“Sanjay’s Super Team” features Pixar’s first human protagonist of color

NBC News (by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang):

Pixar Animation Studio‘s first human protagonist of color made his debut on the big screen Thanksgiving week in “Sanjay’s Super Team,” directed by Pixar supervising animator and storyboard artist Sanjay Patel.

The short film opened for “The Good Dinosaur,” directed by Peter Sohn.

Patel told NBC News that, growing up, he felt embarrassed by his identity and tried to fit into mainstream American culture. But as an adult, he came to appreciate the richness of the culture his father was trying to pass on to him.

Sanjay’s Super Team” is a seven-minute short film inspired by Patel’s experiences growing up as the child of immigrants in a modest motel along Route 66. The titular Indian-American boy would rather be daydreaming about television superheroes than praying and doing puja with his father. However, the Hindu deities soon transform into a team of dazzling superheroes in the boy’s imagination, bringing him closer to understanding his immigrant father and his place in America.

Before this film, Patel’s father had not seen any of the movies Patel had worked on in his almost 20 years at Pixar, so the studio invited him to watch the film when it was completed. Patel told NBC News that his father was very moved — he was obviously proud of his son’s achievements but was particularly touched to see a film about their relationship.

Sanjay Patel, director of new Pixar short "Sanjay's Super Team".

Sanjay Patel, director of new Pixar short “Sanjay’s Super Team”

In addition to Patel’s work as an animator at Pixar, whose credits include “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 3,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and “The Incredibles“, what drew Pixar’s attention to Patel’s developing storytelling skills was his work writing and illustrating children’s books like “Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth” and “Ramayana – Divine Loophole,” and his art exhibitions including “Deities, Demons, and Dudes with ‘Staches” at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

 

17th DigiCon6 ASIA Supreme Short Movie Contest: “Tokyo Cosmo” by Takuya Okada

RocketNews 24:

There are millions of people living in Tokyo, and most of them moved from somewhere else to Tokyo in order to find work in the bustling city. Among these millions is a large number of people who choose to forgo a long commute and live on their own in a tiny apartment, so we’re sure many share very similar experiences at home.

A whimsical CG film entered in the 17th DigiCon6 ASIA Supreme Short Movie Contest has captured a ton of popularity for its animation style, which many say is reminiscent of a Pixar movie. But what really sets it apart is the fact that the short film shares Pixar’s playfulness as well.

Created by Takuya Okada, this short movie starts off with a normal “end of the day” scene that we imagine any officer worker in Tokyo would recognize, but it soon turns into a magical journey through a runaway imagination.

These dream-like sequences are probably a product of a worker’s incredibly tired mind, since we all know how long the average office worker’s day is. Still, it’s a treat to see the crazy adventures that play out in our mind animated in such an exciting way! The 17thDigiCon6 ASIA Supreme Short Movie Contest is being run by TBS in Japan and this particular short film is an audience choice entry. Voting ends on November 6, so if you enjoyed watching it, make sure you give it your support on their voting page (click the pink box).

You can also check out Takuya Okada’s YouTube page for other videos.

14-year-old Native Hawaiian Auliíi Cravalho voices Disney’s newest princess, MOANA.

Meet the Next Disney Princess – and Get a First Look at Her Movie, Moana!| Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Movie News, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson

People Magazine:

Like many little girls, Auli’i Cravalho of Oahu wanted to be a Disney princess.

From baby time to now, I wanted to be a Disney princess and then I wanted to be a singer or an actress,” the 14-year-old recalls.

But when Disney Animation began searching for a girl to voice the lead in its next princess movie Moana– about a young teen from 2,000 years ago who sets sail to fulfill her ancestors’ quest – Cravalho didn’t think she was good enough to audition.

Meet the Next Disney Princess – and Get a First Look at Her Movie, Moana!| Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Movie News, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson

Native Hawaiian Auli’i Cravalho, 14, voices Disney’s newest princess

I was getting through my freshman year, and there were already so many great submissions over YouTube,” the 14-year-old Native Hawaiian tells PEOPLE, which features an exclusive first look at the movie in this week’s issue.

Good thing a fairy godmother (a.k.a. an Oahu casting agent) was looking out for Cravalho. After the agent discovered the teen’s singing talents during a charity competition, Cravalho was whisked off to Los Angeles, where directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin cast her opposite Dwayne Johnson in the animated film, set for release on Nov. 23, 2016.

Meet the Next Disney Princess – and Get a First Look at Her Movie, Moana!| Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Movie News, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson

Meet the Next Disney Princess – and Get a First Look at Her Movie, Moana!| Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Movie News, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson

Moana is such an amazing character,” says Cravalho, who lives in the town of Mililani with her mother, Puanani. “She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that’s something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way.

Cravalho is especially excited to work alongside Johnson, who will play a demigod named Maui whom Moana encounters during her travels.

Legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”) is opening a nature sanctuary for children on a remote Japanese island

The 74-year-old film maker is perhaps best known for Spirited Away, which won an Oscar in 2001

The Independent (UK):

Legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki has revealed his plans to build a nature sanctuary for children on a remote Japanese island.

The 74-year-old filmmaker is expected to spend 300 million yen, or $2.5 million, of his personal finances on the project. It is due to be completed in 2018 on Kume IslandKyodo News reports that the facility will seek to encourage children to appreciate the natural world and develop a closer bond with nature.

Mr Miyazaki’s films often explore themes of childhood, imagination and nature.

He has previously spoken of his concerns that children’s lives are becoming increasingly exposed to consumerism and. He has said that: “Utopia exists only in one’s childhood life.”

The director is perhaps best known for his Oscar winning film Spirited Away which was released in 2001. It was the first ever anime film to win an Oscar and broke box office records in Japan. He announced in 2013 that he was retiring from his cinematic career to focus on other projects.

If you’ve got the cash, you can pre-order this stunning Ghost in the Shell ukiyo-e print

gits

RocketNews 24:

Ghost in the Shell may well be one of the most beloved anime in history. Its compelling story, engaging characters and beautiful art all combine to make one of the most exciting franchises we can name, so it’s little surprise that 25 years after its release, the film remains a fan favorite to this day.

In celebration of the first film and the entire franchise, a special product has been announced: a limited-edition series of ukiyo-e prints featuring images from Ghost in the Shell! But when we say limited-edition, we really do mean limited — only 300 copies will be made!

And they won’t come cheap either…

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Pictured above is the first ukiyo-e to be produced by OtakuWorks Inc., based on the poster for the original Ghost in the Shell movie directed by Mamoru Oshii. The image will be printed on Japanese paper produced by “living national treasureIchibe Iwano, a ninth-generation master of Echizen paper. The prints will also bear the signature of Hiroyuki Okiura, the artist who created the original poster.

Only 300 copies will be made, and you can pre-order one of your own right now for only 43,200 yen (US$370 for pre-orders for those living outside Japan). Pre-orders will be open until the end of November or until all 300 prints have been claimed. We have a feeling they won’t make it until the end of November…

The next image in the series will be of the poster for the most recent film, Ghost in the Shell: The Movie, which was released in Japan this June. Pre-orders for the second ukiyo-e print are expected to be announced soon.

It seems both odd and yet somehow fitting that such a futuristic series is receiving such a traditional treatment. If nothing else, it reflects the very human mind wrapped up in the cybernetic body of the original film.

Seven cool things set to happen in Japan during 2015

BE 6

RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that you should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If there’re two things we know, though, the second is that you’ll never get anywhere in life being fixated on the past. So while 2014 was a pretty good year for us, we’re already looking to the year ahead, which is already promising seven cool happenings for Japan in 2015.

1. Opening of the new Shinkansen line

BE 1

Japan may have a reasonably priced overnight bus network and well-maintained highways, but there’s no denying that the quickest and most convenient way to get around the country is the Shinkansen. Currently, you can travel by bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano, but the new Hokuriku Line will allow travelers to extend their Shinkansen trips from Nagano all the way to coastal Kanazawa. So starting March 14, you’ll be able to zip on over to the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture in record time to enjoy its historic Kenrokuen Garden, delicious seafood, and, provided you’ve still got some yen left over, golden handicrafts.

2. First flight of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet

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If tertiary travel is too tedious for your rarified tastes, there’s also the maiden voyage of the MRJ coming up in 2015. Jointly developed by Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Fuji Heavy Industries (parent company of automaker Subaru), the MRJ is scheduled to take to the air for the first time this spring. Airlines won’t be receiving their own until 2017, but nonetheless, the upcoming test flight is a major step towards Japan’s first domestically produced airliner since the financial failure of Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing’s YS-11, which was discontinued over four decades ago.

3. Osaka’s Dotonbori Canal becomes a pool

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If you’ve spent much time looking at photos of Japanese cityscapes, odds are you’ve seen Dotonbori, Osaka’s neon-lit entertainment district that straddles the Dotonbori Canal. After years of revelers diving into the water after victories by the local Hanshin Tigers baseball team, someone decided they may as well make part of the canal into an outdoor pool, which is just what’s scheduled to happen to a one-kilometer (0.62-mile) section of it for four weeks in August of 2015.

4. The next, and possibly final, Evangelion movie

Creator Hideaki Anno has never been particularly decisive about putting a period on his masterwork, as evidenced by how Eva’s cash-strapped TV finale has already been followed by a half-dozen movies. Signs point to a late 2015 release for the fourth Rebuild of Evangelion theatrical feature, though, which has been billed as the culmination of 20 years’ worth of groundbreaking animation (those of you who can’t wait until the end of the year can whet your appetite with a teaser-style Eva short film right here).

5. So long, SIM locks!

Like topknots and the feudal system, SIM locks are set to become a thing of the past in Japan starting this May.

6. The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II

BE 4

2015 is also a good time to stop and take a moment to appreciate that Japan can get excited about developments in consumer electronics because it’s a country at peace, as it has been for the last 70 years.

7. Prince William visiting Japan

BE 5

Another thing that wouldn’t have been happening during open war between the U.K. and Japan, Prince William is scheduled to visit the country as part of a trip through Asia in late February.

The Hollywood Reporter: Is Japanese anime finally making money abroad?

'Stand By Me Doraemon'

‘Stand By Me Doraemon’
The Hollywood Reporter (by Gavin J. Blair):

Japanese anime has attracted a cult following around the globe for decades, but has long struggled to parlay that dedicated fandom into revenue.

Complex rights holder arrangements in Japan, slow international releases and pirated versions with fan-created subtitles have all contributed to restrict the financial rewards for both anime TV series and movies in the global marketplace.

However, the latest Doraemon movie brought in nearly $100 million outside Japan, while Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ is nudging $50 million in the middle of a 74-country release.

Meanwhile, TV anime series are getting faster international distribution, including day-and-date releases on some platforms. With a shrinking home market, the pressure is on to better leverage the global fan-base that has helped make anime one of Japan’s most recognizable cultural symbols.  

The most successful Japanese anime film to date is Hayao Miyazaki‘s 2003 Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, which scored around 85 percent of its $275 million global tally in its home market. To put that in perspective, Stand by Me Doraemon took nearly double Spirited Away‘s overseas total over the course of 11 days in release in China alone.

Nevertheless, Toho, which handled its domestic release and international sales, thinks it’s too early to say that the overseas box-office conundrum for anime has been cracked.

I think it’s the strength of the film itself. And the Doraemon brand is very strong, especially in Asia,” Takemasa Arita of Toho’s international business department tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not like any animation from Japan is going to automatically succeed overseas now.”

Stand by Me Doraemon was no slouch at home, clocking up $70 million last year before landing $3.2 million in Italy, $3 million in Indonesia, $2.7 million in South Korea and $1.2 million in Thailand. It was the $5 million-plus, record-breaking take in the small Hong Kong market though that was a harbinger of its performance on the mainland.

Released on May 28 – due to political tensions, the first Japanese film in Chinese theaters in nearly three years – the cat-type robot racked up $86.9 million in less than two weeks. Although the rise of China as a box-office giant is a game changer across the global film industry, anime is getting paid elsewhere, too.  

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ is the 19th installment in the franchise and not the first to get a wide release internationally. 2013’s Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods did approximately 40 percent of its $50 million global box office outside Japan, and Resurrection ‘F’ is on course to surpass that. Co-produced with Fox International, the anime feature’s world premiere was held in Los Angeles in April. Still performing well in South and Latin American markets, it has U.S. and China releases to come.  

Toei Animation, the company behind Dragon Ball, is one of five studios, along with two ad agencies, that launched the Daisuki online anime platform in 2013, aimed at overseas fans of TV anime. At the end of last year, the private-public Cool Japan Fund invested around $8 million in the venture, forming the Japan Anime Consortium, to boost its worldwide presence.  

Many Japanese anime content holders are small companies, and it’s difficult for them to breach the global market, with all the costs of localizing productions,” a Cool Japan Fund spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. “Piracy has also been a major problem, and the plan is to release some anime series simultaneously with their broadcast on Japanese TV.”

In addition to pay-per-view offerings and original content, the Daisuki platform also sells anime merchandising, though it doesn’t disclose its viewing figures.

Japan’s population fell by more than 260,000 last year and is rapidly aging. Under-25s, the key demographic for anime fans, now make up only around 20 percent of the population, and their numbers are set to continue falling.

Amid those trends, the industry will have to learn to tap more of the global market if it is to survive in anything close to its present form.   

“Ghost in the Shell” to hit the stage with a Tokyo theatre adaptation

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RocketNews 24:

Similar to how some of Ghost in the Shell’s characters can slip their consciousness into new bodies, the enduring science fiction franchise has gone through many incarnations. Starting with the manga by creator Masamune Shirow, the enduring science fiction hit has been an animated theatrical feature, TV anime, and series of direct-to-video anime shorts, plus has served the basis for a handful of video games.

The franchise might even end up with a Hollywood live-action version with Scarlett Johansson playing the lead role. Before that, though, Ghost in the Shell is getting a stage adaptation scheduled to be performed in Tokyo.

Each format of Ghost in the Shell has its own tone and series of events, and the stage version will be taking its cues from Ghost in the Shell: Arise–Alternate Architecture, the updated TV broadcast version of the original video animation Ghost in the Shell: Arise,  with its focus on the circumstances leading up to the formation of Public Security Section 9, the department the series’ principal characters are eventually attached to.

Directing the stage version will be film director Shutaro Oku, who also directed plays based on the Persona 3 and 4 video games and is set to direct the stage adaptation of the Blood-C anime this summer.

Handling the script will be Junichi Fujisaku, well-versed in the world of Ghost in the Shell by virtue of serving as supervisor for Ghost in the Shell: Arise and screenwriter for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

The Ghost in the Shell stage show will open at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater (Tokyo Geijutsu Gekijo in Japanese), located in the capital’s Ikebukuro neighborhood, on November 5, and is scheduled to run until November 15. Exact times and ticket prices have yet to be announced, but organizers have put out a statement that no live stream or DVD of the performance will be available, so if you’re interested in seeing the world of Ghost in the Shell come to life, clear out your calendar and head to Tokyo this fall.