In the US, the Netflix flagship series Narcos in its fifth season, F is for Family in its fourth season, and for Amazon Prime Video, the Latin American production co-created by Armando Bo and Pablo Larraín, El Presidente, based on the 2015 “FIFA Gate” corruption scandal. For Netflix Germany, The Barbarians, a period epic tracing the battle between the Roman Empire and Germanic Warriors in the first century A.D. In France, Arsène Lupin, directed by Louis Leterrier and starring Omar Sy for Netflix, and the action thriller Operations Totems, for Amazon Prime Video and in the UK, Tin Star, starring Tim Roth, in its third season for Sky and Amazon Prime.
Amongst the many Gaumont Animation & Family, projects currently in production are; Do Re & Mi with Kristen Bell for Amazon Prime Video; and for Netflix, High in the Clouds, an animated feature developed together with Paul McCartney. Gaumont co-produces and distributes around ten films a year in cinemas. The film library encompasses over 1400 titles from prestigious directors such as Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Godard, and more recently, Toledano and Nakache for The Intouchables, the highest-grossing French-language movie to date with over $450 million in revenue to date.
Netflix is the world’s leading streaming entertainment service with 183 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.
• Find out more about Usagi Yojimbo at www.usagiyojimbo.com
• Stan Sakai is online at stansakai.com
Usagi Yojimbo © Stan Sakai