I enjoyed working on this issue very much. I found it fascinating and very timely as both Princess Mononoke and Pokemon grace U.S. movie screens. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum! On one hand a movie geared to a crazed mob of 8 year-olds is racking up an unbelievable box office, on the other a thoughtful, adult oriented piece by a Japanese master. As they say...there is no accounting for taste. I don't think I am going out on a limb in wishing, for the sake of animation, that the box office outcome was reversed. However one feels about this pocket monster invasion, both films have accomplished something by bringing Asian animation to the U.S. market in a high-profile way. Pokemon has proved that not all "anime" is scantily clad girls, ancient warriors and robots. There is more to it than that. Moreover, just think of all those young impressionable minds sitting in the theaters. Are they ever going to think there was a time when Japanese animation in America didn't exist? To them it is just another item on the already crowded entertainment smorgasbord. Plus, they are being programmed to think that the latest from Japan is cool. Princess Mononoke did post some impressive numbers, including the highest per screen average of any film, its opening week-end. A massive rush to the theater did not happen, but the film's release did register. Much more so in fact than Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue, which quietly came and went. For many U.S. animation fans Princess Mononoke was their first feature-length anime. And while we did hear some of the usual grumblings from parents expecting Princess to be wholesome, kids fare (as this is what all animation is, right?), most people who went out of their way to see the film came away very impressed and intrigued.
Another article that I especially enjoyed is Kosei Ono's profile of "Tadahito Mochinaga: The Japanese Animator Who Lived In Two Worlds." What a life story! Mochinaga was caught in such political turmoil and it is amazing that from the wilds of Manchuria and Shanghai it was he who brought U.S. children's beloved Rankin/Bass specials to life.
The U.S. Thanksgiving holiday week-end kicked off the reign of Toy Story 2, which made a huge splash in its first week-end. While Pokemon is the flavor of the moment, it will not compare to the long term impact that Toy Story 2 will bring to advancing the art of the animated feature and creating characters that resonate. Before seeing it I had heard that it was better than the first and I couldn't figure how. But, it is. Fun and well-meaning, without being overbearingly sweet and simple, this is quality entertainment for the whole family. The animation is wonderful and the timing and acting is amazing. Audiences forget moments into the film that the characters are mere digital illusions as they get lost in their fantastic world. More kudos go to Pixar Animation Studios and John Lasseter. He is this generation's Walt Disney.
We are also one month away from the long awaited unveiling of Fantasia 2000. This is another momentous first for animation as Disney releases this high profile film on IMAX screens before going to "normal" cinemas. Big screens are by no means a fixture in every neighborhood but are becoming more prevalent. It is fitting that Disney has made this move with a special film that is well suited to the big screen. I am sure it will bring more people to the local IMAX theater, build word of mouth for the film and a following for animation in this new arena. This month we continue our coverage of Fantasia 2000 with two articles by respected animation historian and writer, Charles Solomon. Both "Rhapsody in Blue: Fantasia 2000's Jewel in the Crown" and "The Goldbergs: Two Peas in a Pod" take a closer look at the "Rhapsody in Blue" sequence of Fantasia 2000.
Enjoy your last month of 1999 folks and I'll see you in 2000.
Until Next Time, Heather