28 September 2011

Lizard Planet (2009)

My kids just love this animated short by Tomoyoshi Joko. Not only is Lizard Planet (2009) bright and colourful, but it brings together two things my kids are fascinated by: lizards and outer space.

In this universe, cell-like planets float about the galaxy like bubbles in the sea. We follow the journey of a planet with a lizard on top as he delights in jellyfish, octopuses, and other “planets” passing by with glaciers and other natural objects on their backs. The lizard planet has a garden with trees and a small house on its back. He seems to be enjoying himself until his idyll is broken by the noise of a satellite dish.

Fascinated by the noisy satellite dish, the lizard planet follows it to a region of the galaxy full of space junk. There are rocket ships and floating remnants of human existence such as a lone chair. In this region, the lizard planets look old and weary and are weighted down with skyscrapers and freeways without a speck of greenery. As they pass by, our hero lizard planet’s back also transforms into a metropolis as he stares agape at the spectacular cityscapes around him. One of the ancient lizard planets gestures for him to come with them as they sacrifice themselves to a giant, sun-like orb. A fire lizard perched on the sun blows flames at the helpless lizards in an apocalyptic vision.

Our lizard hero miraculously survives this ordeal but has lost his planet. As he floats in a sea of junk, he spots another cell-like planet and grasps it, his body rounding it like a foetus in the womb. The film ends on an upbeat note with the lizard planet in a galaxy full of other lizard planets covered in lush greenery and flowers.

If one reads the lizard planet as representing our own planet as a living, breathing organism, then Tomoyoshi Joko’s film can be read as an environmentalist warning not to destroy our own environment. The film’s positive message of hope for the future led to the film being included in the recent screening event Films for Hope at the Japan Society in New York. Enjoy the film for yourself on Joko’s Youtube channel.

Tomoyoshi Joko (official website) studied animation under Taku Furukawa (Phenakistoscope, Jyōkyō Monogatari) at the Tokyo Polytechnic University. Since completed a graduate degree in March 2009 he has been working as an independent animator and teaching part time at Tokyo Polytechnic University. Joko and his wife, the acclaimed animator Hiroco Ichinose (The Last Breakfast, Ha・P, Ushi-nchi), have recently teamed up under the name DecoVocal (デコボーカル) in order to produce more ambitious animation projects together.

2006 Afro
2006 God’s Gift
2007 Mr. Cloud and Mr. Rain
2008 Buildings
2009 Lizard Planet
2009 Kanagawa Dog