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Anime legend carving new niche

‘We aim to shock the Americans with our own works.’

Sept 12,2009
Shigeyuki Hayashi
Forget Pixar and Disney.

Shigeyuki Hayashi - also known as Rintaro, a leading director of Japanese anime - is carving out his own niche in the world of animation.

“We don’t want to be compared to Hollywood,” Hayashi said during a press conference earlier this week, referring to a new project he’s working on in collaboration with Korea. “Every time people ask me how we are different from Hollywood, it feels like I am losing to Hollywood.”

Hayashi spoke on Tuesday at the 2009 Digital Content Conference held in the COEX convention center in Seoul, where he shared his views on animation production and discussed new approaches to the field.

Hayashi established his career in the 1970s, eventually becoming one of Japan’s leading TV anime directors. He is often regarded as one of the founding fathers and most beloved figures in the industry.

Born in 1941, Hayashi got his start in animation at the age of 17 while working for the Toei Doga studio (now known as Toei Animation).

“I started off in this industry as a ‘poor’ animator,” Hayashi said during the press conference. “When I say poor, I am referring to the lack of resources, lack of time and lack of profits that the animation industry was facing at the time. Money was scarce and schedules were tight, but our staff members never gave up and we pushed ourselves to reach our highest potential, aiming for the best.

“Eventually, the field of animation transformed from a minor to a major industry, and our works started to gain popularity. Our span of creativity then increased rapidly.”

Though he got off to a quick start, it was while working for Osamu Tezuka’s anime powerhouse Mushi Productions that he truly came into his own as an animator.

Hayashi’s latest animation film, “Yona Yona Penguin,” marks his first stab at a full computer-graphics animation film and follows his renowned works “The Galaxy Express 999” and “Metropolis,” among others. His latest movie is the product of a unique collaboration between the French production company Denis Friedman Productions and the Japanese anime studio Madhouse. The film features an innovative, 3-D animated format that also integrates the two-dimensional techniques Hayashi honed throughout his career.

“This exciting blend will be presented as a new style of 3-D animation never seen before,” Hayashi said. “I reckon it’s about time to try something new.”

In terms of the technology, Hayashi said he relied heavily on input from international producers but also “took on the project in my own hands, spending a year drawing the production sketches and outline for the entire film.

“I was determined to add to the film a ‘Japanese’ flavor to distinguish it from the works of groups such as Pixar,” he added.

The new approach is part of the project he’s working on with Korea, which aims to further develop and promote Asia’s animation industry and provide some new competition to Hollywood.

The project is based on traditional folklore. Hayashi said it will be highly differentiated from films by Pixar and Walt Disney.

“I am aware of America’s huge, impressive market,” he said, “so we aim to shock the Americans with our own works.”


By Hyon Mi-kyung Contributing writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr]



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