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In most cases, I suppose, the time eventually comes in an animator's life when he or she becomes a parent. I can think of at least one case of a great piece of animation having been produced as a result of the conjunction of newfound fatherhood and artistic brilliance - Panda Kopanda. It's a film that seems soaked in gentle paternal love. I'm sure there must be other instances. A film I've been looking forward to for quite some time now is apparently another such instance - Wanwa, the new short by Shinya Ohira to be included in Genius Party 2. When Ohira was asked to participate in the project three or four years ago, he apparently came up with the idea for this story, about a young boy and his puppy, because he wanted to create a film he could watch with his son, who was then 2-3 years old.
I've seen some images from the film in a recent issue of Animation Note, and it's truly stunning stuff that has little to do with anime and everything to do with great animated art. Ohira is creating the backgrounds himself in addition to doing all the animation. He's not only drawing but also gluing origami paper and string and other assorted materials directly onto the paper to create a very rich and beautiful texture. Sections of animation are even being animated using crayons. The crayoned keys will be inbetweened in a conventional manner, however, and not with crayons. The film will be made using many of the same materials that might be littered around the house of some pint-sized Picasso, in other words, extending the thematic underpinning to the materials used to make the film. It's an approach that's unusual for a studio production, to say the least. I can only say that each of the individual images he has created are of stunning beauty and seem like they would function just as well framed on a wall as photographed in sequence. Ohira continues to go to that next level with his art, and this will no doubt be his summum opus, and then some, with his unmistakable sensibility molding every parameter of the screen in a way we've never seen before.
Brother in arms Shinji Hashimoto, meanwhile, has just published a delightful picture book for small children, no less. The title can be roughly translated as Yucchu and Meppi in the Starry Playground. I can't comment on whether Hashimoto finds himself in the same situation, but it's interesting to see these two great 'realistic' animators suddenly take a left turn to create a piece for small children. As in the case of Wanwa, however, there is no question of stylistic dumbing down. The picture book is delightfully bizarre and abstract, with cute but slightly disconcerting scribbly animal characters of mysterious species zooming around in adventures in the sky. The style of drawing channels Hashimoto's very identifiable meandering line through the mind of a child, as it were, and does a remarkable job of creating a style that has the unforced authenticity of a child's drawings.