24 February 2012

Puppet Maker Sumiko Hosaka's Animation Top 20

Sumiko Hosaka  (保坂純子, b. 1930) has worked as a puppet artist since 1953.  Throughout her career she has made puppets for live theatre, TV, and commercials, but is perhaps best known for the puppets she made for the stop motion animation of Tadanari Okamoto.  She has also made puppets for the films of Fumiko Magari and the Noburo Ofuji Award winning team N&G Production.
Her first experience making puppets for stop motion animaton came in the early 60s when she was part of the original staff at Tadahito Mochinaga’s MOM Productions.  She was on one of the puppet-making  teams that worked on MOM Pro's first project for Rankin/Bass The New Adventures of Pinocchio (1960-61).  Starting in the late 1960s, she began working for Okamoto, her former colleague at MOM Pro, after he had set up his own independent studio Echo Productions.   She made puppets for many of his most significant stop motion works from The Mochi Mochi Tree (1972) to The Magic Ballad (1982).  She also occasionally worked for Kihachirō Kawamoto – including his greatest work Book of the Dead (2005).

Sumiko Hosaka currently teaches puppet making techniques at Laputa Art Animation School.  Examples of her freelance work can be seen in her profile at Puppet House.

Selected Filmography

The New Adventures of Pinocchio (Rankin Bass, 1960-61)
Back When Grandpa Was a Pirate (Tadanari Okamoto, 1968)
Home My Home (Tadanari Okamoto, 1970)
The Flower and the Mole (Tadanari Okamoto, 1970)
The Monkey and the Crab (Tadanari Okamoto, 1972)
The Mochi Mochi Tree (Tadanari Okamoto, 1972)
Praise Be to Small Ills (Tadanari Okamoto, 1973)
Five Small Stories (Tadanari Okamoto, 1974)
Are wa dare? (Tadanari Okamoto, 1976)
The Magic Ballad (Tadanari Okamoto, 1982)
The Little Bear Oof (Fumiko Magari, 1983)
The Fourth of the Narcissus Month (Suisenzuki no Yokka, Nozomi Nagasaki , N&G Production, 1990)
Home Alone (Rusuban, Nozomi Nagasaki, N&G Production, 1996) – won Noburo Ofuji Award
Book of the Dead (Kihachiro Kawamoto, 2005)

Hosaka’s picks for the Laputa 150 poll in 2003 speak for themselves: a cross-section of some the greatest films in world animation.  Reflecting her interest in puppets, the list is heavy with examples of stop motion animation by Jiri Trnka, Karel Zeman, Roman Kachanov, Jan Svankmajer, and, of course, Okamoto and Kawamoto.  At #1, Hosaka placed the Soyuzmultfilm classic The Little Grey Neck (1948).  In Japan, it was released on DVD together with Ivan Ivanov-Vano’s The Humpbacked Horse (1947/75) as part of The Ghibli Museum Library.  It is also available to buy as a download here.

Konyok-gorbunok & Seraya Sheika / Animation
Order from cdjapan

1.   The Little Grey Neck (灰色くびの野鴨, Vladimir Polkovnikov/Leonid Amalrik, USSR, 1948)
2.   The Emperor's Nightingale (支那の皇帝の鴬, Jiri Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1948)
3.   Prince Bayaya (バヤヤ王子, Jiri Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1950)
4.   The Hand (, Jiri Trnka, Czechoslovakia, 1965)
5.   Inspiration (水玉の幻想, Karel Zeman, 1948)
6.   The Fantastic World of Jules Verne (悪魔の発明, Karel Zeman, 1958)
7.   Tale of Tales (話の話, Yuri Norstein, Russia/USSR, 1979)
8.   Hedgehog in the Fog (霧につつまれたハリネズミ, Yuri Norstein, Russia/USSR, 1975)
9.   Cheburashka (チェブラーシカ, Roman Kachanov, Russia/USSR, 1971)
10. Dimensions of Dialogue (対話の可能性, Jan Svankmajer, Czechoslovakia, 1982)
11. Faust (ファウスト, Jan Svankmajer, Czech Republic, 1994)
12. The Fall ( 落下, Aurel Klimt/Derek Shea, Czech Republic, 1999)
13. The Cowboy’s Flute (牧笛, Tei Wei/Qian Jianjun, China, 1963
14. The Demon (, Kihachirō Kawamoto, Japan, 1972)
15. The Magic Ballad (おこんじょうるり, Tadanari Okamoto, Japan, 1982)
16. Creature Comforts (快適な生活, Nick Park, UK, 1989)
17. Nausicaä of the Valley of theWind (風の谷のナウシカ, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 1984)
18. The Man Who Planted Trees/L'homme qui plantait des arbres 
      (木を植えた男, Frédéric Back, Canada, 1987)
19. Otesánek (オテサーネ, Jan Svankmajer, Czech Republic, 2001)
20. A Christmas Dream (おもちゃの反乱, Karel and Borivoj Zeman, Czechoslovakia, 1946)

The Little Bear Oof (くまの子ウーフ, 1983)

The Little Bear Oof (くまの子ウーフ/Kuma no ko Ūfu, 1983) is a stop motion short animation directed and animated by Fumiko Magari (真賀里文子).  Magari got her start in stop motion working under the animation pioneer Tadahito Mochinaga at MOM Productions on the Rankin/Bass series and specials.  She also worked on a number of notable projects for Tadanari Okamoto including A Wonderful Medicine (1965), Welcome, Alien (1966), The Flower and the Mole (1970), Chikotan (1971), and The Monkey and the Crab (1972).  In addition to her work for animated films, Magari has made animation for television, and according to her official profile, has made over a thousand commercials (and counting!).  She has her own animation studio Magari Jimusho (Magari Office) and teaches at the Laputa Art Animation School.  Be sure to check out an insightful interview with this pioneer of Japanese stop motion animation in the Februrary 2011 issue of Stop Motion Magazine.

The Little Bear Oof is based on the children’s storybook by celebrated author Toshiko Kanzawa (神沢利子, b. 1924) and was made available on Youtube by Magari Jimusho last spring.  It is the tale of an imaginative young bear who takes pleasure, as children do, in the wonders of nature (admiring large trees, chasing honey bees) and the simple pleasure of life (honey on toast, picking flowers with his rabbit friend Mimi-chan).  He is concerned about the welfare of others – in an amusing sequence one would never see in an American animation, he spontaneously relieves himself and then apologizes when he realizes he is peeing on ants.

The story is episodic, following a typical day in the life of a child living in the countryside.  Little lessons are imparted along the way – like washing one’s hands before eating – but on the whole the film is just a slice of life tale of an idyllic childhood.  The settings are quaint – woodcut furniture and a wood-burning fire – all very reminiscent of the world of Beatrix Potter.  During the course of the film, Oof (Ūfu) learns from a chicken where eggs come from.  The only conflict in the film comes in the form of a mischievous fox who distracts Oof by telling him that he is made of pee (complete with an flashback to Oof peeing on the ants) and steals Oof’s egg.  Oof chases after him, but fails to get the egg back and cuts his foot on something sharp.  He sits down to cry, but soon recovers from this incident and there is a wonderful sequence of him rolling down the hill and giggling all the while.  The film ends with Oof’s father coming home and Oof telling him that he’s realized that he’s not made of pee, but made of himself. 

It is a sweet tale that will captivate preschoolers as it is written using the logic of children in this age group: a time when the world around us is a mystery waiting to be discovered and understood.  The puppets are lovely and resemble children’s toys.  They were lovingly handcrafted by Sumiko Hosada (保坂純子, b. 1930), who also worked with Magari at MOM Pro and Okamoto’s studio Echo Pro.  Hosada also teaches puppet design at Laputa.  The art director Hiromi Wakasa (若佐ひろみ) is famous for her work on many Okamoto and Kihachirō Kawamoto productions.  The icing on the cake are the children’s songs written and performed by Tomoya Takaishi (高石ともや) and his folk band The Natarsha Seven (ザ・ナターシャー・セブン). 

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012
Watch for yourself (in 2 parts):

Atsushi Wada wins Silver Bear at the Berlinale

It was been a great week for Japanese independent animation with Atsushi Wada picking up the Silver Bear at the Berlinale for Best Short Film for his latest work The Great Rabbit (グレットラビット, 2012) which was produced by the French company Sacrebleu Productions.  The Jury commented:

This dreamlike film uses a unique, surreal language to tickle our unconscious while showing us the confusion of the modern world in animated form. Using a delicate hand drawn style, Atsushi Wada decodes reality with absurd sequences of characters caught in time. (source)

The Japan Times, who have a wonderful photograph of a smiling Wada accepting the award, quoted Wada as saying “I am proud to win this award. I feel relieved because I used to think my works were rather hard to understand.” 

The film has been hand drawn frame-by-frame on paper in Wada’s signature style, which you can learn more about in my November 2010 interview with him or in my review of his CALF DVD Atsushi Wada Works 2002-2010.

Many top animators have won the Silver Bear in the past including Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart in 1956 for Rhythmetic, Paul Driessen in 1981 for On Land, at Sea and in the Air, and Ishu Patel in 1985 for Paradise.

Here is the official trailer for The Great Rabbit:

Isamu Hirabayashi’s beautiful animated short 663114 (2011) also received a nod at the Berlinale in the Generation Section in which the jury is made up of eleven children and seven teenagers.  They said of 663114:

Visuals and sound melded together flawlessly to create a philosophical and layered masterpiece. The director conveys his message, beyond all conventions. Through a simple metaphor he portrays the survival of a culture, even in the face of catastrophe. (source)

Hirabayashi used the platform to remind people around the world of the seriousness of the crisis in Fukushima: "Children are being exposed to dangerous radioactivity a year after the earthquake. It is our responsibility as Japanese adults to protect the children."

I am proud to announce that I am curating the animation selection for Nippon Connection this year.  Atsushi Wada will be our special guest and we will have the honour of screening Hirabayashi’s 663114.

You can order Atsushi Wada's DVD from CALF (JP/EN), British Animation Awards (UK), or Heeza (FR/EN)

16 February 2012

The Black Cat (黒ニャゴ, 1929)

The Black Cat (黒ニャゴ/Kuro Nyago, 1929) is a record talkie from the silent film period.  A record talkie was a silent film played synchronously with a phonograph record.  Like today’s music videos, record talkies were designed as promotional devices for record companies and their songs.  People who enjoyed The Black Cat animation could have bought the record and played it on their own gramophone (record companies also manufactured gramophones) at home.

The children’s song The Black Cat was written by Kōka Sassa (佐々紅華, 1886-1961), husband of the popular Asakusa Opera singer Ruby Takai (高井 ルビー, 1904-unknown), with lyrics by Otowa Shigure (時雨 音羽, 1899-1980).  It was released by Victor Records and features the vocal talent of child star Hideko Hirai (平井 英子, b. 1918).  Hideko Hirai also features with Ruby Takai in the Kōka Sassa hit Chameko’s Day, which was made into an animation directed by Kiyoshi Nishikura (see review) in 1931.

On the other side of the Pacific, Walt Disney had made splash a year earlier with the release of Steamboat Willie (1928) which he co-directed with Ub Iwerks.  While not the first animated film to have a synchronous soundtrack, Steamboat Willie was certainly the most successful and marked the debut of the iconic Mickey Mouse.  Sound on film technology was much slower to come to Japan – not only because of a lack of technology but because of the tenacity of the benshi tradition.  The first animated film with a synchronous soundtrack would not be made in Japan until 1933: Kenzō Masaoka’s lost film The World of Power and Women (Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka).  The first step towards sound films in Japan were the record talkies, and The Black Cat is believed to be the first of its kind.

The film is directed and animated by the legendary Noburo Ōfuji (大藤 信郎, 1900-61) in his signature chiyogami cutout animation style (cutouts using traditional Japanese paper).  Due to the expense and relative scarcity of celluloid in Japan in this period, cutouts were a common method for making animated films.  It was shot on 9.5mm film on a Pathé Baby.   I watched the film on the Kinokuniya DVD Ōfuji Noburō: Kūkō no Tensai (2010). The film was digitized by the National Film Center and synchronized with the original Victor record.  Both the soundtrack and the film show their age with much popping and scratching, but as so many films from this era have been lost we are lucky that the film survives in a relatively complete condition.

The opening shot is of chiyogami cherry blossom trees shedding a few petals.  Some boys walk along and sing of their desire to have a black cat with a red collar who dances.  A black cat appears and sings and dances for them.  The cat then introduces her brother, a tabby cat, who also sings and dances for them.  The boys also join in with the dancing and singing.  As with any successful children’s song, The Black Cat has a catchy tune and is repetitive.  It alternates between song and dialogue.  One can imagine children of the era mimicking the cat’s dance, not to mention the cry of the cat as she sings.  The bouncy rhythm of the song would also encourage clapping.  The second refrain might have inspired the children to leap like the cat’s tiger ancestors, while the third refrain might have gotten a bit wild with children pretending to throw a mouse just like the cat.

Examples of mattes being used in The Black Cat

The character movement is less complex than later Ōfuji films, but it is still very charming.  Ōfuji uses two main set-ups for the piece: a cherry tree orchard and a bamboo forest.  Some of the more complicated sequences involve spinning chiyogami paper and the “tracking” shots of characters walking.  I put “tracking” in brackets because it is not actually the camera that is moving, but the paper under the camera between shots – but this animation technique creates the illusion that the camera is moving over the scene.  As is typical for films of this era, mattes are used in lieu of close-ups.  There was no such thing as a zoom lens in the 1920s and it would have been more cost effective / time efficient to matte the image than to change the camera set-up for a close-up. All in all, it is a delightful piece of early animation history.

In addition to the DVD Ōfuji Noburō: Kūkō no Tensai, The Black Cat appears on the Digital Meme Box Set Japanese Anime Classic Collection.  A sample of the film with English subs can be screened on Crunchyroll.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012

Norio Hikone’s Animation Top 20 (2003)

The characters created by illustrator and animator Norio Hikone (ひこねのりお, b. 1936) are instantly recognizable to young and old alike in Japan.  A graduate of Tokyo University of the Arts, Hikone got his start working as an animator/inbetweener for Toei Animation (Alakazam the Great, The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon) and Mushi Pro (Kimba the White Lion, Jungle Emperor Leo). 

In 1966, he founded Hikone Studios and made a name for himself doing animated shorts for TV as well as a variety of commercial work.  He has done a great deal of animation for the NHK including the long-running popular programmes Minna no Uta (Everybody’s Song) and Manga Nippon Mukashi-banashi (Manga Nippon Folk Tales).  His client list runs quite long, but he is perhaps best known for his delightful Karl Ojisan (Uncle Karl) TV spots for the Meiji Seika snack food “Curls”.  These ran from 1986-90 and are a source of much nostalgia for folks who grew up in Japan in the 1980s.  Norio Hikone also contributed to Kihachirō Kawamoto’s renku animation Winter Days (2003).  Check out his official website to see more of his endearing characters in action (JP only).

Here is the list Hikone contributed to Laputa’s Top 150 Poll in 2003..  Hikone himself featured on many lists, including that of the late Masahiro Katayama.

Le roi et l’oiseau 
(王と鳥 やぶにらみの, Paul Grimault, France, 1948)

Mr. Bug Goes to Town (aka Hoppity Goes to Town)
( バッタ君町に行く, Dave Fleischer, USA, 1941)

Hakujaden (The Legend of the White Snake) / Animation

Legend of the White Serpent
(白蛇伝, Taiji Yabushita/Kazuhiko Okabe, Japan, 1958)

Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom
(プカドン交響楽, Ward Kimball/Charles A. Nichols, USA, 1953)

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

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor
(ポパイと船乗りシンドバッド, Dave Fleischer, USA, 1936)

Yuki no Joou (The Snow Queen / Snezhnaya koroleva) / Animation

The Snow Queen
(雪の女王, Lev Atamov et al., Russia, 1957)

Around the World with Willy Fog
(80日間世界一周, Luis Ballester, Spain/Japan, 1987)

The Old Mill (Silly Symphonies)
(丘の風車, Wilfred Jackson, USA, 1937)

The Spider and the Tulip
(くもとちゅうりっぷ, Kenzō Masaoka, Japan, 1943)

Blinkity Blank
(線と色の即興詩, Norman McLaren, Canada, 1955)

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

Frederic Back Collection: L'homme Qui Planet Ait Des Arbres / Le Fleuve aux grandes eaux / Crack! / Animation

The Man Who Planted Trees/L'homme qui plantait des arbres
(木を植えた男, Frédéric Back, Canada, 1987)

Kitty’s Graffiti
(こねこのらくがき, Taiji Yabushita/Yasuji Mori, Japan, 1957)

The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon
(わんばく王子の大蛇退治, Yugo Serikawa, Japan, 1963)

Animal Treasure Island
(どうぶつ宝島, Hiroshi Ikeda, Japan, 1971)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
(風の谷のナウシカ, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 1984)

Yellow Submarine
(イエロー・サプマリン, George Dunning, 1968)

The Demon
(, Kihachirō Kawamoto, Japan, 1972)

The Japan Society presents Love Will Tear Us Apart

Bad romance, blind love, amour fou! This spring, the Japan Society of New York will screen a series of twisted, obsessive, heart-blazing love stories from Japan and Korea. Love Will Tear Us Apart, the 6th annual Globus Film Series, will run from March 2 to 18 and include 22 feature films and 2 shorts.  It is a mixture of cutting edge modern fare and avant-garde classics.  The programme includes such internationally acclaimed directors as Hirokazu Koreeda, Kōji Wakamatsu, Nagisa Oshima, Kim Ki-duk and Lee Chang-dong

New Yorkers will have the opportunity of enjoying the US premiere of Shinya Tsukamoto’s Kotoko and the world premiere of  Kōji Wakamatsus Petrel Hotel Blue.  Special guests will include actress and model Hyunri (Romance, Freeter ie wo Kau), film scholar John Berra (Nanjing University), and film historian and curator Go Hirasawa.  I saw Romance, the short by Toshiro Sonoda starring Hyunri at the Nippon Connection sponsored screenings at Japan Week in November and it's a wild ride.  John Berra is the editor of the forthcoming publication Directory of World Cinema: Japan 2, which features an essay that I wrote on the great puppet master Kihachirō  Kawamoto.


Friday, March 2

7:30 PM   Kotoko (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2011)
preceded by short film Romance (Toshiro Sonoda, 2010)
+ MAKE LOVE party with Hyunri

Saturday, March 3

2 PM   Air Doll (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2009) 
4:30 PM   My Dear Enemy (Lee yoon-ki, 2008) 
7 PM  Vital (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2004)
9 PM   A Snake of June (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2003) 

Sunday, March 4

5:30 PM  Vibrator (Ryūichi Hiroki, 2004) 
7:30 PM   M (Ryūichi Hiroki, 2006) 

Wednesday, March 7

7 PM  Petrel Hotel Blue(Kōji Wakamatsu, 2012) 
9 PM  Running in Madness, Dying in Love(Kōji Wakamatsu, 1969)

Thursday, March 8

7 PM  Tale of Cinema (Hong Sang-soo 
9 PM  The Woman Who Wanted to Die (Kōji Wakamatsu, 1970)

Friday, March 9

7:30 PM  Villain (Lee Sang-il , 2010)
Saturday, March 10

3 PM  Time (Kim Ki-duk, 2006)
5:15  PM  Bad Guy( Kim Ki-duk, 2001) 
7:30  PM  Dream (Kim Ki-duk , 2008)
9:30 PM  Happy End (Jung Ji-woo, 1999)

Friday, March 16

7:30 PM  Snakes and Earrings (Yukio Ninagawa , 2008)
10 PM In the Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976)

Saturday, March 17

3 PM  Chaos (Hideo Nakata, 2000)
5:30 PM  Vegetarian  (Lim Woo-seong, 2009) 

Sunday, March 18

4:30 PM  Minazuki (Rokuro Mochizuki , 1999)
7 PM  Oasis (Lee Chang-dong, 2002)

More information on the festival as well as past series and events is available at:

The Japan Society Blog will also be covering the series during its 16-day run.

11 February 2012

The World of Kato Kunio

Hachioji Yume Art Museum Special Exhibition: The World of Kato Kunio
八王子市夢美術館特別展 加藤久仁生展
Hachioji Yume Art Museum
10 February – 25 March 2012

On Friday, the Hachioji Yume Art Museum launched its special exhibition celebrating the career so far of Oscar-winning animator Kunio Katō (加藤久仁生, b. 1977).  Since winning the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for La maison en petits cubes (つみきのいえ/Tsumiki no ie, 2008), Katō has keep a relatively low profile internationally.  He has; however, indeed kept busy creating an animation campaign in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Sekisui Heim (セキスイハイム) among other projects for his company ROBOT.  There have recently been rumours that Katō may be involved in the production of the animated adaptation of Khalil Gibran’s poetry collection The Prophet (Roger Allers, Sylvain Chomet, et al., 2013).

still from Sekisui Heim animated CM

A graduate of Tama Art University, where Katō was introduced to animation by the influential animator Masahiro Katayama, Katō quickly became the darling of Japan’s indie animation scene with his short films The Apple Incident (2001), Fantasy (2003) and his web series The Diary of Tortov Roddle (2004).  Before winning the Oscar, he had already been the recipient of many laurels including twice winning the Yuri Norstein Prize at Laputa as well as top awards at international festivals including the Japan Media Arts Festival, Hiroshima, and Annecy.

The exhibition, which was put together in collaboration with the designer Makoto Koizumi (小泉誠), features sketches, storyboards, and original illustrations from the production of La maison en petits cubes.  One can follow the production process step-by-step and learn about how this exceptional animated short came to life.  In addition, the exhibition features work Kato has done since winning the Oscar – sketches from Atogaki (あとがき/Postscript) a regular feature by Kato published in the animation magazine MOE.

 The highlight of the exhibition is Katō’s latest animated short  Jōkei (情景, 2012) which he made especially for this event.  In addition, Kenji Kondo, the composer of the La maison en petits cubes soundtrack, and the Kuricorder Quartet (栗コーダーカルテット) will perform music from the film at nearby Ichō Hall on February 16th

For more information and a slideshow of images from the event, go to Yumebi.com (JP only).

Hachioji Yume Art Museum                                                                                                                   
2F View Tower Hachiouji
 8-1 Youkamachi, Hachioujishi
Tokyo 192-0071
Tel.  0426-21-6777 Fax 0426-21-6776
For directions to the event see Tokyo Art Beat (EN/JP)

Kawamoto – Norstein: The Puppet Master and the Painter-Animator

Kawamoto – Norstein: The Puppet Master and the Painter-Animator
Forum des images, Paris
23-25 March 2012

Last month, I learned from ZewebAnim that the Forum des images was putting together a tribute to the friendship between the late puppet animator Kihachirō Kawamoto (1925-2010) and his friend and colleague, the great Russian animator Yuri Norstein (b. 1941).  I am planning on attending this event.

Kawamoto– Norstein: The Puppet Master and the Painter-Animator has been coordinated by Forum des images programmer Isabelle Vanini and Japanese animation expert Ilan Nguyen (Tokyo University of the Arts).  Yuri Norstein will be in attendance at many of the events and will discuss his craft as an artist as well as his unique relationship with Japan.  In Nguyen’s introduction to the programme, he quotes Norstein as saying that attending the event will be “a double pleasure because it is for my friend Kawamoto Kihachirō, a man with whom I could communicate without being aware of language barriers.”

Kawamoto himself had actually been to the Forum des images on three occasions (1999, 2003, 2005) as part of their festival Nouvelles images du Japon (New images of Japan).  Although Kawamoto’s works appear on the surface as being very “Japanese”, he actually was inspired by animation from around the world – particularly that of Czech puppet animator Jiří Trnka, whom he visited in Prague in 1963.  I write about this in a chapter on Kawamoto in the forthcoming book Directory of World Cinema: Japan 2 (Intellect Books, ed. John Berra, 2012). Available for pre-order:

Kawamoto was very active in the animation community.  His works won awards around the world including the Noburo Ofuji Award (6 times!), the prestigious Winsor McCay Award 1988), and he was the winner of the very first ASIFA Prize in 1985.  Kawamoto was also president of the Japanese Animation Association (JAA) from 1988 until 2010 (the first president was Osamu Tezuka, the current president is Taku Furukawa).

The indisputable master of puppet animation in Japan, this event will showcase most of Kawamoto’s directorial oeuvre, except for that rare film Rennyo and his Mother (蓮如とその母, 1981) and Restaurant of Many Orders (注文の多い料理店, 1991), which Kawamoto completed for his friend Tadanari Okamoto when he died of cancer.  Briar Rose, or The Sleeping Beauty (いばら姫またはねむり姫, 1990) is also not on the programme, but as this film is widely available on DVD this is no great loss.

Other rare treats on the programme include Tadanari Mochinaga’s Little Black Sambo and the Twin Brothers (1958), which features puppets made by Kawamoto.  This was one of the last short films Mochinaga made before establishing MOM Productions in 1961 and doing the puppet animation for Rankin/Bass.  In addition to screening all of Norstein’s major works, the programme features works that Norstein worked on as an animator or co-director such as Roman Kachanov’s The Mitten (1967) and Ivan Ivanov-Vano’s  Seasons (1969).  

It is a must-see event for all fans of animation.  I look forward to dusting off my rusty French and seeing some of my French readers there!

I have translated the main details of the programme into English - minus the film descriptions and with the addition of a few editorial comments of my own.  All films will have their original soundtracks and French subtitles.  I have put links to Nishikata Film reviews when available.  More details and ticket information here (FR only).

23 March 2012 - 20:00

Opening Night: Kawamoto – Norstein: The Puppet Master and the Painter-Animator
Soirée d’ouverture « Kawamoto - Norstein, le marionnettiste et le peintre-animateur »
Special Guest : Yuri Norstein

Self Portrait (セルフポートレート, Kawamoto, 1988, 1’)
Autoportrait de Kawamoto Kihachirô (1988, 1min) 

Winter Days (Kawamoto, et al., 2003, 65’, 35mm)
Jours d’hiver (Fuyu no hi) de Kawamoto Kihachirô, et al. 

The Poets of Winter Days (Toshikatsu Wada, 2003, 65’, 35mm)
Les Poètes de Jours d’hiver (‘Fuyu no hi’ no shijin-tachi)

24 March 2012 – 14:30

The Art of Puppet Animation: A Programme of Short Films by Kihachirō Kawamoto

"L’art des marionnettes animées" Programme de courts métrages de Kawamoto Kihachirô

Inspired by Japanese puppet traditions, these films adapt literary and theatrical classics and have won awards at major festivals around the world.


The Demon (, Kawamoto, 1972, 8’, 35mm)

Démone (La) l Oni l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

Dōjōji Temple (
道成寺, Kawamoto, 1976, 19’, 35mm)

Temple Dojoji (Le) l Dôjôji l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

House of Flame (
火宅, Kawamoto, 1979, 19’, 35mm)

Maison en flammes (La) l Kataku l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

To Shoot without Shooting (不射之射, Kawamoto, 1988, 25’, 35mm)

Tirer sans tirer l Fusha no sha l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

24 March 2012 – 16:30

"The Major Works": Programme of Short Films by Yuri Norstein
« Les travaux majeurs » Programme de courts métrages de Youri Norstein
Special Guest: Yuri Norstein

The Heron and the Crane (Цапля и журавль, Norstein, USSR, 1974, 10’, 35mm)

Héron et la cigogne (Le) l Tsaplia i juravl l de Youri  Norstein

The Hedgehog in the Fog (
Ёжик в тумане, Norstein, USSR, 1974, 10’, 35mm)

Hérisson dans le brouillard (Le) l Lojik v toumane l de Youri  Norstein

Tale of Tales (
Сказка сказок, Norstein, USSR, 26’, 1979, 35mm)

Conte des contes (Le) l Skazka skazok l de Youri  Norstein

The Overcoat ((
Шинель, Norstein, 1980, 30’, black and white, video)

Manteau (Le) l Shinel’ l de Youri  Norstein

For more than 30 years, Norstein and his wife Franceska Yarbousova have been working on an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat.  30 minutes of this unfinished film will be screened. 

24 March 2012 – 19:00

An Evening with Yuri Norstein, hosted by Ilan Nguyen and Isabelle Vanini

Rencontre avec Youri Norstein animée par Ilan NGuyên et Isabelle Vanini

Introduced to Japan in the early 1980s, the œuvre of Yuri Norstein attracted an unparalleled level of critical acclaim in that country.  Over the years, he has been a frequent guest to Japan with the Norstein Prize for animation being handed out semi-annually at the Laputa International Animation Festival in Tokyo as well as various books and exhibitions devoted to his life’s work.

This special event will be include the presentation of a number of documents and is advertised as an opportunity to better understand this singular filmmaker through the prism of his relationship with Japan.

24 March 2012 – 21:00

Book of the Dead (死者の書 , 2005, 70’, 35mm)

Livre du mort (Le) l Shisha no sho l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

25 March 2012 – 14:30

"Early works and collaborations": Programme of Short Films by Yuri Norstein
«Les débuts et les collaborations» Programme de courts métrages de Youri Norstein
Special Guest: Yuri Norstein


The Mitten (Варежка, Roman Kachanov, USSR, 1967, 10’, 35mm)

Moufle (La) l Varezhka l de Roman Katchanov coanimé par Youri Norstein 

25th October, the First Day (25-е — первый день, Norstein/Arkadiy Tyuin, USSR, 1968, 35mm)

25 octobre - premier jour l 25-e - pervyi den’ l de Youri  Norstein


The Battle of Kerzhenets (Се́ча при Ке́рженце, Ivan Ivanov-Vano/Norstein, USSR, 1971, 10’, 35mm)

Bataille de Kerjenets (La) l Secja pri Kerjenetz l de Youri Norstein et Ivan Ivanov-Vano 

Seasons (Времена года, Ivan Ivanov-Vano, USSR, 1969, 9’, 35mm)

Saisons (Les) l Vremena goda l d’ Ivan Ivanov-Vano / codirigé et animé par Youri Norstein 


The Fox and the Hare (Лиса и заяц, Norstein, USSR, 1973, 10’, video)

Renarde et le lièvre (La) l Lisa i zayets l de Youri  Norstein


38 Parrots (38 Попугаевые, Ivan Ufimetsev, USSR, 1976, 8’ video)

38 perroquets l 38 popugaev l D’Ivan Ufimtsev / animé par Youri Norstein


Autumn (excerpt) (Andrei Khrjanovsky, USSR, 1992, 8’, video)

Automne (extrait) l Osen’ l d’ Andreï Khrjanovski / animé par Youri Norstein  Khrjanovski

25 March 2012 – 16:30

The Oeuvre of Kihachirō Kawamoto: A Lecture by Ilan Nguyen and Serge Ségura

L’oeuvre de Kawamoto Kihachirô: Conférence d'Ilan NGuyên et Serge Ségura

Special Guest: Yuri Norstein


Illustrated by previously unpublished documents, photographs and film excerpts, this lecture aims to present a wide overview of Kawamoto’s life’s work.  From his debut as an animator to the 2007 opening of the Iida City Kawamoto Kihachirō Puppet Museum in southern Nagano Prefecture, the presentation will include information about his little known work included illustrated books, commercial work, theatrical puppet shows, and more. 

25 March 2012 – 19:30


Living with Puppets (Takashi Namiki, documentary, 1999, 52’, video)

Une vie avec les marionnettes l Ningyô to ikiru l de Namiki  Takashi

This rare documentary was made by Takashi Namiki of Anido, who has made it his life’s work to document the animation history of Japan.  This film is about the Kawamoto + Okamoto Puppet Anime-Shows which were designed by Kawamoto and his friend and colleague Tadanari Okamoto as a showcase for their unique puppet films.

25 March 2012 – 21:00

"Puppets and Other Techniques": A Programme of Short Films by Kihachirō Kawamoto
« Marionnettes et autres techniques » Programme de courts métrages de Kawamoto Kihachirô

Little Black Sambo and the Twins  (ちびくろさんぼとふたごのおとうと, Tadahito Mochinaga, 1957, 17’, video)

Chibikuro Sambo et les deux jumeaux l Chibikuro Sanbo to futago no otôto l de Mochinaga  Tadahito


The sequel to Mochinaga’s Little Black Sambo (ちびくろさんぼのとらたいじ, 1956) sees Sambo rescuing his twin younger brothers from a vulture.  The puppets for this film were designed and handmade by Kawamoto.

Anthropo-Cynical Farce (犬儒戯画, Kawamoto, 1970, 8’, 35mm)

Farce anthropo-cynique l Kenju giga l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

cutout animation /puppet animation

Travel (, Kawamoto, 1973, 12’, 35mm) 

Voyage (Le) l Tabi l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

cutout animation

A Poet’s Life (詩人の生涯, Kawamoto, 1974, 19’, 35mm)

Vie d'un poète (la) l Shijin no shôgai l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

cutout animation

The Breaking of Branches is Forbidden (花折り, Kawamoto, 1968, 14’, 35mm)

Ne cassez pas les branches l Hanaori l de Kawamoto  Kihachirô

puppet animation


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