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Blue Sky's Trip to Japan

by André Mazzone

This is an account of a trip to Japan undertaken by three of my Blue Sky colleagues and myself during May, 1999. The purpose of the trip was in some part to publicise Blue Sky, but also served as a fact finding mission. Our aim was to uncover some of the secrets behind the beautiful and often mysterious tradition of Japanese animation and how their opinions differ from our western perspectives of the art. To this end we visited the renowned Studio Ghibli, creators of Princess Mononoke, NTV, Production IG and also gave presentations to Tokyo SIGGRAPH and Digital Hollywood. Our trip was only a week in duration, but in this short time we were all changed irrevocably.

Before I begin, let me take a moment to introduce my Blue Sky travelling companions:

Justin Leach -- An animator specialising in rigging, he is one of the main proponents of Maya at Blue Sky.
Steve Talkowski -- A senior animator at Blue Sky who has much standing, respect and experience.
Cliff Bohm -- A Senior Technical director who has been with Blue Sky for longer than most of us can remember.
Me, André Mazzone -- I'm a Production Programmer which basically means I write software for all those things that off the shelf stuff can't offer. By the way, I am Australian so if my grammar is a little strange or the spelling leans a little more toward the British, I hope you'll just chalk it up to eccentricity.

Also I must add that there was a fifth member of our group, Ayumu Imanari. He does not work at Blue Sky but was perhaps the most instrumental in making our trip a success; he was our translator and social co-ordinator. Ayumu is a recent graduate student in computer animation and television production, so he was able to communicate for us much more effectively than someone outside the industry.

For all of us, it had been a dream to visit some of the great masters of animation in Japan. They don't get a lot of publicity in the West (although that is starting to change) but they are highly respected in most animation circles. In fact we probably wouldn't have had the chance to meet any of them if Blue Sky hadn't won the Oscar for best animated short film in March of this year. It was this alone that gave us the foot in the door.

So enough lead in let's start the account. In fact I should mention here that Steve graciously volunteered to be the camera man for this trip so you'll only see him in few of the pictures.

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