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The Sea Prince and the Fire Child (1981)

Only Sanrio Does Full Animation

As for the staff, they currently have 48 animators. At Sanrio Film the animators work on a contractual basis rather than as salaried employees.

"Depending on the type of film we're producing, we seek out different people, so we may sometimes hire unexpected people on staff here at Sanrio." 

The thing that grabs your attention at the Sanrio animation studio is the animation system. The animation room is divided up into 2 teams which are each reponsible for a different type of animation. One team does all the character animation and the other team does all natural animation.

For example, to animate a boy walking carrying a candle, they would split the animation up thus: one team responsible for animating the boy alone, one team responsible for animating the flame alone. The team responsible for the candle would also be responsible for animating natural phenomena, eg, lapping waves or flowers blowing in the wind; everything aside from the characters. Disney once made a wonderful short in which only nature was animated, and this is the same full-animation approach where both the characters and the background move.

The animation production desk is also something unique to Sanrio. It's a rotating light table with a tap located directly in front of you. They say it's useful for full animation.

"Full animation is impossible in TV animation due to physical constraints. I think you could fairly say that right now Sanrio is the only company [in Japan] doing full animation."

As for Sanrio's future projects, in production at the moment are Unico and The Sea Prince and the Fire Child. For Unico, a pilot film has already been completed. Unico is based on a manga by Osamu Tezuka which was serialized in Ririka, a magazine published by Sanrio which is currently suspended. This film is the first ever outside order within Japan, and it is being produced by Madhouse. Toshio Hirata and Sugino Akio are working together on the film. In the pilot Godaigo composed the music, but as of yet nobody has been selected for the feature film.

The film is apparently to be a fantasy about a mythical one-horned creature called a unicorn, incorporating sci-fi and folkloric elements, and will be suitable for children. It will be released next spring or summer.

Production of the major project The Sea Prince and the Fire Child is scheduled to take up all of next year. The film tells the tragic love story of a fire spirit and a water spirit.

The first film that comes to mind when you think of Sanrio Films is probably The Fantastic Adventures of the Mouse and His Child, but not many people know that this film was in fact entirely animated by a foreign staff. Thanks to an effective advertising campaign the film was a success at the box-office, but the quality left something to be desired. One wonders if today's children, accustomed to speedy and action-packed TV animation, weren't a bit bored.

With skilled Japanese animators working in the favorable conditions at Sanrio Films, you can't help feeling that Japanese animation finally will be able to break into the world class, and it's certain to be rewarding work for the animators involved.

HOME© Benjamin Ettinger