08 January 2024

NIAFF 2023 Archive/アーカイブ: Dwarf Studios’ Talk /「ドワーフ」トーク


In addition to its feature film competition, the Niigata International Animation Film Festival (NIAFF) also shines a spotlight on the latest trends in the animation industry. One exciting development in the past two years has been the production journey of the innovative stop motion animation Hidari (2023), which has taken social media by storm. One of the stop motion studios involved in its production, Dwarf (Domo-kun, Komaneko, Pokemon Concierge), was also celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023. 

At the centre of the Hidari project is director Masashi KAWAMURA (川村真司) of Whatever Co, an ambitious entrepreneur who grew up watching the words of creators Ray Harryhausen, Kihachirō Kawamoto, and Phil Tippett. He had a dream of creating a feature length stop motion samurai epic, so he partnered with Dwarf and Tecarat (Gon, the Little Fox, Pukkulapottas and Hours in the Forest) to take his creative vision to the next level. The stop motion is done at Dwarf and Takeshi YASHIRO (八代健志) of Tecarat designs and carves the wooden puppets.

They completed a short film as a pilot for the feature film project and this screening at NIAFF helped them get the word out about their crowdfunding campaign to get the funds to make the dream of a full feature length tale a reality. Check out the official YouTube channel to set how they made it. The pilot has gone on to win awards at festivals around the world.


The story is the legend of Jingorō Hidari (左 甚五郎), the Japanese equivalent of a Renaissance man who was a sculpture, carpenter, painter, architect, storyteller, and artist. As he name, “Hidari” (left) indicates, he was lefthanded and had a missing right arm. There are many tales as to how he lost his right arm, often involving jealous rivals. Yashiro’s puppet of Hidari has a giant, wonderfully intricate left hand that the animators use in many creative ways for fight scenes. 

The Talk Event at NIAFF 2023 featured Kawamura, Yashiro, and the acclaimed Dwarf Studios director Tsuneo GŌDA (合田 経郎) and producer Noriko MATSUMOTO (松本紀子). They also brought the puppet of Hidari for audiences to see the amazing detail that went into its design. The NIAFF archive clip starts with a slideshow of the Hidari event, then shows excerpts from the Dwarf Studios discussion about the magic of the technique of stop motion (komadori in Japanese) with two of the studios most well known original characters, Domo-kun and Komaneko on the display table. If you do not understand Japanese, please use the captions auto-translate function on YouTube for the language of your preference.


In the run up to the second instalment of NIAFF in March 2024, the festival is sharing highlights of last March’s festival every Tuesday on its YouTube Channel. Subscribe to see more. 

 2024 Cathy Munroe Hotes