The internet loves to joke that Cory in the House is an anime, but did you know that one of Disney Channel’s most well known late-2000s live action shows almost became one? An anime adaptation of the Miley Cyrus star vehicle Hannah Montana was in development at Toei Animation, the studio behind hits like Dragon Ball, Digimon and Sailor Moon, between 2009 and 2010. Unfortunately (?), the project was cancelled before ever being announced.
The news of its existence came from a … Dragon Ball forum in 2010. An animator working at Toei Animation’s branch in the Philippines spilled the beans on Dragon Ball: The Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans, a then unannounced animated video game tie-in. While doing so, he inadvertently revealed that the studio was also working on a Hannah Montana project. As forum goers were bewildered by such an idea, the animator calling himself Wasted Wisher later explained that the project had been in development for the last year. Toei had encouraged their internal staff to come up with a visual style for the series and eventually narrowed the list down to four choices. Two were then made into promotional music videos. At the time of his May 2010 post, Toei Animation Philippines had just started production on the first episode. This would be the last time the Hannah Montana anime project was ever heard from.
Not convinced that Waster Wisher’s claims are true? Well, he was already established to be a legitimate source of information by then. He leaked design sheets for then upcoming Dragon Ball productions multiple times. It’s not that big of a leap either. Disney and Toei have collaborated with each other on a few different shows. In 2006, the two set out to create what would later be known as Fireball, a CG-animated series. More recently, in 2013 Toei and Disney set out to create Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, which was a major attempt at selling the Marvel formula in Asia.
While Wasted Wisher shared the scoop on the Hannah Montana anime’s production details, he was relatively quiet on discussing the content of the show. He once mentioned that it would be a closer adaptation of the source material than Toei’s other then contemporary re-imagining of an American property, Powerpuff Girls Z. He was later fired from Toei Animation Philippines after they realized he was behind the series of leaked documents.
You can only speculate as to why the Hannah Montana anime project didn’t move forward. By 2010, the writing was on the wall for the live action series. The show ended the following January. Maybe Disney just felt there wouldn’t have been enough momentum to carry on with an animated series? It’s also important to remember that this was around the time Miley Cyrus started to get into hot water due to her attempts to grow out of the Disney Channel mold. Perhaps Disney felt this was just more trouble than it was worth. It’s doubtful we’ll ever know what exactly happened behind the scenes to prevent this show, but hopefully what little Toei did produce does one day see the light of day.
There are plenty of idol anime shows, do you think the cast and characters of Hannah Montana would’ve been a good fit for one? Are you happy or sad that the project wasn’t seen all the way through? What other Disney Channel live action shows do you think would work well as an anime series? Leave a comment down below!
Header art by Aretha.