Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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« An inquiry about Korean studiosMasaaki Yuasa interview from Montreal »

Monday, July 11, 2005

08:36:06 pm , 436 words, 1166 views     Categories: Animation

Image boards

Looking over the various image boards that were included (contrary to what I predicted) in Yasuo Otsuka's book Little Nemo no Yabo (The Ambitious Little Nemo) that was published last year, I'm reminded of something that's always interested me about animation productions. In most cases where I've had the chance to see image boards for a film, for example for Panda Ko Panda or Yousei Florence or Nemo itself, what I come away with is how much more interesting the image boards are than the final product in many ways. Why is that? I suppose it's exactly what Masaaki Yuasa has mentioned in interviews - the streamlining process of animation production, with its many overlapping steps, necessarily winds up smoothing over the various interesting details and colors in these very spontaneous drawings. What I like about Mind Game is how they caught onto that problem and managed to make a film that retained the spontaneity of those initial ideas. Well, presumably. Because I haven't seen the Mind Game image board book to be able to say for sure.

Otsuka's latest book contains numerous illustrations by Yoshifumi Kondo, Nizo Yamamoto and Miyazaki that I would have liked to see directly transferred to film somehow. I found Kondo's style in particular to be a revelation. It was quite unlike what I expected based on his animation work, wonderfully textured, cleaner than Miyazaki's, drawn with only a pen and a light wash of colors, with just the right balance between rough and finished. Nizo's illustrations contain a level of detail that seems maniacal and overboard, but reveals his genius for detail. Each has a totally unique visual approach to the world, and very little of what I see seems to have made it into the final product, at least directly. Some distant ancestry may remain.

Partly what I like about the boards is the rough touch with which they're drawn, which gives the eye so much more exercise than the flat colors of the final cleaned-up product. In the end they're turned into plain backgrounds and cel animation, which feels like a minus equation. I like the way Mind Game combined different techniques to recreate or retain the different texture of the different media and styles with which the image boards were drawn in that testing phase. I'm also reminded of Chanticleer, a project that looked fascinating from the image boards I've seen (the concept also sounded quite interesting, which is probably why it never got made). I have yet to read the book, but Telecom's new series reminded me of it, so I think I'll do that soon.

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