Blue Sky's Trip to Japan
(continued from page 4)

Day Four
The first place we visited on this day is a traditional animation and CG company called Production IG. You might have seen some of their animation in The Ghost in the Shell (movie and game), Neon Genesis Evangelion, countless Play Station games, and you might get to see their work in two new movies which have yet to be released. The contrast between this place and NTV was substantial. Rather than the corporate atmosphere that pervaded the offices of NTV, Production IG seemed to evoke an image of guerilla warfare. Here people worked in cramped conditions and slept under their desks in the midst of deadlines. There were drawings and reference material everywhere, with the walls covered in story boards. It was clear from the raw vibrancy of the people, that they were here because of their love for their art.

We can't show you photos of the studio since they were working on a new movie at the time. All we can say is that it's going to be beautiful. Again we showed Bunny and got into more discussions about animation. Once more searching for the origins of Japanese animation, we asked them about their influences. Apparently one of the greatest influences on modern anime was from Osamu Tezuka who created Atom Taishi, or as we know it Astro Boy. Interestingly enough, Tezuka claimed much of his influence from American animation, Disney in particular.

Production IG showed us much of their work which often had CG characters interacting with traditional animation. It was of an amazingly high quality. But the treat was when they allowed us to see their new movie Jin Roh. This is currently being shown at various animation festivals the world over. If you get a chance to see it make sure you do. The animation and character designs are beautiful and the story is gripping, replete with subtle and crafty twists. When we were discussing the different production pressures that affected Japanese and American animation studios, the president of Production IG, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, raised one rather subtle and very interesting point. Since an animated movie costs a lot less to produce in Japan due to the smaller salaries paid to artists, and thus smaller production budgets, directors there have much greater creative control than their American counterparts. Because American animation costs are so much greater, larger investments are necessary and hence the number of people involved in shaping the story grows. In addition, to ensure a film's profitability, the story must appeal to a wide ranging audience. This can often lead to diluted plot lines. We all found this very interesting as it explains much of the sophistication of anime.

Later in the day we visited a new and small studio called Trilogy. Here we saw some of the best CG of the entire trip. They were working on a pilot for a larger project they were hoping to produce. They, with the help of Michael Arias of SoftImage toon shader fame, achieved a look that was nothing short of incredible. I wish I could describe it more but again we were shown this in confidence. Unfortunately, they were really busy so we didn't get to spend too much time with them.

The rest of the day was spent on the road as we drove toward Hakone. Ayumu had arranged some "R and R" at some of the hot springs closest to Tokyo.

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