Crunchyroll Inks Deal With Idris and Sabrina Elba for Dark Fantasy Anime Series

Streaming service tops 4 million paid subscribers ahead of Sony's Funimation deal close

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Idris and Sabrina Elba are set to executive produce their first anime title — a new animated fantasy series for Crunchyroll, the global anime-streaming service that’s in the process of being sold to Sony’s Funimation group.

The couple inked a deal with Crunchyroll to develop “Dantai” (working title) through Idris’ Green Door Pictures and Sabrina’s Pink Towel Pictures. In addition to the deal with the Elbas, Crunchyroll — which Sony group agreed to acquire from AT&T’s WarnerMedia for $1.2 billion — announced that it topped 4 million paid subscribers in January 2021, six months after hitting the 3 million-subscriber mark.

“Dantai” is an Afro-futuristic sci-fi series set in a city where the rise of biotechnology has created an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots, according to Crunchyroll. Two rising stars from each side of this divide are pitted against each other in a story that will ultimately explore equality and kinship within a corrupt society.

In a statement, the Elbas said, “We’re really excited to be announcing this deal on our first anime. We’re both fans of the genre and see a huge opportunity to create something unique for a powerhouse like Crunchyroll. The story of ‘Dantai’ is our first collaboration as producers together and is one that is close to our hearts.”

Younger generations have experienced “superhero fatigue” and are looking for new stories like “Dantai,”  according to Joanne Waage, currently GM of Crunchyroll. “This development deal with Sabrina and Idris Elba is another example of how we’re working with best-in-class partners to bring in new audiences and tell fresh and compelling stories through a medium that transcends genres and generations,” she said.

Crunchyroll, founded in 2006, hosts a library of more than 1,000 titles and 30,000-plus episodes, available in more than 200 countries and territories. In addition to its paid-subscriber base, Crunchyroll has more than 100 million registered users globally.

Crunchyroll’s chief rival has been Funimation, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment (Japan)’s Aniplex. Now the two erstwhile competitors are merging: After AT&T — looking for WarnerMedia assets it could offload to trim down its debt — spent several months shopping Crunchyroll, it clinched a deal with Sony in December. The deal hasn’t closed yet, and it remains unclear how Sony will combine Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Idris Elba’s Green Door Pictures production credits include award-winning comedy “In The Long Run” for Sky One, created by and featuring Idris Elba as part of an ensemble cast, and Netflix comedy series “Turn Up Charlie.” The company’s upcoming feature film “Concrete Cowboy” for Netflix is a collaboration with Neighborhood Film Co., Tucker Tooley Entertainment and Lee Daniels Entertainment, due for release in 2021.