Tsuburaya Productions (円谷プロダクション Tsuburaya Purodakushon) is a Japanese television and film producer most famous for creating the Ultra Series. It was founded in 1963 by Eiji Tsuburaya, the Godzilla movies' special effects wizard and founding father of Tokusatsu.
Developed from the Tsuburaya Film Technique Labs that Eiji Tsuburaya had set up in 1948 during his freelance period when he was not bound to Toho, their first production was Nikkatsu's Alone On The Pacific (1963). Providing several miniature scenes for the film, they eventually produced Ultra Q (1966), easily the most expensive production in Japanese TV history until its more famous sorta-sequel Ultraman (1966). For a period in the 90s and 2000s, the company also assisted in the production of multiple anime, including Detective Conan, Beast Wars IInote and Martian Successor Nadesico.
- Filming the first shot-on-video tokusatsu (Andro Melos).
- Making the switch to digital video a good 8 years before Toei.
- Having several staff members hopping between studios.
- Producing TV toy commercials for Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. (A significant portion of the mecha toy commercials have new stop motion and miniature scenes produced by Tsuburaya for Toei.)
- Having the (rather dubious) honor of some of their works* being hacked to shreds by Sandy Frank and later mocked during season 3 of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Tokusatsu fans have observed that Tsuburaya's effects work has been at least 5 ahead of Toei since at least the 1970s, with Tsuburaya adopting new camera technology, digital video, and HD filming years before Kamen Rider and Super Sentai respectively did. However, as mentioned above, the two have a working relationship.
Tsuburaya's history has been plagued with rather bizarre legal troubles. One student of Eiji Tsuburaya, a fellow from Thailand named Sompote "Sands" Saengduenchai, allegedly stormed into the offices of Eiji's son Noboru around the time the company was going through financial troubles and demanded the foreign distribution rights for the first six Ultra Series and Jumborg Ace, using them to produce the notorious Hanuman Vs 7 Ultraman and Jumborg Ace and Giant. Noboru granted him them, however the story gets very shady from there, with allegations of document forging and other things which might get too heated to discuss here. Fortunately, it was finally resolved in 2018, with Tsuburaya Productions winning the distribution rights back.
The company is currently co-owned by Bandai Namco Entertainment and Fields Corporation.
Works by Tsuburaya Productions:
- The Bermuda Depths (co-produced with Rankin/Bass Productions)
- Bio Planet WoO
- Bokura Yakyu Detective Team
- Daigoro vs. Goliath
- Denkou Choujin Gridman (adapted in United States as Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad)
- Dinosaur Expedition Born Free
- Dinosaur Great War Izenborg
- Dinosaur Squadron Koseidon
- Emergency 10-4, 10-10
- Horror Theater Unbalance
- Jumborg Ace
- Kaiju Booska
- The Last Dinosaur (co-produced with Rankin/Bass Productions)
- Mighty Jack
- Mr. Mystery
- Operation Mystery
- Pro-Wres no Hoshi Azteckaiser
- SSSS.GRIDMAN (produced with Studio Trigger)
- Star Wolf (edited for American release as Fugitive Alien)
- Time of the Apes
- Triple Fighter
- Ultra Series (for full list of shows and movies, see its page)
Tsuburaya Productions and their works provide examples of:
- Family Business: Eiji's sons and grandsons have all been president of the company since his death, though as of 2007 the company is partially owned by both Bandai Namco and Fields Corporation.
- What Could Have Been: The company as a whole has several. For Ultraman, Eiji Tsuburaya had already planned out Return of Ultraman to have a completely different premise, with Hayata reclaiming his Ultraman identity.
- Mirrorman was intended to be another whole franchise.
- A sequel to Denkou Choujin Gridman.
- In a more meta sense, what could have Eiji Tsuburaya made had he not succumbed to relatively early Author Existence Failure in 1970? Could the new technology being created around the time have been used more in their works of the time? For reference, Tsuburaya often claimed technologies no one else was using at the time, such as optical printers. Think of what could have occurred if Tsuburaya had taken up interest in CG or the improved modeling techniques of the late 70s.
- George Lucas nearly loaned out the effects production of Star Wars: A New Hope to the studio, but 20th Century Fox nixed the idea.