13 July 2015

Fusako Yusaki: Master of Metamorphosis

Fusako Yusaki (湯崎夫沙子, b. 1937) is a Japanese clay animation pioneer.  Most of the early independent Japanese animators who came of age in the 1960s are men.  Women animators in this period were often behind the scenes working as inbetweeners and assistant animators and rarely took a directorial credit.  Yusaki is the exception to this rule, but she made her name not in Japan but in Italy.  Her works range from the abstract to narrative works – though many combine elements of both.  Using a colourful palette of clay, her works are defined by her use of metamorphosis.  Scenes flow seamlessly into one another in a very organic style. 

Interview with Yusaki at the  Ca' Foscari Short Film Festival this year: 

Yusaki was born in the city of Moji-ku, one of the five cities that merged to create the city of Kitakyūshū in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1963.  She graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Joshibi University of Art and Design in 1960.  She then won a scholarship to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan in 1964 and has lived and worked in Milan ever since. 

She established her own independent studio – Studio Yusaki (スタジオ・ユサキ) – and is famous for her commercials and for her children’s television programming in collaboration with public broadcasters such as RAI (Italy’s public broadcaster) and the NHK.  Yusaki rose to fame in Italy in the 1960s for her popular series of clay animation advertisements for the liqueur Fernet-Branca (1968-1977), for which she won the Bagatto d’oro (the top prize for Italian commercials) in 1971. 

In the 1990s and 2000s, she became known for her sweet clay animation characters such as Peo (ペオ) the blue dog and the red and blue figures Naccio + Pomm (ナッチョとポム).  Naccio + Pomm have been released by the NHK in Japan as part of their Petit Petit Anime (プチプチ・アニメ) series for kids.    

Among her many honours, Yusaki has won a Bronze Lion from the Festival international de la créativité - Lions Cannes (1972) and the award for lifetime achievement from the Festival Internazionale del Cinema d'Arte in Bergano (2004).  She has been on the international juries at many festivals including Annecy (1989), Hiroshima (1990), Zagreb (2000), Espinho (2002), and Wissembourg (2003).

Yusaki continues to be very active on the animation scene, teaching workshops and participating in festivals as well as making films.  She teaches three-dimensional illustration at l’Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan and her films are part of the collection of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.


Animated Shorts – Claymation

1972  Pentalogia del mondo perduto 
1973  Ballata dell’omino stanco 
1974  Ominide
1975  Termituomo 
1983  Ama gli animali 
1984  Convergenza 
1986  Rotondo quadrato triangolo 
1988  Buongiorno 
1991  Stagioni senza parola  
1992  T.V.U.O.G. 
1998  Un giorno sì, un giorno no 
1998  Gioco di forme  
2000  Gioco di numeri 
2000  Gioco di colori 

Animated Series - Claymation

1989-90  Toki Doki – 13 x 2’  
1992-4  Talpy – 60 x 1’
1997  Peo plastilina – 13 x 30”  
1997-9  Peo in Svizzera, I parte – 13 x 2'  
2000-2  Peo in Svizzera” II parte – 13 x 2'  
2001-3  Naccio e Pomm – 13 x 5'  

Educational Film - Claymation

1984  Dipartimento Litosfera, 10 films 
1986  Unità 2, film for videodisc
1987  La struttura interna del computer – animated inserts
1998  Ippocrate – RAI Educational
2000  Ecolabel, emas, rifiuti – 3 x 30”

Advertisements – Claymation

1968-78  Fernet Branca – 56 ads
1976  Marcolin  
1977  Zurigo Assicurazioni
1978  Ariston  
1978  TVS sigla TV   
1980  Telenova sigla TV  
1981  A.I.E.D.  – 6 ads
1982  SAIWA  
1982  A.I.E.D.   
1983  Rete A sigla TV
1984  Rocher Ferrero  
1984  Bi-Bici  
1985  Mobilsol
1985  Denise  
1986  Ars Nova  
1987  Asgow  
1991  Valle d’Aosta
1991  3 x 2  
1992  Pubblicità Progresso – 5 films
1994  Volta pagina 
1995  Peo (sigla) 
1999  Glu-Glu (sigla)  
2001  Albero Azzurro (sigla) 
2001  Intermezzo per pubblicità  
2001  Colazione con Peo 

Animated Shorts - Cel animation

1985  L’incredibile Usil   

For more information:
Fusako Yusaki / Documentazione,” arskey: magazine d’arte moderna e contemporanea  

2015 Catherine Munroe Hotes