Japan rises to 3-D entertainment challenge

From the return of Michael Jackson in three-dimensions at Tokyo Disneyland to the launch of the first around-the-clock 3-D television channels in the U.S. and the introduction of the world's first 3-D photo service in Singapore, Japanese firms are dreaming up new possibilities for the hit technology.

3-D-capable televisions and computers are being snapped up from Japan's electronics stores and companies are looking to expand their 3-D services elsewhere.

Tokyo Disneyland reopened a 3-D movie featuring the late "King of Pop" on Thursday, 14 years after it was first screened and one year after Jackson's sudden death. The theme park, to the east of the capital, will run "Captain EO" - which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola while George Lucas served as executive producer - until the end of June next year.

At another theme park, this time Universal Studios Singapore, Fujifilm Corp. has introduced its 3-D Print System, which provides an instant print out of high-quality photos in three dimensions.

The service was launched at the park, on Sentosa Island, on July 1 at "The Dark Room" photo studio and allows customers to share their snaps with cartoon characters.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, U.S. satellite broadcaster DirecTV Inc. the same day launched the world's first around-the-clock television channels exclusively offering 3-D programming, with the assistance of home appliance giant Panasonic Corp.

Panasonic is already selling a range of full HD 3-D Viera televisions and in April delivered the Roland Garros Open Tennis Tournament in three dimensions across Europe.

DirecTV launched three dedicated 3-D channels - a pay-per-view channel for movies, documentaries and other programming as well as one on-demand and one free demonstration channel that feature sporting events, music and other content.

Panasonic said the programming will include the Guitar Center Sessions programme with Peter Gabriel as well as "Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia." The Fox Sports 2010 Major League Baseball All-Stars game will also be screened in 3-D on July 13.

"This is a major milestone in the young history of 3-D home entertainment and Panasonic is very proud to work with DirecTV to bring consumers this new TV channel dedicated exclusively to 3-D programming," Joseph M. Taylor, chairman and CEO of Panasonic Corp. of North America, said in a statement.

Most of the other big-name manufacturers of home-use entertainment equipment, including Sony and Toshiba, are also investing heavily in 3-D technology.