Doraemon: Ken-chan's Adventure (lost anime short film/TV special; 1980-1981)
Doraemon is a popular and long-running anime series based on the manga of the same name by Fujiko F. Fujio. Its best-known adaptation originally ran from April 2, 1979, to March 18, 2005, while a reboot, that began airing a month after the first series' conclusion, is still airing to this day. A total of 38 feature-length Doraemon movies have been released, as well as numerous short films.
One of these short films, titled Ken-chan's Adventure (ケンちゃんの冒険), was a special produced by the National Welfare Foundation for Physically and Mentally Handicapped, screened in 1980 and 1981 for the International Year of the Disabled Persons in 1981, before being televised on October 5, 1981. It was screened until the end of the century across Japan, and the starring guest character Ken-chan was the mascot of the National Welfare Foundation for Physically and Mentally Handicapped for a time. From the screenshots available, it appears that subtitles colored red are hardcoded onto the footage for hearing-impaired viewers. Nobuyo Ōyama, who served as Doraemon's voice actress at the time, said that she learned how to communicate with the disabled in a way that she had not known before thanks to the special, and that she felt it became an unforgettable work. She wanted the special to be rebroadcast on television, although that opportunity has not been given.
Many viewers recall how blessed they were with the opportunity to see this film. It was later released as a picture book with Braille printing for the blind; however, much of the story is left out. It plays a role-like learning tool to teach how disabled and abled children can get along with each other. The book may have come with a handkerchief for the disabled. The book was not sold in stores but distributed at the Toka Museum and welfare facilities, as well as in libraries, community centers, schools, etc. A notebook with illustrations based on the short film special was also released.
A disabled boy in a wheelchair named Ken Ikoma is transferred to the class of Nobita Nobi, who loves to collect butterflies. However, due to his disability, the only butterflies he has ever collected were bought at shops. Ken wishes to catch a butterfly on his own, with his own butterfly net and hands. Nobita sympathizes with Ken, so with Doraemon and his friends, they travel back in time to the Cenozoic era, 30,000,000 years ago, to capture butterflies, but somehow a giant bird-like dinosaur appears there (despite being extinct 30,000,000 years ago), and the wheelchair collapses. Ken will have to return to the wheelchair by himself but is able to briefly stand on his own to catch the butterflies, with the help of his friends. Many ancient butterflies then appear, and Ken catches them by himself. He is happy and thanks his new friends for the experience.
Since the special has been only broadcast on TV once, it has never been released on home media and it's unknown if the National Welfare Foundation for Physically and Mentally Handicapped still has a copy of the special, though a 16mm print of the short film was auctioned on aucfan.com and was sold for an undisclosed amount.
On August 25th, 2018, Twitter user @kamenjiro posted a photo of an airing of the short. They had stated that the short film was shown across various public schools and facilities in Japan. He also had stated that the photo was taken at a 1981 Morning Show in Japan in the month of October, though its uncertain if he had taken it, at 8:47 a.m. in the morning, as confirmed by the photo taken.
On November 20, 2023, An auction of a 16mm film print of the short film was put online on Yahoo! Auctions Japan along with 8 new stills of the lost film. As of November 23, 2023, the auction is still up and is selling for a whopping 880,000 yen ($5,895).
Production: Social Welfare Corporation, National Welfare Foundation for Physically and Mentally Handicapped
Production cooperation: Fujiko Studio, Shin-Ei Video, Shogakukan, TV Asahi
Director/director: Hiraga elder
Screenplay: Koichi Mizuide
Music: Shunsuke Kikuchi
Drawing: Eiichi Nakamura
Film cooperation: Tokyo Development Office
Film print aid: Japan Lottery Association
Photo of an airing of the special; from @kamenjiro
- A "Draw Dorami-chan" Song / A Week in Our Time Machine (Partially Found English version of "Doraemon" single; 1980)
- Doraemon "Adventures in Candy Land" (non-existent unaired English dub of anime episode; 2015)
- Doraemon '05 (partially found British dub of anime series; 2015)
- Doraemon '79 (partially found Phuuz English dub pilot of anime; early 2000s)
- Doraemon (partially found Asian English dubs of anime series; late 1990s-early 2000s)
- Doraemon (partially found first-adaptation anime series; 1973)
- Doraemon: In A Thrilling Solar Car (partially found anime short film; 1992)
- Doraemon: Nobita no Doki Doki! Obake Land (lost build of unreleased Virtual Boy game; 1996)
- Doraemon: Robot War (partially found bootleg anime film; 1983)
- Stand by Me Doraemon (partially found Philippines English dub of anime movie; 2015)
- The Adventures of Albert and Sidney (partially found English dub of "Doraemon" anime series; late 1980s-early 1990s)
- Japanese Wikipedia article on the special.
- aucfan.com auction for the 16mm print of Doraemon: Ken-chan's Adventure
- Yahoo! Auctions Japan auction for the the 16mm print of Doraemon: Ken-chan's Adventure