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Production I.G.’s Visit to the Cartoons on the Bay Festival

Travel along with Production I.G.s Justin Leach to get his personal impression of Cartoons on the Bays artistic and geographical beauty.

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The idyllic town of Positano was a welcome sight for the weary travelers of Production I.G. On the right, the Tyrrhenian Sea beckons. Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of Justin Leach.

Earlier this year, my company received an invitation asking Production I.G. to make a presentation for a panel called, "Focus on the Studios" at the Cartoons on the Bay animation festival in Positano, Italy. After informing our president, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, of the invitation to the festival, he accepted. He felt it would be a good opportunity to share some information about Production I.G. with people outside Japan. In addition to myself, he asked Yoshiki Sakurai, a fluent English-speaking writer for the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex television series, to join us. My assignment was to prepare a presentation for the festival to cover our studio history, current and future projects.

After a grueling 19 hours of travel time at various airports in Europe, we finally made it to our destination: Naples, Italy. After we made our way through the tiny airport, a staff member from the festival helped us find our shuttle to Positano. In our shuttle bus, Jacques Pettigrew, the president of CinéGroupe, a French-Canadian animation studio based in Montreal, joined us.

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The Production I.G. team immediately sensed that the Italian landscape had influenced Hayao Miyazaki visually. Left, is the hillside town of Positano and, on the right, the villa where Production I.G. stayed.

On the way to Positano, we passed Mt. Vesuvius, the famous volcano that decided to engulf Pompeii in 79 A.D. The volcano was quite a sight, and in many ways reminded me of Mt. Fuji, Japan' s famous volcano overlooking Tokyo. After we departed Naples, we began to make our way into the mountainous coastal area closer to the festival. As we were driving, both Ishikawa and Sakurai commented on the obvious influence Italy had on Hayao Miyazaki' s work, in particular, The Castle of Caglistro. As our car kept on winding around the steep corners, we suddenly felt as if Lupin the super would pass us at any time. After about an hour, we wearily arrived at our hotel in Positano and checked into our rooms.

Later on that evening, we decided to head into town to take a look at the festival site. Since downtown Positano is nearly inaccessible by car, we had to walk down a long set of stairs that seemed to go on forever. Along the cliff side area of Positano, many villas are built into the cliffs, overlooking the sea, giving us an extraordinary view. Once again, I felt like I stumbled into another animated film.

After trekking down to the beachfront area, we were surprised to see that they had raised a giant tent for the festival right on the beach. After checking this out, we decided to climb back up the stairs to our hotel, which seemed much farther on the way up, than on the way down.

The next day, we were scheduled to attend two presentations at the Hotel Covo dei Saraceni overlooking the sea.

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Narrow stairways are common all over Positano. Panel discussions for the festival were held at Hotel Covo dei Saraceni (right).

The first was a seminar on made-for-television specials that Sakurai participated on. The panel was made up of Rick Mischel (Mainframe Entertainment) and Giulia Filippelli (RAI Trade-Italy), as well as a panel moderator, Ramin Zahed (Animation Magazine). The panelists went into detail on the various aspects of producing animated television specials projects, as well as other topics such as region coding DVDs.

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Later that same day, I helped give a presentation with my colleagues from Production I.G. for the "Focus on the Studios" panel. Our moderator was Heather Kenyon (then editor in chief of Animation World Magazine, she is now director of development for Cartoon Network).

During the presentation, we outlined some of our past projects, such as Ghost in the Shell, Blood: The Last Vampire and Jin-Roh. In addition, we presented our titles in production such as Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2, a new film directed by Mamoru Oshii; Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino' s next live-action film featuring 10-minutes of Japanese animation, and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, a new television series based on the Ghost in the Shell manga by Shirow Masamune.

We bumped into a few technical glitches, but, in the end, we managed to show some clips. The atmosphere at the panel was very easygoing and casual. Since it was my first time attending this festival, I wasn't quite sure of how formal the presentation would be, so I had taken extra time to prepare.

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The Lollipop Girls and Italian opera singer, Vincenzo La Scola, provided entertainment before Production I.G. received the Studio of the Year Award.

During the variety show, an Italian pop band called the Lollipop Girls came on stage to do their number, followed by a famous Italian opera singer that moved the audience to tears. After that, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, president of Production I.G., was called to the stage to accept one of the four Studio of the Year Awards from Alfio Bastiancich, festival director, of the Cartoons on the Bay Festival. After the ceremony finished, the audience was treated to a special screening of the Italian version of Spirited Away.

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All in all, we really enjoyed the festival and are extremely grateful for having the chance to attend. Cartoons on the Bay was such a wonderful exchange of cultures, ideas and animation in a place as magical as an animated film itself.

Justin Leach's earliest professional credit was as a video game design consultant in 1992. Since then, he has worked on commercials, music videos and theatrical features; notably for Blue Sky Studios, from May 1997 through March 2001, where he was on the teams for Bunny and Ice Age, among other projects. Since April 2001, he has been an employee of Production I.G. in Tokyo, where he is working on Mamoru Oshii's next feature animated film, Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2.

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