December 14, 2019

HI HI PUFFY AMIYUMI


HI HI PUFFY AMIYUMI
(Cartoon Network, November 19, 2004-June 27, 2006)

Renegade Animation, Cartoon Network Studios

            PUFFY are a Japanese pop rock band comprised of singers Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura. Both had ended up working for Sony Music Entertainment in different ways and neither was progressing very far in the company on their own. A chance encounter at an after-party found them hitting it off and requesting to be paired together. Producer and American pop musician Andy Sturmer christened them “Puffy” and they began to work on their first album, AmiYumi. Their debut single, “Asia no Junshin”, was a smash success and immediately launched the pair into stardom. When they made their United States debut in 2000 at South by Southwest, attorneys for performer Sean “Puffy” Combs sent them a cease and desist letter because of their name. As a result, they became Puffy AmiYumi for all things pertaining to the US; however, they remain PUFFY outside of it.

The real-life Ami and Yumi.

            Sam Register, a fan of the band, wanted to help make more people aware of them by creating an animated series centered around them. He pitched the series to the band and had Renegade Animation develop a test short to help sell the idea to Cartoon Network. The series was approved and developed further by Shakeh Haghnazarian. Although Ami and Yumi appeared in short live-action segments filmed in Japan and the show featured their music (the first to use licensed music), their animated counterparts were voiced by Janice Kawaye and Grey Griffin, respectively. The series would focus on their traveling around the world in their rather large tour bus with their greedy, but well-intentioned, manager, Kaz Harada (Keone Young).

The animated Ami and Yumi.

            Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi debuted on Cartoon Network on November 19, 2004 and featured episodes broken up into three story segments each. It was one of the few cartoons produced entirely in the United States despite featuring Japanese leads, using a combination of Flash and cel animation done in an anime style. The show’s premiere received the highest ratings ever, and the series performed strong throughout its run. Ultimately, it was cancelled after three seasons primarily because Register left for Warner Bros. Animation over a disagreement with an upcoming project he hated, and because by that time Ben 10 and My Gym Partner’s a Monkey began to surpass AmiYumi in the ratings. Cartoon Network would distance themselves from the show until the characters appeared on their 20th anniversary poster in 2012 and reruns began making the rounds on the network, as well as Yumi appearing in an episode of OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes.

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