14 September 2011

Shigeru Tamura’s Top Animated Films

The fantastic world of Shigeru Tamura’s illustrations and animations is a curious combination of science fiction landscapes with 19th and early 20th century characters that look more European than Japanese. When I looked up Tamura’s response to the Laputa 150 poll, I half expected the list to include a lot of Eastern European animation because the young boy in URSA minor BLUE is called Yuri. While the list does include Yuri Norstein’s celebrated classic The Hedgehog in the Fog (1975), Tamura’s list actually reveals his fascination with a wide spectrum of animation styles.

Tamura lists 15 animation favourites in no particular order. He clearly loves early animation such as Winsor McCay’s groundbreaking film Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), the early Felix the Cat series, and Betty Boop’s comical outing as Snow White (1933). He also displays a fondness for classic animation series such as Mickey Mouse when he was at his best in the 1930s and the Tex Avery classics (Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Droopy, Screwy Squirrel, et al.).

As Tamura works mainly with hand drawn and computer animation, I was surprised to see such a variety of stop motion animation on his list. From the pioneering stop motion work in the original King Kong movie to the surreal worlds of Jan Svankmajer’s Alice (1988), the Brothers Quay's Street of Crocodiles (1986) and the bolexbrothersThe Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993), Tamura clearly has an admiration for innovative filmmakers. It’s particularly interesting to note his choice of Wallace and Gromit’s A Grand Day Out (amusingly called “Cheese Holiday” in Japanese) as a favourite rather than Nick Park’s more polished later Wallace and Gromit films. A Grand Day Out is pleasingly rough around the edges and has a more outlandish plot than the others.

What distinguishes Tamura’s own work for me has always been his bold use of colours and his fantastic imaginary worlds. I can see how the psychedelic colours of Yellow Submarine (1968), the imaginative worlds of Fantastic Planet (1973) and Laputa: Castle in Sky (1986), and the poetic splendour of Night of Bald Mountain (1933) would appeal to Tamura’s poetic sensibilities. If you haven’t seen the films and series on Tamura’s list, I highly recommend seeking them out.

Gertie the Dinosaur
(恐竜ガーティ, Winsor McCay, 1914)

Felix in Hollywood (1923)
Early episodes of the classic Felix the Cat series
(1920年代頃の猫のフィリックス, produced by Pat Sullivan, c.1920s)
The classic series ran from 1919-36
Paramount Pictures (1919-1921)
Margaret J. Winkler (1922-1925)
Educational Pictures (1925-1928)

The Band Concert (Wilfred Hand, 1935)
Mickey Mouse Series 1935-1939
(1935年-1939年頃のミッキーマウスシリーズ, Wilfred Jackson/David Hand/Walt Disney)

Snow White (Betty Boop Series)
(ベティの白雪姫, Dave Fleischer, 1933)

Night on Bald Mountain
(禿山の一夜, Une nuit sur le Mont Chauve, Alexandre Alexeieff/Claire Parker, 1933)

Happy Go Nutty (1944)

The works of Tex Avery
(テックス・アヴェリーの一連作品, 1942-1958)

Hedgehog in the Fog
(霧につつまれたハリネズミ, Yuri Norstein, 1975)

Street of Crocodiles
(ストリート・オブ・クロコダイル, Brothers Quay, 1986)

(アリス, Jan Švankmajer, 1988)

Laputa: Castle in the Sky
(天空の城ラピュタ, Hayao Miyazaki, 1986)

Fantastic Planet
(ファンタスティック・プラネット, La Planète sauvage, René Laloux, 1973)

Yellow Submarine
(イエロー・サブマリン, George Dunning, 1968)

Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out
(ウォレスとグルミット チーズホリデー, Nick Park, 1989)

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb
(親指トムの奇妙な冒険, Dave Borthwick, 1993)

King Kong
(キングコング, Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)

To support this independent artist you can order his work at cdjapan:

URSA minor BLUE / Animation Soundtrack
URSA minor BLUE (soundtrack on CD)