Friday, January 23, 2009

Anime Eyes

Asian animation has arrived in full force in the U.S. As a boy I remembered it as Kimba, the White Lion and Speed Racer. I hated it. I was raised on Disney feature animation with the mastery of the "Nine Old Men". I loved the fast paced humor of the Warners and MGM theatrical shorts and the droll characterization of the early Hanna-Barbera television cartoons. I found this imported look to be uninspiring. No more. Anime and Manga are here and are as popular as sugar cereal.

I had my first "flirt" with Asian animation many years ago on a feature unit. It was after my introduction to independent feature production at Vinnie's underground comic book venture. Many of the animators on Vinnie's show went over to work on a Japanese funded product based on Greek tragedies. I'm not sure why someone thought tragedy would be a good venue for an American audience but the money was good and the quality was high. I started as an assistant animator and got involved in story sketch as time progressed but progress was slow. There was plenty of time for partying but no one in the art staff truly believed they were working on a hit film.

This was the only time I worked on a show where the lead character had Anime eyes. He also had Mickey mouse ears and proportions three heads high. A character's proportion is always judged on how many heads high a typical human stands. On the average, Five heads is a good "norm". Tall, long legged women can be six heads high. Mickey Mouse and all those old characters were three heads high. Our character looked like that with huge ears even though he was human. The logic behind the story selection was that the Greek fables and stories were universal in scope so a large audience could be reached. This was Japanese money and the financier wanted it to be popular around the world NOT just in Asia. He chose an artist that was born in Japan but worked at his craft for many years in America. A young man who personified the goth artist look. A good designer he was but not a good producer. All projects demand a return on their investment and progress must be made. I can't remember when I received the realization that there was no chance of turning this picture around. Another example of good money gone to make a bad picture. I didn't wait for the luxury liner to hit the iceberg. I jumped ship and started my own small shop. Better a happy pauper than a miserable king!

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