Monthly Archives: April 2010

20 Years of Animation: Pixar (Singapore)

And so the fabled Pixar exhibition comes to our little island. I visited the same exhibit back in July last year when it was on in Taipei (with a lower entry prices, I should add), and was, unsurprisingly, deeply inspired. The exhibit isn’t so much about how a Pixar movie is made, but how it is conceptualised, designed, storyboarded, and above all, treated with every ounce of care and love even before a single frame is animated. It’s very much about the pre-production process which, including story development and script, takes up to 3 years for each of Pixar’s movie. Naturally, it’s the most important aspect of any of its productions (animation itself typically takes up to a year and a half ), and the exhibit brings this point home in the most resounding fashion.

For a 3D animation studio, almost 90% of the works on display are 2D – drawings, sketches, paintings, colour reels, location designs, and the awesome Artscape – an immersive, wide-screen projection of 2D rendered digital images that gives the viewer the sensation of entering into and exploring the exquisite details of the original artworks of Pixar’s films. This should impress upon those who feel that 3D is the be all and end all (and there are many of those around who often hold the purse strings to film and TV financing) that it’s about the craft of storytelling and art – not the technology, or at least not letting it be driven by technology.

Perhaps John Lasseter puts it best when he said: “The art challenges the technology and the technology inspires the art.”

Scrawl is honoured to play a bit part in the exhibit, with a display of some of our modest work alongside the greats, many who inspire our artists daily with their limitless and profound imagination and creativity.

Be sure to pop by the Science Centre to check out this unique and inspiring exhibit.

Scrawl on Channel NewsAsia

Got both the CEO AND company name wrong. Sighsome.

1st Quarter General Update

I’m not a fan of public speaking. According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. DEATH is number two. Does that sound right?

Choon Meng explains why he’s had enough of the blue wall behind him...

…and how he hates people yawning when he speaks.

Jeong describes how he tries to wear clothes that match calendars and Pikachu.

April Babies

Random Studio Toys

Tokyo Anime Fair 2010

Tokyo Big Sight. No, it doesn’t transform into a giant robot.

March 25-28, Tokyo, Japan.

Every March for the last 3 years the good folks from the Tokyo Anime Fair Organising Committee sends us a nice little package with an invite to attend the annual event in Tokyo. Provided we could scramble a flight ticket (which we’ve been able to do so, fortunately), they’d provide a bed and a bathroom.

Any reason to drop in on the land of anime, robot ghosts and wired dreams is always one to savour. So off I went.

From Thur to Friday, it’s Business Day, where supposedly Business People attend the fair to do Business. I’m not sure how much business gets done, really. Like so much of Japan, whether it’s amongst the lights of Shibuya, the streets of Shinjuku or the winding alleys of Kyoto, it always feel like there’s a world that exists for the Japanese and another for foreigners. One feels a little bit of that, even at an ‘international’ event like TAF.

Business Days are when one gets to see the really cool stuff – the ‘What’s Coming’ and other hot sellers. On Public Days (Sat-Sun), where the fair is opened to otakus and anime-mad crowds in general, a lot of the newer stuff are taken down, and the focus shifts to what’s on the market right now plus the customary appearances of Seiyus (anime voice actors/actresses) and other celebrity-types. I was told that some executives in business suits on Thur and Fri have to switch to mascot costumes on Sat and Sun. Talk about work getting under your skin.

Business Day

Business Day

Public Day on Saturday

Japan isn’t really a market for us. Neither do we have any real business going on there, even though we’ve met and continue to have talks with a number of Japanese companies and individuals on possible future collaboration. The sheer talent and ideas there are too ridiculous to ignore.

It’s pretty much a world of its own, the Japanese anime industry. A cultural and commercial phenomenon that for the most part is desperate to expand overseas, beyond its increasingly limited domestic market. Yet anime itself is a product that speaks intrinsically to Japanese consumers, hence its unique value. I’ve been told Japanese creators and directors are more concerned with how their works are viewed by their own people, more so than commercial success per se, not least outside of Japan. It’s a situation that reeks of business irony while¬† Japanese animation itself continues to push creative and technical boundaries at breakneck speed.

Over the two and a half days at the Tokyo Big Sight, I met with some friends and partners, got a bit of business done, and had a walkabout the floor – mainly to grab anime flyers to bring back to the studio to add to our reference library. And no, it isn’t about the show girls at all. Not. At. All.

And of course there’s the animation on show. The two that blew my mind this year were Madhouse’s new insane racing anime Redline (which I caught a glimpse of 2 years ago when I visited the studio. Can’t wait to see the feature at Annecy, where it is competing) and Toei’s breathtaking CG incarnation of Space Pirate Captain Harlock (full-length feature due 2012). Two different projects – one 2D and the other 3D – that prove that when it comes to technical wizardry and pure visual direction, the best in Japanese animation stand a world apart from everyone else.

For the second year running, China has a rather curious presence at TAF. The difference this year was that they hired models (Japanese, obviously) to don cheongsams, which undoubtedly helped attract foot traffic (including that of this intrepid Singaporean). What I can’t get my head around is the Chinese use of the phrase ‘Chinese Anime’, which besides being an obvious paradox, also glosses over the inherent contradictions between anime as liberal genre content and the Chinese’s well-documented resistance towards any foreign content that goes against the grain of its cultural and historical ideologies.

Despite that, it is apparent that anime companies see China as a key market to penetrate. How they can do it is another matter. The business realities of working in China aside, the creative, philosophical and social differences between the two countries and cultures are glaring when it comes to creating popular media content. Where the Chinese are huge on cultural glorification and historical reverence with an underlying socialist stance, the Japanese seems more in tune with the individual human condition, raw emotion, real desire and fantasy. After all, anime, like manga, is so often an outlet for societal repressions and wish fulfillment at all levels – from the young to the old; from the housewife to the office worker. Still, never underestimate the Japanese – or the Chinese for that matter, to pull of the unexpected (they did save the world in 2012 – Spoiler!).