“May you live in interesting times.” – Ancient Chinese curse.
Category Archives: Miyazake
A moment of silence for one of the greats … Satoshi Kon
The brilliant anime director Satoshi Kon has died at the age of 46 from pancreatic cancer. I’m not even going to pretend that most people have heard of him, let alone seen his work, which is a shame. Kon, along with Hayao Miyazaki, are two truly great artists whose chosen media is anime. Kon directed four amazing movies Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paprika, as well as the incredibly strange and good TV series Paranoia Agent.
Unlike many anime creators, Kon’s work was rooted in the present – not a science fiction future or fantasy past. My favorite of his movies is Millennium Actress (I’m looking at my copy of the poster for it as I write this). It gives the history of 20th century Japan in the form of an actress telling her life’s story. Tokyo Godfathers is about homeless men trying to raise a baby they find. With all of Kon’s work you are never quite sure if what you are seeing is real or not. He brought magical realism to the screen far better than any other director I’ve seen. In Paprika, my least favorite of his movies, he goes over the top in trying to confuse the waking world with the dream world. Paranoia Agent is a totally unique work and well-worth watching. It’s ostensibly about a serial murderer in Tokyo, unless it’s about a woman who create a Hello Kitty-ish character for her company, or maybe it’s about police corruption? Agent is so claustrophobic, weird and, well, paranoid that it makes The Prisoner look like a Disney special.
On the good news side of things, Katoshi’s final film, The Dream Machine, was already in production at the time of his death and will hopefully be finished and released.
News article about the master, Hayao Miyazaki
He discusses his new movie Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. And the overuse of computers in animation:
“I think animation is something that needs the pencil, needs man’s drawing hand, and that is why I decided to do this work in this way,” the silver haired, notoriously shy director told reporters after a press screening. “Currently computer graphics are of course used a great deal and, as I’ve said before, this use can at times be excessive,” he added, speaking through an interpreter. “I will continue to use my pencil as long as I can.”
I was pleased to be reminded that the great one is only 67 & so there are many more years of his creations yet to come.
Hey Pixar-heads — when is it being released in the US?
SAVE THE TOTORO FOREST!!!
As regular readers know I am slavishly devoted to master animator Hayao Miyazaki and consider his movie My Neighbor Totoro which was released 20 years ago to be one of the greatest films ever made. Now Sayama Forest, also known as Totor Forest, which inspired Miyazaki to create the movie is the focus of an effort to save it from further destruction by developers.
In artistic terms this wood is the equivalent of Monet’s gardens at Giverny or Arles for van Gogh and Gaugin.
The Totoro Forest Project is the brainchild of Enrico Casarosa and Dice Tsutsumi and has not surprisingly received the enthusiastic support of Pixar.
I quote from Animation Magazine:
Artists from around the world were asked to come up with artwork inspired by the gentle creature depicted in the landmark movie. Over 200 original pieces from internationally acclaimed artists and animators—William Joyce, Andreas Deja, Timothy Lamb, Ronnie del Carmen, Ralph Eggleston, Pete Docter and Peter de Seve, to name a few—are featured in this one-of-a-kind event which tries to answer the question “What is your Totoro?” The auction will be held at Pixar Animation Studio on September 6th. A companion art book, edited by Karen Paik (The Story of Pixar), will also be available at the event. Selected artwork from the Totoro auction will be featured as two special exhibitions at The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco (Exhibit A: Sept. 26-Dec. 7; Exhibit B: Nov. 6-Feb. 20).
The website is truly awesome: Totoro Forest Project.
Now to figure out how to get to San Francisco.
WALL*E is amazingly good
In no particular order the greatest animated movies I’ve ever seen are:
- The Triplets of Belleville
- Spirited Away
- Finding Nemo
- Millennium Actress
- Iron Giant
- My Neighbor Totoro
- A Close Shave, The Wrong Trousers & A Grand Day Out a.k.a. the collected shorter works of Wallace & Gromit. (Hey, it’s my list and I say they are a movie).
- Princess Mononoke
- Porco Rosso
All of these are among the greatest movies ever made PERIOD.
Add to that list, WALL*E. Even by Pixar’s admittedly high standards, WALL*E is exceptional. If it doesn’t have the characters as complex as some other movies it is because it is a fable. In that respect it has a lot in common with Edward Scissorhands.
WALL*E is tells a fine, simple (not obvious) story superbly. (I’m going to stay away from plot synopsis. Go see it. We’ll talk.) It is essentially a silent movie, a great and bold decision (and something it shares with Triplets). In addition to being a fine filet of consumer culture, W also includes an extended comment on the sterility of life in a controlled environment designed for nothing but amusement. That would be the bread and butter of Pixar’s life-partner Disney. Is this:
- a cynical comment by a company that makes its money from these parks; or
- a truly subversive effort to sway the people who make The Land of Mouse so profitable?
Not sure. But I do know it’s great.
I could go on but I’m tired and heading off for vacation. See you all in a week.
Nickelodeon wasting marketing opportunity for Avatar: The Last Airbender
As a fan of the Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender I am perplexed why the network is ignoring the best marketing opportunities for it. The show is an American anime that takes many of the familiar themes of the genre — magical children, the struggle against an evil empire, etc. — and used them to tell a story that is emotionally satisfying, intelligent and fun. It doesn’t hurt that it happily borrows ideas from some of the all-time great anime. For example, there is the air bison Appa (left) a homage to the cat bus (below right) in Miyazake’s My Neighbor Totoro. It is a show that Collateral Damage Jr. and I watch together happily.
From what I’ve seen Nick has marketed this in the exact same manner it has marketed other successful animated shows like Bob L’ePonge and The Fairly Oddparents. They have done licensing to major toy makers and the fast fooders. There are also the t-shirts, hats, backpacks and other standard items. Given this and the fact that the show is about to enter its fourth season, some may wonder why I am saying Nick is missing it with the show’s marketing.
I just returned from my annual sojourn at Anime Boston — a three-day long fest of anime, manga, and anything vaguely related to that. The last semi-official attendance figure I heard was 14,000, so it’s no small thing. There were Avatar fans in abundance, as there have been at every anime convention I’ve been to since the show debuted in 2004. It is easy to tell who the fans are. They’re the people dressed as the series’ characters (even Appa) in costumes they made themselves. They are also the artists selling their own drawings of of the various characters (if Nick interferes with that then they are truly idiots). Each one of these people is an asset being ignored by Nick.
The age range for these conferences is generally high school to early 30s (I am an outlier, to put it mildly) — well past the 6-11 slot that Nick mostly aims at. The con features an enormous dealer’s section where people come to find tchotchkes of all sizes emblazoned with their favorite characters on them. Indeed, the dealers’ room is always a huge draw at these things. I spent a lot of time in it — as usual — I can report that all those dealers didn’t have so much as a single Avatar item for sale. In fact I have never seen an Avatar item for sale at any of these cons. A glance at the Nick online store makes it clear why. Other than the Avatar t-shirts and plushies, there is nothing that any fan in this age group would buy. These are people who want to wear their brand identification — which rules out action figures and Lego sets.
My entirely anecdotal research suggests that Nick isn’t having much luck with selling these items to the 6-11ers. I always see a LOT of Avatar merchandise in the discount aisles at Toy R Us and other big boxers.
It seems to me that this is an example of Nick ignoring The Long Tail — selling less to more people — and blowing the opportunity to turn Avatar from a niche hit into a genuine phenomenon. As a result of its inability to market patches, stickers, keychains, clothing and accessories that might appeal to anyone over the age of 11, Nick is leaving a lot of money current and future money on the table.
Anime fans are trendspotters and trendsetters for the youth market. These are the folks who knew about Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Emily The Strange, and a host of other brands long before they became mainstream sales phenomenons. While some of them (including CD Jr.,) are in the 6-11 age range, most are not. But they are enormous influencers on this market. That’s because they are the big brothers/sisters who define cool for the under 12-set.
Another thing Nick needs to know is that the anime community is very design conscious — so it’s not enough to simply slap the characters on to product. Find some good graphic artists — I’m sure the folks behind Avatar could point you in the right direction — and apply the same creativity that marks Avatar the show to its marketing. Some outreach/listening to the fans the show already has could make Avatar into a SpongeBob Squarepants type of earner for Nick. Failure to do this will make it nothing more that a slightly more successful Code Lyoko — the French anime franchise that Cartoon Network killed with its one-size-fits-all approach to marketing cartoons.