Thursday, June 08, 2017

Indigo Ignited: Official Trailer

The official trailer for D`Art Shtajio`s "Indigo Ignited" pilot film has arrived. Just a little bit more and we`ll be finished with production! And after that ... more big announcements!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Judgment and Justice

I`ve finally released my 2015 short film “Judgment and Justice” publicly online so anyone can view it. Before I share the video link, a quick back-story.

Pre-production for this short began not long after graduating college over 10 years ago. Frustrated about the lack of work I was getting and the overall state of my industry, I drew a few violent images in my sketchbook and though “I should try to make the sickest short-film I possibly can.”

(First sketches for "Judgment and Justice" drawn in 2006)

Throughout my (now 10 year or so) career as an animator I kept coming back to this short-film whenever I had free time. It`s not perfect my any means, …certain idea`s had to get cut, and the quality varies as some sequences were animated 8 years ago and some 2 years ago. (In the case of the image below, I actually re-did some of my earlier drawings toward the end of the project … though many sequences I just left as-is)

(Left: Drawn in 2009, Right: Redrawn in 2014.)

But never the less, I`m glad I saw it through to completion, and can say confidently that it accomplished my original goals for the project. To make an animated short which pushes the boundaries as far as I could possibly take them, as a direct challenge to anyone who would be offended by, or try to censor someone else`s drawings. (If you would like to read more about the creation process, check out the earlier blog-post I wrote which went into much more detail.)

One final note: While I believe films need to speak for themselves, and no one should have to “explain their film” for it to be enjoyable, I think watching “Judgment and Justice” with a rough idea of what I intended the characters to (in part) represent will result in a more comprehensive viewing experience. So with that said…

The Family = Conservatism/Hypocrisy
The Police Officers = Those who would abuse power
The Black Police Officer = Liberalism expressed “the right/nice” way.
The Killer = Liberalism expressed via Violence/Anarchy.

Please be advised THIS VIDEO CONTAINS EXTREME (animated) GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please do not watch it, or complain about it later, if that upsets you. It is in NO WAY intended for children. ADULTS ONLY! Now without further Ado, here is the link to view “Judgment and Justice”  on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

「D`Art Shtajio」 and 「Indigo Ignited」

Major announcements in this post, so I`ll get straight to the point:

I have partnered with my colleague Arthell Isom and his brother Darnell to create a new animation studio called D`Art Shtajio.
Arthell has been living in Japan and working as a background artist on anime for many years. His resume includes projects like Gintama, Naruto Shippuden, Lupin III, A Letter to Momo, and Short Peace.

Darnell is lead designer at Legacy Effects in California, who`s worked on a number of major films including Avatar, Pacific Rim and TMNT.

At D`Art Shtajio, we plan to continue working in our respective fields, as well as acting as a bridge between the Japanese animation industry and outside markets. 

Here`s the deal: Are you looking to produce an anime-style commercial, music video, pilot film, segment for your show, or full anime series? Contacting the Japanese studio`s directly can be daunting, and frankly speaking, rarely works out. The culture of the Japanese anime industry is unique, and doesn`t work like the rest of the world. If you contact D`Art Shtajio however, where Arthell and I know how to navigate and produce things in this industry, we will be able to bridge that cultural gap and help you complete your project.

We`re also proud to announce that D`Art Shtajio`s first project is an anime pilot-film based on David Pinter and Samuel Dalton`s indy comic “Indigo Ignited.”
With storyboards by Yoshiharu Ashino (Director of D.Grey-man Hallow, First Squad, Tweeny Witches) and animation-direction by Asuka Tsubuki (Animator for One Punch Man, Parasyte, X-men) it`s shaping up to be really great, and we`re looking forward to sharing it with everyone. 
Here is a short list of Indigo Ignited`s main staff (More news about the staff, as well as voice actors will be revealed in the upcoming weeks.)

Director\Project manager: Henry Thurlow
Art Director: Arthell Isom
Character Designer: Rejean Dubois
Animation Director: Asuka Tsubuki
Storyboard Artist: Yoshiharu Ashino
Original Creators: David Pinter and Samuel Dalton
Production Manager: Kyohei Nishikawa
Please look forward to the Indigo Ignited Trailer coming out in January, and the completed pilot-film shortly there-after in early 2017!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Anime" vs "Not Anime"

There`s been this back and forth between western anime fans over what exactly qualifies as “anime” and what “isn`t anime” … I guess the general idea goes that “Any animation that is produced by Japanese people in Japan FOR Japanese people is anime … and everything else isn`t.” … So by that logic, despite Japanese artists having worked on the animation, things like the original transformers series, G.I. Joe, etc would *not* be anime … while things like “Dragonball” and “Cowboy Bebop” *would* be anime.

Before the 90`s I suppose this conversation may have been fun, and slightly valid. “Bugs bunny is American animation, Speed Racer is anime … but what is That Last Unicorn?” Japanese artists made it … but it was produced by and for the western world … so which one is it?

Now-a-days though, globalization has made this conversation completely useless.
Look, if you want to put your “The Last Unicorn” DVD on a different shelf from your “anime” collection … be my guest. Have  blast. But really getting stressed out over this, or for reddit to actually remove a page due to a non-Japanese person`s involvement in the process is complete insanity.

Let me speak directly to, and completely debunk you “this isn`t anime” clowns right now, by asking you a question:

At what level in the creation process must non-Japanese people be involved with to *disqualify it* as anime?

Is it In-between animator? If an American artist, let’s say, does a whole lot of in-between animation for an anime would it not be anime anymore? 

If so then uhh ohh! Looks like Naruto and Tokyo Ghoul aren`t anime anymore because I did in-between animation for them.

How about the next step? If an American works on secondary key animation for an anime … would *then* it stop being an anime? If so then Uhh OHH!! Looks like Naruto and Tokyo Ghoul STILL aren`t anime cause I did secondary key animation on both of those as well.

How about Key animation? If a western artist does key animation for an anime does it stop being an anime? If so then Uhh Ohh, Naruto *STILL* isn`t an anime cause I did Key animation for an episode. And “Sweetness and lightning” and “Nurse Witch Komugi-chan” aren`t anime either.

Maybe up till now your response is “Well, fine Henry. Foreigners can work on the animation process … but once they start getting higher up that’s when it stops.” …Ohh really? I personally haven`t worked as animation director, but there *have* been westerns who have. (Look it up. True story.) … are the anime they worked on *not* anime?

How about higher up? Like Director? … Uhh Ohh! Looks like Tekkon Kinkreet isn`t an anime anymore! What is it by the way? American animation? WOW! I as an American get to claim Tekkon Kinkreet as an animation made by and for my culture??? Marvelous! (Sarcasm folks. Sarcasm.)

So now (here comes the grand finale) maybe you still want to say “Well … if it`s FOR the Japanese market then it`s still anime! So even though Tekkon Kinkreet was directed by an American … it`s still Japanese anime! HA!” ………hmmmmm ……… OK. But then that would mean that both Genocyber and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, both of which were released in America first (Vampire Hunter D even created in *English* first w/ the Japanese language track added as an afterthought much later on.) both clearly produced with the west in mind over Japan, would both *NOT* be anime. To which I would again ask … so does that mean VHD:Bloodlust is an American animation? I imagine the Japanese animators at Madhouse will be very surprised to hear that.

So yea. There is no more “anime” vs “not anime” … the world, thanks to globalization, has totally merged (or at least is in the process of merging) So please stop this nonsense. LeSean Thomas is creating Cannon Busters and Children of Ether. Cruchyroll and NetFlix are producing their own series. Foreign artists are getting hired more and more in Japan. I myself am even directing a 5 minute pilot film in Japan w/ Japanese artists called “Indigo Ignited”…… sorry to disappoint all you haters, but “Anime is animation is anime is animation” … it`s all merged.

Ohh … and Reddit, for christ’s sake, seriously, don`t take down anymore posts. Ridiculous man…Completely ridiculous.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

About my short-film...

I`ve been making a short film titled “Judgment and Justice” for a while (9 years actually) and it`s finally almost finished … so I thought I`d make a blog post about the film and my motivations for making it.

I`ll just be right up front about this: I made this for myself, more like a piece of fine-art that made me (as an artist) happy and didn`t take “what the viewers would like to see” into account at all. That`s what I do at work:  Think about what the viewers would like, what would be most enjoyable for them, etc.  I feel like sometimes artists just need to do a project for themselves though, and not allow influences like producers/deadlines/what-is-socially-acceptable-subject-matter/etc hold them back. They just need to “make what they want to make.” That being said, I`m really happy that I`m seeing the project through to its completion and am looking forward to finally showing it to people.  I will warn you all right now, this short film is going to be *really* violent, so if that`s something that turns you off I`ll be blunt: DO NOT WATCH IT. For everyone else, I think you`ll enjoy it a lot!

Motivation: I think most people who know about me (and this blog) know that although I`m working on anime in Japan (which I love!), I don`t like the working conditions at all and regularly speak out against the industry. While that`s true, the first industry that *really* pissed me off was the American industry. I`ll avoid ranting about that for now… the point is, right after graduating college it became immediately clear to me that I was not going to be making kick-ass TV series and feature films as I had been hoping while studying animation in school. This upset me. I was so sure that, because of the growing popularity of Japanese anime in America, we (America) would definitely start producing our own anime-esc series. (I loved Vampire Hunter D, Battle Angel, Lodoss War, Demon City Shinjuku, Genocyber, Ninja Scroll, Yoma, Violence Jack, etc … and couldn`t wait to get into an animation studio and start making something similar which … while not “Japanese” … would still fit right next to those other series on the store shelves! ) Maybe something like the HBO “Spawn” series? (Which I was also a fan of) “Yea! I`m sure we`ll start making more series like that soon … so I`ll get involved in those!” (Is what I though. Ha!)

Obviously I was utterly ignorant to reality, which I can now look back on and laugh at … but at the time I was furious. “What?? I studied this hard and all that’s available to me are little flash-animation jobs for websites and commercials? And even those jobs are super competitive and I`m barely getting any work!? WTF??” (I would eventually get to work on Adult-Swim`s Superjail … which was amazing. So the industry didn`t betray me entirely. Though there`s still an embarrassing lack of genuinely good/cool/high-quality productions being produced in America. )

During college I made a thesis film I`m pretty proud of. Here it is:

While I`m glad I actually completed the thesis on time and in the way I wanted to, from the very beginning of the project I was censoring myself.  I`ve always been into horror movies, violent anime/games/etc.  and that`s what I *really* wanted to make. I wanted the characters to all use absolutely obscene language and rip each other to pieces. I thought doing that would hurt my chances of getting a job at a studio though … so I decided to keep it PG13. 

By this point some of you are probably thinking “What is wrong with this guy?! Why`s he so into violent cartoons??” … and that’s fair enough. I don`t really have a comeback for that. All I`ll say is that some people get into animation because they`re charmed by Disney/Pixar films. Some people get into it because they see an artsy independent short film and are drawn to the Indy scene. …I personally got into it because I saw *this* and though “Yup. That`s awesome. I need more! And I need to be involved!” :

In the end it turned out that censoring myself was meaningless. That thesis didn`t directly lead to me getting any of my first jobs, nor was it accepted into any film festivals, and so I thought to myself “Just once I should make a piece of animation that is *100%* the kind of psycho violence I really want to make but will obviously *never* get a chance to unless I make it as an independent personal project.” 

So I took my frustrations, all the imaginative imagery I could muster up, researched “the most controversial/unsettling films of all time” and got started. (Among the films I researched btw were the Japanese “Guinea pig saga” underground horror/torture films, and Pier Paolo Pasolini`s “Salò.” I can`t recommend them as “great entertainment” but if you`re a sick fuck you might want to check them out.) 

I`d work on the film for a few weeks, then get freelance work (or distracted) and not touch it for a month … then go back and work on it again. There were a few months that went by where I didn`t touch it at all, but eventually something would inspire me to start working on it again. (Hearing stories about artists like Mike Diana, and more recently Megumi Igarashi, who were both arrested on obscenity charges for simply making art would outrage me and get me back working on the film immediately. I feel like, similarly to those artists, I`m also pushing the boundaries of “what is acceptable to show” with this short film … so I feel a sort of personal connection with their struggle.)

Anyway, slowly but surely I completed each one of the animation sequences, backgrounds and post production … and now, 9 years later, this side project that I`ve kept going back to (and will clock in at around 4 minutes and 50 seconds) is finally about to be finished. I only have 2 sequences left and then a handful of backgrounds. Because I`ve worked on it for so long, and cut and cropped it along the way, the quality fluctuates quite a bit. (Some of the drawings were done 7 years ago, and some I drew just last week.) 

In any case, please look forward to it!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Introduction(Part 3 of 3): From here on out...

All that (in part 2) said though, the overall responses from the interviews have been very positive. I was even contacted by a few studio`s wondering if I`d like to work for them, and decided to take one of them up on their offer to work as a Genga-man (Keyframe animator/layout artist). … I`ll go more into that in a moment.
Since then, western animators who have worked in the Japanese animation industry have been coming out of the woodwork. (Granted, there`s still only a few of us.  It`s not tremendously common. But it`s really great to finally find out about these people. I did a bunch of research before coming to Japan trying to find if any westerners had worked on anime … and could find very little information. Now that information will be easily available via a simple Google search.) even interviewed 3 of them (partially because it`s just an interesting story … but partially, I`m sure, to see if anyone would contrast the dismal picture I painted of the industry.) I found these interviews just as interesting and informative as anyone else, and suggest you check them out if you haven`t already. 

These guys do paint a brighter picture then I did for sure. Though I would like to point out that none of them (because they are amazing artists … so this isn`t an insult) never worked as in-between animators (the specific job title I was critiquing in my own interview) 

… in fact, the *only* other westerner I could find to have ever worked as a douga-man in this industry (for an extended period of time) would be David Roy. And wouldn`t you know it, his opinions on the industry are almost word for word identical to mine:

Whether or not you care about the foreign worker`s opinions of this industry or not, here are 2 people whose opinions I`m quite sure you *do* care about:

Hideaki Anno:

Hayao Miyazaki:

….both saying basically the same thing (just in different ways and in not so many words) … that “This industry needs to change.” That the status quo and anti-social robot animators who are utterly not participating in society (nor the economy for that matter because they are all poor and have no families) who simply follow orders and are not willing to fight for (or even speak up about the need for) changes in the studios (and the anime projects themselves) *WILL* lead to the collapse of this industry.

…Whew…. That was a good rant. Here`s a picture of me and Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto to break up the tension:
……which unfortunately I have to censor because it was requested I “Please not upload this online.” Hahahaha. Awesome.

Anyway, I would have liked to stick around Pierrot for a while longer to work on few more of their projects (The “Boruto” film, final episode of Naruto, etc) but at the end of the day, getting out of the “douga-man” position and moving up to “Genga-man” as *immediately* as possible was more important than anything else. As an artist is was time anyway. Working as a douga-man requires you to work efficiently, cleanly, and steady your hand to get super-crisp lines … but it doesn`t require you to focus on things like composition or style(because the keyframe animator has already set those things up for you before you get the scene.) … Now that I`m focusing on those things, I feel like I`m getting better as an artist every day. 
 The studio I`m working for is a small studio called “Bang Bang Animation.” (Website and facebook coming soon… maybe?) We`re not producing our own stuff, but help out other studio`s. What series I work on changes constantly, but I`ll post about episodes I`ve worked-on on Twitter so be sure to follow me there. (Link on the right)

I`m not sure what`ll happen from here on out. I might keep working in the anime industry, or I might leave once I feel I`ve learned what I can after working as a genga-man for a while. I feel like my social life (or lack thereof) will eventually be the deciding factor for what comes next. (Though, the artist in me is stubborn. Very stubborn. Until he`s satisfied I don`t think I`ll be going anywhere.) 
 At the moment, ironically, the project I`m most excited about isn`t an anime I`m working on at all, but my own short film which I`ve been working on for a long time, and is finally very close to completion. I`ll talk about that in my next blog post.