Not to be confused with ''Series/MasterpieceTheatre'', the [[LongRunner long-running]] primetime program on Creator/{{PBS}} that showcases British productions.

''World Masterpiece Theater'' is a [[LongRunner long-running]] series of anime adaptations of classic western literature by Creator/NipponAnimation most of the time, who were formerly known as Zuiyo Enterprise. Each year the company takes a classic western novel and adapts it into a series of about 50 episodes. The different masterpiece series are, with the exceptions of the occasional sequels or {{prequel}}, not connected with each other.

While the series in general is aimed at children and many of the originals that got adapted were children's books, its themes and plots can be suprisingly mature. Especially in the early years, when anime was little known in North America and Europe, the series stood in stark contrast to the traditional western animation. This may be part of the reason why only three entries in the series ("Tom Sawyer," "Swiss Family Robinson," and "Little Women") made it to the airwaves in the United States (despite many of the books - including two of those three - being by American authors), and "Anne of Green Gables," despite being from a Canadian author, has never been on Canadian TV in English.

A similar series is ''Anime/GrimmsFairyTaleClassics'', also produced by Creator/NipponAnimation.

The entries into the series are:
* '''1969''' ''Manga/{{Dororo}}'' (Creator/MushiProductions) (the first entry in the series, but also the only one based on a Japanese manga)
** The same year, ''[[Literature/TheMoomins Moomin]]'' (Creator/TMSEntertainment for episodes 1 to 26, Mushi for the rest, also the only part of the World Masterpiece Theater to be done by TMS) premiered, after the book series by Finnish auther Tove Jansson; Jansson disowned the series due to its great divergence from the original works.
* '''1971''' ''[[Creator/HansChristianAndersen Andersen]] Stories'' (Anderusen Monogatari) (Mushi); self-explanatory.
* '''1972''' ''New [[Literature/TheMoomins Moomin]]'' (Mushi) (closer to the original books than the previous series)
* '''1973''' ''Anime/RockyChuckTheMountainRat'' (Yama Nezumi Rokki Chakku) (Last of the World Masterpiece Theater to be done by Mushi) after the ''Literature/BurgessBedtimeStories'' by American author Thornton Burgess. Dubbed into English by ZIV International as "Fables of the Green Forest".
* '''1974''' ''Anime/HeidiGirlOfTheAlps'' (Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji) (Zuiyo Enterprise) after the ''Literature/{{Heidi}}'' series of 1880s novels by the Swiss author Johanna Spyri.
** A clarification on the production of this series: The entirety of Heidi was done by Zuiyo Eizo. Zuiyo filed for bankruptcy in 1975 and their animation studio then became Nippon Animation, founded by producer Koichi Motohashi (while ''Dog of Flanders'', as well as ''Literature/MayaTheBee'', were already on the air). Zuiyo continued on as a separate entity from Nippon Animation, and has continued to hold the copyright of the Heidi anime ever since.
* '''1975''' ''Literature/ADogOfFlanders'' (Furandāsu no Inu) (Zuiyo Enterprise[=/=]Nippon Animation, and from there out, all of World Masterpiece Theater productions have been done by Nippon Animation) after the novel by the English novelist Marie Louise De la Ramée.
* '''1976''' ''[[ThreeThousandLeaguesInSearchOfMother 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother]]'' (Haha o Tazunete Sanzen Ri) after the children's novel ''Heart'' by Italian author Edmondo De Amicis.
* '''1977''' ''Anime/RascalTheRaccoon'' (Araiguma Rasukaru) after the 1963 novel ''Rascal, A Memoir of a Better Era'' by SterlingNorth.[[note]] Along with Heidi's, its theme song will be familiar to anyone who's played the classic arcade game ''{{Frogger}}''.[[/note]]
* '''1978''' ''TheStoryOfPerrine'' (Perīnu Monogatari) based on the French novel ''EnFamille'' by Hector Malot.
* '''1979''' ''Red-haired Anne'' (Akage no An) after the 1908 Novel ''Literature/AnneOfGreenGables'' by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. This was the last in the series to feature contributions by Creator/HayaoMiyazaki and Creator/IsaoTakahata.
* '''1980''' ''Anime/TheAdventuresOfTomSawyer'' (Tomu Sōyā no Bōken) after [[Literature/TheAdventuresOfTomSawyer the novel]] by American Creator/MarkTwain.
* '''1981''' ''Anime/TheSwissFamilyRobinsonFloneOfTheMysteriousIsland'' (Kazoku Robinson Hyōryūki: Fushigi na Shima no Furōne) after the [[Literature/SwissFamilyRobinson 1812 novel]] by Swiss Johann David Wyss.
* '''1982''' ''LucyOfTheSouthernRainbow'' (Minami no Niji no Rūshī) based on ''Southern Rainbow'' by Australian writer Phyllis Piddington.
* '''1983''' ''AlpsStoryMyAnnette'' (Watashi no Annetto) based on the children's book ''Literature/TreasuresOfTheSnow'' by Patricia St. John.
* '''1984''' ''KatriGirlOfTheMeadows'' (Makiba no Shōjo Katori) based on the Finnish novel ''PaimenPiikaJaEmanta'' by Auni Nuolivaara.
* '''1985''' ''Anime/PrincessSarah'' (Shōkōjo Sēra) after the 1905 novel ''Literature/ALittlePrincess'' by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
* '''1986''' ''Anime/TheStoryOfPollyannaGirlOfLove'' (Ai Shōjo Porianna Monogatari) after the 1913 novel ''Literature/{{Pollyanna}}'' by American novelist Eleanor H. Porter.
* '''1987''' ''[[Anime/AiNoWakakusaMonogatari Love Story of the Young Grass]]'' (Ai No Wakakusa Monogatari) after the 1868 Novel ''LittleWomen'' by American author Louisa May Alcott. Known as "Tales of Little Women" in its English dub version.
* '''1988''' ''Anime/LittlePrinceCedie'' (Shōkōshi Sedi) after the 1886 Novel ''Literature/LittleLordFauntleroy'' by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
* '''1989''' ''[[Anime/PeterPanNoBouken Adventures of Peter Pan]]'' (Pītā Pan no Bōken) after [[PeterPan the novel]] by the Scottish writer J. M. Barrie.
* '''1990''' ''Anime/MyDaddyLongLegs'' (Watashi no Ashinaga Ojisan) after the 1912 novel ''Literature/DaddyLongLegs'' by American writer Jean Webster.
* '''1991''' ''Anime/TrappFamilyStory'' (Torappu Ikka Monogatari) based on ''[[Theatre/TheSoundOfMusic The Story of the Trapp Family Singers]]'', a memoir written by Maria Augusta von Trapp in 1949.
* '''1992''' ''TheBushBaby'' (Daisōgen no Chiisana Tenshi Busshu Beibī) after the 1965 novel ''The Bushbabies'' by Canadian author William Stevenson.
* '''1993''' TaleOfYoungGrassNanAndMissJo (Wakakusa Monogatari: Nan to Jōsensei) after Louisa May Alcott's 1871 sequel ''Literature/LittleMen'' to her novel ''LittleWomen''.
* '''1994''' ''TicoOfTheSevenSeas'' (Nanatsu no Umi no Tiko)an ''extremely'' loose adaptation of ''Literature/MobyDick''
* '''1995''' ''RomeosBlueSkies'' (Romio no Aoi Sora) after a 1940 novel by Swiss writer Lisa Tetzner.
* '''1996''' ''FamousDogLassie'' (Meiken Rasshī) after the 1940 novel ''[[Franchise/{{Lassie}} Lassie Come-Home]]'' by Eric Knight.
* '''1997''' ''Anime/IeNakiKoRemi'' (Remi, Nobody's Girl or Homeless Girl Remi) after the novel ''SansFamille'' by French writer Hector Malot.
* '''2007''' ''Anime/LesMiserablesShojoCosette'' (Re Mizeraburu Shōjo Kozetto) after the 1862 novel ''Literature/LesMiserables'' by French author Victor Hugo.
* '''2008''' ''Anime/PorphyNoNagaiTabi'' (Porphy's Long Jouney) after the novel ''TheOrphansOfSimitra'' by French writer Paul-Jacques Bonzon.
* '''2009''' ''KonnichiwaAnneBeforeGreenGables'' after the ''Literature/AnneOfGreenGables'' prequel ''Before Green Gables'' written by Budge Wilson and published only the year before.

!!The series provides examples of:
* AdaptationExpansion: Many of their anime expand on the source material and include things, personalities, and even characters that didn't exist in the original books. But these actually worked in their series' favor, because they did this for varying reasons, like expanding on certain plots and characters to make them more interesting and three dimensional.
* BittersweetEnding: Many of the books adapted did not feature a [[HappilyEverAfter happy end]] and the creators of the series generally saw no need to change that.
** ''A Dog of Flanders'' is probably the worst offender, though the producers actually tried to make the original's [[TearJerker heart-rending]] DownerEnding less painful after outcries from Japanese viewers pleaded for Nello and Patrasche to not die.
* GhibliHills: Early entries into the series feature the talents of Creator/HayaoMiyazaki and it shows.
** Also, longtime Miyazaki collaborator, the late YoshifumiKondo, was a character designer on ''Little Women''.
* HeartwarmingOrphan: Many of the series feature endearing orphaned protagonist. Examples include [[Literature/AnneOfGreenGables Anne]], Heidi, Literature/{{Pollyanna}}, Jerusha 'Judy' Abbott from ''Daddy Long Legs'' and Remi.
* MarketBasedTitle: The official English title of the franchise is called "Classic Family Theater" series but most of the viewers are familiar with the title "World Masterpiece Theater".
** All of the entries have their own titles based on the foreign language they used.
* ParentalAbandonment: If the main protagonist isn't a HeartwarmingOrphan, they are likely to be abandoned by their parents. Either the parents go missing, are forced to go away (i.e. the March sisters' father going off to fight in the Civil War in ''Little Women'', although their mother remains), or even actively sell their poor offspring into slavery.
** Occurs at the ''end'' of [[spoiler:''Araiguma Rasukaru'', when Sterling is forced to release Rascal back into the wild.]]
* SeriesMascot: Rascal, who represents as a mascot of this franchise and the company [[Creator/NipponAnimation Nippon Animation.]]
* ShownTheirWork: A lot of staff in Creator/NipponAnimation did extensive research in historical and geographical materials of the novels.
* TraumaCongaLine: Almost every title listed above is an example of this trope in action, with ''Anime/PrincessSarah'' being the single most heartwrenching and painful.
!!Entries into this series provide examples of:
* ABoyAndHisX: Some main characters have their pets throughout their adventures. Examples such as Sterling's Rascal (''Rascal the Raccoon''), Pollyanna's chipmunk (''Pollyanna'') and Jackie's Murphy (''Bushbaby'').
* AnyoneCanDie: Besides the protagonist's parents, several supporting characters in the whole series are killed off for good. The most infamous is the death of [[spoiler: [[TheHeroDies Nello and Patrasche]]]] in ''The Dog of Flanders''.
* ChristmasEpisode: Some entries have their special episodes about the characters celebrating Christmas such as ''Little Women'' (Episode 47), ''My Daddy Long Legs'' (Episode 23) and ''Trapp Family Story'' (Episodes 23 and 24).
* HeroicPetStory: {{Lassie}} pretty much is the TropeMaker for this so it can't be missing from the anime adapation.
* HomeVersionSoundtrackReplacement: ''Trapp Family Story'' originally opened with a Japanese version of "Do-Re-Mi", but reruns and the DVD change the song to "Smile Magic".
* MayDecemberRomance: Some of the female main characters have partners or husbands who are at least ten years older than them such as Judy/Jervis (''My Daddy Long Legs'') and Jo/Professor Bhaer (''Little Women II: Jo's Boys'')
* {{Robinsonade}}: ''The Swiss Family Robinson'' is not just based upon this trope it even admits it in the title.
* {{Tomboy}}: If the female main character is not a GirlyGirl, they are this who are either act boyish or has interest in male activities. Jo March (''Little Women''), Pollyanna, Maria Kutschera (''Trapp Family Story''), Jackie Rhodes (''Bushbaby''), and Nan (''Little Women II: Jo's Boys'') are some of the examples.
* YodelLand: ''Heidi'' is not just set there, the novels it and its approximately several thousand other adaptions helped to create the idyllic countryside of YodelLand as we know it today. The ''Trapp Family Story'' which is based on the same source as Theatre/TheSoundOfMusic also has shades of this.