Before the idea of showcasing adapted anime, Nippon Animation was first called as Zuiyo Enterprise after the owner, Zuiyo Eizo. It was a animation studio which well produced a lot of anime shows that fits for children. In mid-1970's especially 1974, the name Zuiyo Enterprise was later changed into Nippon Animation after the success of airing the popular series Heidi, the Girl of Alps adapted from Johanna Spyri's children's book in Europe as well in America. The reason the name changed was because of financial difficulties in selling the series to European market. In 1975, Zuiyo Eizo split the two entities: Zuiyo (not the name) and Nippon Animation led by the original production staff including Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. In 1975, the Nippon Animation Co.,Ltd. was officially called and made a spot for successive Maya the Bee and Dog of Flanders which became the first entry of World Masterpiece Theater. Since then, Nippon Animation also started to produce anime based on Western literature.
Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata are considered as the founders of World Masterpiece Theater because of their astonishing directing in producing the anime series. But they suddenly leave the production around 1979 during the production of Anne of Green Gables (1979) to make Lupin III and The Castle of Cagliostrio. Ironically, the two we're also the co-headers of the well-known Studio Ghibli in 1985.
The World Masterpiece Theater we're first only available in Fuji Television and aired 23 seasons. Some of it's series were later on exported in other counties and dubbed several languages. In the American market dubbed few versions like Tom Sawyer (1980), Swiss Family Robinson (1981), and Little Women (1987) only. Animax, broadcast few entries like Princess Sarah (1985), Remi, Nobody's Girl (1996) and others in Southeast Asia and South Asia. In Europe, some entries we're became successful in releasing popular masterpieces like Anne of Green Gables, Rascal (1977), Princess Sarah and others.
The last entry Remi, Nobody's Girl ended in 1997. 10 years later, Nippon Animation decided to continue their successful tradition by the release of Les Misérables: Shōjo Cosette. Then the recent The Long Journey of Porphy became the 25th entry which marks the anniversary of World Masterpiece Theater. Currently, Nippon Animation is planning to make the 26th World Masterpiece Theater entry this year - Before Green Gables. I have a question in my mind about the new World Masterpiece Theater series - Will Nippon Animation plan out to export the new series in (many) other countries like they did before?
If you want to find out more about World Masterpiece Theater and other works in Nippon Animation, you can look-up to their official site in English here. In Japanese language, you can visit this official site here.
"World Masterpiece Theater series Aired in the Philippines"
Here in the Philippines, almost shows from World Masterpiece Theater we're aired and replayed in different channels. I don't know if this one's true but some people who knew the past local channel schedules that ABS-CBN was the first network introduced anime from Nippon Animation aside from adapted anime programs. With requires of research, here are the following shows aired in different channels with their details....
Heidi, Girl of Alps / Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji (1974)
This show is the first entry of World Masterpiece Theater under Zuiyo Enterprises around 1974. This series was based on Heidi in children's book, authored by Johanna Spyri wrote in 1880. Heidi tells about a young girl named Heidi who lives in the Swiss Alps with her grandfather. Different chronicles took events in Heidi's childhood even being an orphan in the beginning of the series. She also met few people and childhood friends in her life aside from her caring grandfather like the goat-herd Peter and the rich daughter in town Klara Sesseman.
It's anime series was directed by Isao Takahata. Hayao Miyazaki did the scene designs and layout and Yoichi Kobe meanwhile did the character design and became the animation director. The anime version did well outside Japan and dubbed 28 different languages around the world. In the Philippines;ABS-CBN first airing this series before year 2000 in Tagalog-dub and despite it's popularity, a Cebuano dubbed version was made. The last time I watch this series around 2006 in QTV in Tagalog-dub.
Dog of Flanders / Furandāsu no Inu (1975)
The second entry of World Masterpiece Theater series made around 1975. This was the adaptation of Maria Louise Ramé's novel of the same name. The original staff from the previous entry participated to produce this series. The anime tells about a young orphan boy named Nello and his dog Patrasche and took place in the 19th century. Nello and his dog encountered a lot of struggles in their whole lives until they expect their tragic fate in the end. The themes in both anime and the novel gives strong spirit and love to each other which helps them survive and cope harsh realities in their lives.
There was another anime version of Dog of Flanders before this entry called My Patrasche. The anime was produced in Tokyo Movie Shinsha around 1992 to 1993 with it's same plot from the novel. ABS-CBN is the first channel aired it's another adapted version rather Nippon Animation version back in 1994 to 1995. Then, QTV aired Dog of Flanders back in 2006 and 2008 which the last time it aired (with German opening and ending themes).
3000 Leagues in Search of Mother / Haha o Tazunete Sanzenri (1976)
...or better known as Marco in some other countries.
This another adapted anime was rather loosely based in some small parts of the original novel Heart (Cuore) by Edmondo De Amicis. The series focuses on a young boy named Marco Rossi who lives with his family in Genoa, Italy during the time of depression in the late 19th century. Having financial difficulties and Marco's father is a doctor, his mother travel to Argentina to work as a maid in order to help Marco. A letter came to Marco which said that his mother is sick which gives Marco fear the worst of his mother's fate. Marco set-off his trail together with his pet monkey named Amadeo, the leagues of searching Marco's mother begun.
The last time this anime version aired in GMA around 1998 or 1999 (the same year when Nippon Animation decided to make a remake of 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother and it's movie version).
Rascal the Raccoon / Araiguma Rasukaru (1977)
This was the first World Masterpiece Theater that was based on a autobiographical novel and children's book entitled "Rascal, A Memoir of a Better Era" by Sterling North in 1963. Like in the novel, it tells the chronicles of a young boy named Sterling North and his relationships between his family and his friends in Winsconsin. At the early series both in the novel and anime, Sterling found a young raccoon who is lost in the forest. He decided to take care of it and named Rascal.
The original staff present in this series although Isao Takahata never took the director's place. Despite the popularity, Rascal became the official mascot of Nippon Animation and still as popular in Japan even today. You can find the information about the anime in this site here. Meanwhile, the last time Rascal the Raccoon appeared in Philippine TV was in QTV last year (with it's German opening and ending theme of course).
The Story of Perrine / Perīnu Monogatari (1978)
Released in 1978 and was based on the French novel, En Famille by Hector Malot. A young girl Perrine sets out her journey together with her mother to their hometown after Perrine's father died. Unfortunately, lack of money became their main problem in their jouney so Pierre decided to use their old camera and sell protraits to the villagers surround them. Aside from selling portraits Pierre, her moher, their dog Baron and their donkey encounters difficult situations as they travel into many places.
According to Wikipedia, the last time this series aired in the Philippines was around early 90's in GMA.
(continue to part 2)