July 8, 2008

Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea is almost upon us, evidenced by this cover tease of the newest, gorgeous artbook from Studio Ghibli. Filled with sketches, backgrounds, storyboards and cel reproductions, the newest volume in the Studio's famous "Art of..." line will be available on August 2nd for 2,900 yen.

via GhibliWorld.com

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October 19, 2007
I passed by the Drawn and Quarterly bookstore this evening just before their grand opening event and I had to hold onto my wallet for dear life. Drawn and Quarterly began life in the early 1990s as an alternative comics anthology of original and utmost quality, then came the comic book series, and graphic novels that were varied and, may I say in the best possible way, designy. The sense of design that all of the various artists had, in addition to unique styles and great storytelling, set the D+Q selection apart from many of the titles out there, and also, I think, gave courage to many artists and publishers to consider the quality and scope of what could be printed and how it could be told.

Drawn and Quarterly's artists Adrian Tomine, Joe Matt, Chester Brown, Seth, Gary Panter (of Pee Wee's Playhouse) and others offer visuals and stories that surely are fodder for the animator's imagination. [EDIT: I don't just speculate: I forgot that Clyde Henry Productions are creating a live-action/animated film adaptation of Chester Brown's surreal Ed the Happy Clown.] The store does not stop at stocking only their impressive list of titles. Classic graphic novels, like Maus and Love and Rockets, and hidden gems abound.

The more overt animation related selection included titles like John Canemaker's Winsor McCay, as well as McCay reprints, and Nine Lives to Live: A Felix Celebration by Otto Messmer.

Copies of Bone were also available, which I've already mentioned for its appeal to animators and animation fans. The Lute String by Jim Woodring and D+Q's translated Complete Moomin by Tove Jansson (which I happily purchased) also break down the boundaries between comics and animation. Both artists' work directly inspired multiple animated adaptations and often in a different parts of the world than where it was originally created, expanding the stories' reach.

Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore
211 Bernard, Montreal

If you're just getting started, my D+Q recommendations:
Optic Nerve by Adrian Tomine
Jar of Fools by Jason Lutes
The Fixer by Joe Sacco
Louis Riel by Chester Brown

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September 26, 2007
Tekkonkinkreet made its North American DVD/Blu-ray/UMD debut today, and we're celebrating with three days of related bits of Tekkon goodness on the site. First up: an image gallery featuring movie stills, original background art (including pre-production images, like the cropped segment at left), and even reference photos from director Michael Arias. Unless you happen to hang around Studio 4°C, you've never seen some of these images before. Check it out.

See the gallery

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September 21, 2007
Last year, the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art (also just known as Museum of Tokyo or MOT) held a notable exhibition, The Art of Disney. A beautiful catalogue was also published for the exhibit featuring works that were once thought lost. This summer, the DVD catalogue of the exhibit was released in Japan as well.

I decided I was going to see whatever exhibit was showing at the museum when I was in Tokyo, as I like to do in any new city I visit. It ended up the major exhibit was also animation-related this year: a retrospective of work by Art Director Kazuo Oga.

Kazuo Oga worked on a diverse animation projects such as Barefoot Gen, Dagger of Kamui and Wicked City before creating the background art for My Neighbor Totoro at Studio Ghibli. He went on to work on all of the subsequent features for the studio, and last year, directed his own film for the studio, Taneyamagahara no Yoru.

The lush scenery he creates with his brush is truly breathtaking, and the museum selection was as dense as an of the green forest background he is known for. The sheer number of pieces was more than I have seen for comparatively-sized art exhibitions of any type, and I have never seen its like for animation artwork, mostly from the Studio Ghibli archives. He captures the spirit of the countryside, but also of everyday Japan with a balance of love and accuracy.

Almost all of the art is unphotographable. Near the end of the exhibit, after a room of multiplane setups, there are a number of backgrounds that are blown up so that people can pose in front of them, but most people just step back in wonder to take a whole new look at the art. (I couldn't help posing with Totoro, though.)

Afterward, everyone was invited to fold an origami Totoro in an open room, with mini-backgrounds. Here's mine.

Like the Art of Disney catalogue, a catalogue has been published for this exhibit as well. A DVD is forthcoming for the end of the year. The exhibit has been extended until September 30. If you find yourself in Tokyo, you won't want to miss it.

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August 20, 2007
Exciting news for the Astroboy toy collector. This past week came the announcement from Hong Kong that the upcoming toy lines for the scheduled 2009 Astroboy film will be made by WowWee Ltd, makers of sophisticated robot toys such as the Robosapien. What does this mean exactly? Well, not only will the toys look super cool, they will most assuredly possess dazzling robotic powers designed to impress the most discriminating toy collector.

The deal between WowWee Ltd. and Imagi Animation Studios gets even better. WowWee also announced that they will also be making the toys for the upcoming Gatchaman film.

In other Astroboy toy news, a giant sculptural Astroboy montage can now be seen hanging in the hip Kitsilano sushi shop, The Eatery at 3431 West Broadway. Vancouver mixed media artist Noel Macul made the illuminated sculptural Astroboy out of hundreds of dissected toy parts. Specially commissioned by the restaurant, it now hangs permanently above the bar. Noel also crafted a giant tiger made of toys (perhaps inspired by Brazilian animator Guilherme Marcondes' Tyger?)

The Eatery already hosts a mini museum of Astroboy collectibles, along with lots of hanging sea creatures, and a vast array of Asian cultural décor, right down to the cute vintage Japanese autos parked out in front of the shop. If mixing sushi and anime sounds like your thing, be sure to add this stop to your itinerary the next time you visit Vancouver.

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