World Masterpiece Theater (Johnsonverse)

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World Masterpiece Theater is an American TV anime staple that showcases an animated version of a different classical book or story each year on 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. It originally aired from 1969 to 1997 and from 2007 to 2009; the current version has aired since 2014.

The first several series were produced by Mushi Production and then by Zuiyo Eizo, and then by Zuiyo's successor Nippon Animation, which was officially established in June 1975 during the run of A Dog of Flanders. In both cases, the series originally aired primarily on Fuji Television. Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata both worked on several of the series. World Masterpiece Theater as produced by Nippon Animation lasted for 23 seasons, from A Dog of Flanders in 1975 to Remi: Nobody's Girl in 1997. Nippon Animation restarted the series in 2007 with the release of Les Misérables, which premiered on BS Fuji on January 7, 2007, with The Long Journey of Porphy subsequently airing on the same network beginning on January 6, 2008, making it the 25th World Masterpiece Theater series.

The series moved to Johnson Television in 2014, with a remake of Les Misérables incorporating music from the popular stage musical.

Johnson-produced series

Les Misérables (2014)

The Johnson remake of Les Misérables premiered on January 5, 2014 on WBC. The remake is similar to the original Nippon version, but with elements from other adaptations, namely the characters singing songs from the stage musical. The series had the novel idea of using three separate actors for Jean Valjean and Javert at different ages. Other changes included the deaths of Gavroche and Javert being restored, Madame Thenardier living as in the musical, and the ending in Heaven.

Principal Voice Cast
Character Voice (speaking) Voice (singing)
Jean Valjean Dominic West Ramin Karimloo (1815)

John Owen Jones (1823)

Colm Wilkinson (1832)

Javert Brian Blessed Tam Mutu (1815)

Earl Carpenter (1823)

Philip Quast (1832)

Fantine Lea Salonga
Thenardier Matt Lucas Alun Armstrong
Madame Thenardier Teresa Gallagher Jenny Galloway
Cosette Belle Armstrong
Marius Tim Johnson
Eponine Chloe Johnson
Enjolras Lucien Dodge Aaron Tveit
Young Cosette Holly Meadows
Young Eponine Terry Crothers
Gavroche Jimmy Matthews

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (2015)

The second Johnson-made series premiered on January 4, 2015. Like the previous series, it is a musical, incorporating songs from the Disney animated film and subseqent stage adaptation.

Principal Voice Cast
Character Voice (speaking) Voice (singing)
Quasimodo Michael Arden
Claude Frollo Patrick Page Tony Jay (archived audio)
Esmerelda Ciara Renée Demi Moore (archived audio)
Phoebus Kevin Kline Andrew Samonsky
Clopin Paul Kandel

War of the Worlds (2016)

The third Johnson-made series premiered on January 3, 2016. This new adaptation of the classic novel is set in the modern day, split between Tokyo and London, and follows a pair of high school students trying to survive the Martian invasion, these being Haru Okiwara, a boy with Asperger's syndrome, and Shizuka Amane, Haru's only friend and, aside from his parents, the only one who understands him; the London half follows a modern-day version of the Journalist from the original novel. In true Johnson fashion, the series combines animation with live-action puppetry and models, and incorporates Jeff Wayne's music during key moments (the tripod design from the Jeff Wayne version were also used); the series is split between a story in the Japanese Isles, and a story in the United Kingdom, both with their own narrators (Tim Johnson as Haru several years later, and archived recordings of the late Richard Burton from the Wayne album). The ending is also expanded: after the invaders succumb to Earth diseases, the Martian High Command deploys their weapon of last-resort, said to be the weapon that destroyed the Venusians millions of years ago. Said weapon turns out to be King Ghidorah, who attacks all over the world before being confronted and killed by Godzilla (portrayed using the MireGoji suit).

Other differences include the Thunder Child being a Ticonderoga-class guided missile frigate (though the narration still refers to it as an ironclad), the Martians being made to fight for every inch of land and their occupation prior to being killed by the bacteria being a living hell (Timothy Hill said in an interview that the entire series was an allegory for Western intervention in the Middle East, with the Martians as the United States military and humanity as the various terrorist groups), the Martians having no idea how strong Earth's gravity is and how thick its atmosphere, which causes many issues for their machines, such as the fighting machines walking in an awkward manner that greatly reduces their mobility, the flying machines becoming so unmaneuverable that fighter jets are literally able to fly circles around them, and the handling machines' arms being unable to pick up anyone over 250 lbs, which allows obese people or those who have sufficiently weighed themselves down to avoid capture, and overall, the Martians are depicted as more pitiable than menacing due to the fact they invaded Earth not out of malice, but desperation due to Mars having been decimated in an interplanetary nuclear war with Venus millions of years ago, a war in which one of the larger missiles accidentily hit Earth and killed the dinosaurs; the Martians simply wanted Earth as a new home, and the Martian government was ready to make diplomatic overtures and co-exist with the humans in exchange for technology sharing (as the Martians did not know how to build wheeled or treaded vehicles, and also didn't know what indoor plumbing is), but the Martian High Command carried out a coup, fearing that the language barrier would start a war, so they preemptively struck, hoping to force a peace settlement before more radical elements in the Martian military disobeyed orders and began killing every human in sight, and then capturing and processing them for food.

A few similarities remained, though. The characters of The Artilleryman, Parson Nathaniel, Beth, and The Voice of Humanity were retained.

Jeff Wayne oversaw the creation of the music, which was the original 1978, pre-New Generation arrangement. The Johnson Philharmonic Orchestra performed the ULLAdubULLA string orchestra, while the Black Smoke Band was mostly the same as the UK arena tour at that time, but with Chris Spedding and Herbie Flowers from the original album. The context of some of the songs were also changed: "Forever Autumn" was about Haru's mother, whom he and Shizuka had just found dead in the ruins of his house, and "The Red Weed" was about the radical elements of the Martian military fighting with those who remained loyal to the High Command, and the humans exploiting this infighting to their advantage and even allying with the loyalist Martians. For the scenes with Godzilla and Ghidorah, stock Akira Ifukube music was used.


Principal Voice Cast
Character Voice
London Journalist Richard Burton (archived audio)
Haru Okiwara Bryce Papenbrook (speaking)

Tim Johnson (narration)

Justin Hayward (sung thoughts, archived audio)

Shizuka Amane Stephanie Sheh
The Artilleryman Jamieson Price (speaking)

David Essex (singing, archived audio)

Parson Nathaniel Phil Lynott (speaking and singing, archived audio)
Beth Julie Covington (singing and speaking, archived audio)
The Voice of Humanity Chris Thompson (archived audio)
Martian High Command Ron Pearlman
Jo Partridge Martian vocals ("Ulla", archived audio)
Godzilla suit actor Tsutomo Kitagawa
King Ghidorah suit actor Hurricane Ryu

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2017)

The fourth Johnson-made series premiered on New Year's Day 2017 at the conclusion of coverage of the Rose Bowl. Like past Johnson-made series, it combines elements of the novel and Frank Wildhorn musical. It also has the novel concept of Jekyll and Hyde have two distinct voices (both singing and speaking).

Principal Voice Cast
Character Voice (speaking) Voice (singing)
Dr. Henry Jekyll J. Michael Tatum Robert Cuccioli (archived audio)
Mr. Edward Hyde Frank Welker Anthony Warlow (archived audio)
Lucy Harris Trina Nishimura Linda Eder (archived audio)
Emma Carew Ashly Burch Christiane Noelle (archived audio)
John Utterson Mike McFarland Philip Hoffman (archived audio
Sir Danver Carews Charles Campbell Barrie Ingram (archived audio)
Simon Stride Steve Blum Bill Nolte (archived audio)

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (2018)

The fifth Johnson-made series premiered on January 7, 2018. The series follows the novel closely, and also includes elements from the 1954 Disney film (namely the Nautilus' design, Captain Nemo being Polish, and the music). The series was known for its use of Johnson's revolutionary VoxMutatio voice-changing technology, which was used to bring James Mason, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre back from the dead, so to speak, as well as to create a younger-sounding Kirk Douglas. Stock footage from the 1954 film was used at various points, while the rest was newly-shot model footage by Johnson. Sheldon Johnson, Jr. and Phil Stacker, the voices of Ned Land and Professor Pierre Aronnax, respectively, recorded their lines in their offices at Sacramento, California.

Principal Voice Cast
Character Voice (original) Voice (voice changer)
Captain Nemo Tim Johnson James Mason
Ned Land Sheldon Johnson, Jr. Kirk Douglas
Professor Pierre Aronnax Phil Stacker Paul Lukas
Conseil John Kricfalusi Peter Lorre

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (2019)

Premiering on January 6, 2019, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz follows the novel closely, but adds many elements from the 1939 MGM classic, as well as the cut song "The Jitterbug". Like the previous series, it also saw use of VoxMutatio, this time, bringing Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, etc. back from the dead, in a way.

Principal Voice Cast
Character Voice (original) Voice (voice changer)
Dorothy Gale Chloe Johnson Judy Garland
Scarecrow Michael Gough Ray Bolger
Tin Woodman Rob Paulsen Jack Haley
Cowardly Lion Tim Johnson Bert Lahr

WORK-IN-PROGRESS

Treasure Island (2020)

Premiering on January 5, 2020, Treasure Island

The Snow Queen (2021)