Optimum Productions was a Toronto-based dubbing company in Canada established in 1996. Optimum Production was largely responsible for the casting and voice work aspects of all four seasons and the three films of Sailor Moon, produced by DiC Entertainment, Pioneer Entertainment, and Cloverway Inc.
According to Anime News Network and Moon Chase, Optimum Productions was established in 1996 in Mississauga, Ontari, in Toronto, Canada. However, according to their Internet Movie Database profile, their status as a active production company goes as far back as 1983.
Michael Jackson Media
One of their earliest works as a production company was on the music video and behind the scenes production for Michael Jackson's Thriller, as well as the music video for "Bad" from Michael Jackson's 1987 album of the same name. In 1988 they worked on Mowtown's documentary, Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues, before going on to work on Sailor Moon in 1995, and that same year, they were credited in the Michael Jackson video compilation, Video Greatest Hits – HIStory, on account of their work on the music videos for Thriller, Bad, and The Way You Make Me Feel.
Optimum Productions were credited again for "Thriller" in the release of Michael Jackson: HIStory on Film - Volume II. In 2003, they were credited in the production Michael Jackson: Number Ones, followed by Michael Jackson: The One in 2004, and in 2011 on a Hollywood Tonight segment on Michael Jackson: Hollywood. Their last and most recent credit was again in reference to "Thriller" in the 2009 documentary, This Is It.
In 1991, they handled the localization of Hello Kitty and Friends, and Keroppi in 1994. In 1997 they were responsible for the post-production of the animated film adaptation of A Christmas Carol produced by DiC Entertainment, and a animated series named Animal Shelf. In 1999, they produced the French localization for Rescue Heroes.
Production of Sailor Moon localization
Optimum Productions was subcontracted by DiC Entertainment to handle the casting of the series, as well as the recording of the soundtrack of the series. While DiC oversaw the work done by Optimum Productions, they would have very little to do with the finer aspects of production on a day-to-day basis.
At the time, Louis Hurtubise was the head of Optimum Productions, and worked finding people to hire for the company, while Nicole Thuault was the company's line producer, and on the day-to-day business aspects of the company. One of Thuault's responsibilities was the localization of Sailor Moon. The production for the localization took place in a studio named McClear Studios. Sal Grimaldi worked as Head Engineer alongside Mark Baldi, their mixing engineer.
Production went forward with a majority of the cast and crew relatively ignorant of what Japanese animation was beyond its growing popularity among younger audiences. The English production of Sailor Moon was recorded using analog technology, which provided a small window on proper timing from the cast during syncing. The production used a method called Rhythmoband, a recording technique used as early as the 1950s, and was expensive to import to North America on account of intensive pre-production work required when writing dialog on film-strips for actors to read during ADR sessions.
Issues with the Cast and Crew
Tracey Moore, who'd been cast as the title character, Serena Tsukino, worked on the series as a Director of ADR. Moore attempted to get actors to take multiple takes for better performances, but time constraints made it impossible, and was a point of issue with Thuaualt. After a production of thirteen episodes of the first season (the first eleven, followed by episodes fifteen and twenty-one), Moore left the project on account of "creative differences" and "stress" as a result of the environment. Additionally, Rino Romano (who was cast as Darien Shields), also quit the production after eleven episodes.
Roland Parliament (who voiced Melvin Butlers), was reassigned as the season's ADR director, as was Terri Hawkes, who replaced Moore as Serena Tsukino. Production was reportedly behind schedule, which resulted in Hawkes and Parliament to work the night Hawkes was hired. Due to time constraints, Hawkes often recorded episodes in one take.
In the memoir, Sailor Moon Reflections: The inside story of the English version of Sailor Moon, while he acknowledged he was an ADR director for the series, Parliament likened himself to a coach for the cast, and spent most of his monitoring the syncing equipment during their sessions. Parliament worked long hours and nights, and slept at the recording studio. In at least one instance, he became ill during. Because DiC was preoccupied with promoting Sailor Moon to American audiences, they complained to Parliament about the accents of the Canadian cast.
Broadcast and Cancellation Issues
Episodes of Sailor Moon and the first thirteen episodes Sailor Moon R were aired for "a couple of weeks" after recording sessions were held at Optimum Productions. A total of sixty-five episodes were dubbed in the span of three months.Sailor Moon was later cancelled after the thirteenth episode of Sailor Moon R ("Treed") aired on the UPN Network because the series was drawing in older audiences instead of younger audiences. The show was later saved by an intervention by the Irwin Toy Company and YTV Canada, who paid to fund the last seventeen episodes.
In addition Pioneer Entertainment funded Optimum Productions' recording sessions for the films, The Promise of the Rose, Hearts in Ice, and Black Dream Hole. Following the intervention, Ronald Parliament was fired on the basis of "Creative Differences." Optimum Productions hired John Stocker as replacement ADR director. Later on, Stocker was fired as well. Fred Ledd, a writer, was also fired and replaced with writers hired by Optimum Productions.
During the intervention, Katie Griffin was replaced as Raye Hino (Sailor Mars) for the final five episodes of Sailor Moon R by Emilie Barlow, who would go on to voice Mina Aino in the third season, Sailor Moon S and SuperS. Toby Proctor was also recast during that time with Vince Corazza, who voiced Darien Shields in the third and fourth seasons.
Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon SuperS
YTV Canada and Cartoon Network renewed their licensing rights to Sailor Moon, however, DiC declined to licence the third and fourth seasons of the series. Cloverway Inc., the then-US Branch of Toei Animation, opted to license season three and season four. In addition, they gave Optimum Productions near-creative freedom on the stipulation that seventy-seven episodes were recorded within four months.
The production of the third season was rushed; eleven episodes were recorded in four hour sessions, with the cast recording two takes, and which resulted in limited takes to choose from during the editing process. Production also saw conflict with long-time producer, Nicole Thuault, who was known to disagree with multiple takes during recording sessions.
Departure of the Original Cast
When production of the third season of Sailor Moon began, several of the original cast members declined or were unable to reprise their roles. Terri Hawkes was unable to return to the series on account of her twin pregnancy and was on bed rest at the time. She was replaced with Linda Ballantyne.
Stephanie Morgenstern (Mina Aino), declined to return on account of other commitments to on-screen projects. Following an audition, Morgenstern was replaced by Emilie Barlow, who voiced Raye Hino in Sailor Moon R prior. Similarly, Karen Bernstein (Amy Anderson), also declined to return because of other commitments that would conflict with recording sessions and she was replaced with Liza Balkan.
Actress Sabrina Grdevich "left the country" to pursue an on-screen acting career, and Susan Aceron was cast as Trista Meioh. At the time of the production for Sailor Moon S, Tracey Hoyt, who portrayed Rini, was focusing on her career in theater, and declined, believing her schedule would conflict with any possible voice work. Stephanie Beard was cast as Rini.
When the campaign website, Save Our Sailors, reached out to Optimum Productions about the change in voice actors for five of the lead and supporting characters, Louis Hurtubise, the then-President of Optimum Productions, responded with an explanation regarding the five recasts.
Aftermath and Firmin Productions
Little is actually known about the fate or current status of Optimum Productions as a production company. In 2005, they were credited with at least one more animated work besides Sailor Moon, a Korean film named Hammerboy (망치, Mangchi). According to a 2007 article by Moon Chase, during their search for the company, another company, Firmin Productions, was built in the same area Optimum Production was located, Mississauga, Ontari. Nicole Thuaualt was believed to be the head of Firmin Productions at the time.
According the site, Firmin Productions accredited itself for the production of the English localization of Sailor Moon licensed by DiC Entertainment, Pioneer Entertainment, and Cloverway Inc. Outdated information on the Optimum Productions website listed Nicole Thuault as then-Vice President of the company. In 2008, brochure from the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) listed several products under Optimum Productions' name, including, Jibber Jabber and Top Gear, the Flemish drama Matrioshki, and Canadian Geographic Presents.
Former Vice President of Optimum Productions, Louis Hurtubise, was given a profile on the independent voice acting website, Voice123, and, Nicole Thuault (former Associate Producer, ADR and Casting Director, and Vice President) was credited for dubbing productions on films such as My Life So Far, Dance Me Outside, and Pushing Tin. All of the above appeared to be in association with Quebec-based studios Voice Heart and Cinélume.
- Optimum Productions - Internet Movie Database
- Optimum Productions - Anime News Network
- Optimum Productions (official website)
- Firmin Productions (official website)
- Louis Hurtubise Linkedin.com
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Optimum Productions - Anime News Network
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Where is Optimum Productions?
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Optimum Production - Internet Movie Database
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Sailor Moon Reflections: The inside story of the original recordings of the English version of Sailor Moon
- ↑ VoiceQ Brings ‘Rythmo Band’ Dubbing to the U.S. via RSPE Audio Solutions
- ↑ The Art of the 'Bande Rythmo'
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 TV Tropes - Anime and Manga / Troubled Productions
- ↑ Sakura's Webpage - Sailor Moon
- ↑ Save Our Sailors - Why Sailor Moon is getting cancelled
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 From Our Mailbag: Letter From Louis (And An Opportunity To Write To Nicole)
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 More on the Whereabouts of Optimum Productions