“Evangelion” director Anno predicts the fall of anime

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“Evangelion” creator Hideaki Anno believes the financial strain on young animators will lead the industry to decline within the next 5-20 years.

According to a variety of sources, Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno claims anime has reached its peak, and Japan will no longer be the animation center of the world within the next 5-20 years. He said one of the main reasons for this supposed decline is the incredibly low wages for starting animators, which was a little under $10,000 a year

Anno said Japanese animation will not disappear, but the quality of films will greatly decline. He said other Asian countries will capture this dominance, such as Taiwan’s Next Media Animation studio.

Of course, Anno’s claim is simply a claim. There is no solid proof that anime is dying. The decline of anime has been in discussion since the retirement of Studio Ghibli master Hayao Miyazaki and the subsequent down-scaling of the famed studio. However, acclaimed talents are still in the industry, such as The Boy and the Beast director Mamoru Hosoda and 5 Centimeters Per Second director Makato Shinkai, who have been mentioned in previous Animation Curation posts.

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Live-action director to helm Dreamworks’ “Beekle”

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Jason Reitman, director of live actions films such as “Juno” and “Up in the Air,” is set to direct Beekle, an upcoming animated film from Dreamworks Animation. A live-action director switching to animation is something of a rarity.

Jason Reitman, director of critically acclaimed live-action films Juno and Up in the Air is set to direct the Dreamworks film, Beekle. The news was announced via Deadline, a film news website.

The film will be an adaptation of the bestselling 2014 children’s book, The Adventures of Beekle: An Imaginary Friend

This is an interesting and bold experiment for Dreamworks. Not too often do live-action directors switch to animation or vice versa. One notable exception is Tim Burton, director of live-action films like Edward Scissorhands and director of animated films such as Frankenweenie. Others on this list include Wes Anderson among others.

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“Song of the Sea” wins at IFTA and the “genre” of animation

Song of the Sea became the first animated film to win top prize at the ITFA (Irish Film and Television Academy) on May 24. The IFTA  is an organization founded in 2003 that recognizes outstanding Irish film and television series.

Song of the Sea director Tomm Moore was delighted with the win and saw it as a victory for animation as a medium, not a genre. The Iron Giant and The Incredibles director Brad Bird has stated in the past his disdain for American audiences’ tendency to see animation as a genre, not a medium. He discussed at length how this viewpoint affects the quality of the films, saying:

“…if you have great quality animation, you usually have very safe, traditional kind of boring stories. If you have exciting stories, or clever writing, you usually have bargain basement animation.”

Similarly, in a  2013 Forbes article, writer Scott Mendelson discusses the “child’s play” of American animation. What can be done to get American audiences to realize the true potential of animation? At this point, seemingly nothing, unless a studio takes a risk and makes massive financial returns.

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“The Boy and the Beast” US distributer: FUNimation

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An image from the upcoming Mamoru Hosoda film, “The Boy and the Beast.” It will be released by FUNimation in North America in late 2015 with a wide release in early 2016.

A few weeks ago, The Animation Curation featured a preview for Mamoru Hosoda’s newest film, The Boy and the Beast, due for Japanese release on July 11. FUNimation Entertainment recently announced they will be distributing the film theatrically and on home video.

Previous to this news, the film’s US release date was unknown. But now The Boy and the Beast will be in select American theaters by the end of the year, and nationwide in early 2016.

Although early 2016 seems like a lifetime away, it will come soon. After all, I can still remember eagerly anticipating the subtitled release of Hosoda’s 2012 film,Wolf Children. The good news is the wait time between the Japanese release and US release is quite manageable: roughly 5-6 months. The wait time for Wolf Children was 11 months after its Japanese release.

Over time, I speculate that the wait time between anime film releases across countries will continue to shrink until Japanese releases debut the same day as subtitled versions and dubs.

Disney: recylcable scenes

In the past few days, many articles across the internet ranging from Time to Business Insider have been keen to point out Disney’s recycling of scenes in its animated features over the years. Want to see it for yourself? Watch this video:

Stunning, isn’t it? Choreographed movement in the smallest details from Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood, The Jungle Book, and The Aristocats seem to flow into one each other perfectly.

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“Watership Down” and Criterion

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The box art cover for the Criterion Collection edition of “Watership Down,” released on Feb. 24, 2015. The film is a politically-charged allegory capable of bringing as much an impact as alive-action film on Criterion would.

There needs to be a serious discussion about the Criterion Collection and animation. The Criterion Collection is an assortment of films varying in genre and country of origin selected because they are cinematically and artistically important. As of now, there are a total of 1o71 films in the collection. The 1982 politically charged Watership Down was welcomed in the Criterion Collection this February. However, it is only the second animated film present in the entire collection (the first being Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox).

Surely, there must be more animated films that are of a “continuing series of important classic and contemporary films” than these two. Watership Down is a shocking film, displaying moments of raw and unflinching violence performed by deceptively cute rabbits. What makes this film work so well is its masterful cinematography, poignant political themes and engaging characters. Fantastic Mr. Fox  is a great movie, but it is mostly in Criterion because Wes Anderson directed it; prior to Criterion’s selected of the film, he already has a handful of live-action films in the collection.

It would be amazing for the animation community and the film community at large if more animated features were on Criterion. Why? Mainly because animated films can be and have proved to be as powerful and artistically important as live action films.

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Bugs Bunny back for new animated movie

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Bugs Bunny stars in “Rabbits Run,” a direct-to-video animated film set fro release on Aug. 4. How will the classic cartoon character manage as a New York City cabbie? This film will answer that question and certainly include exploits of many other Looney Tunes characters as well.

Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang are set to star in a direct-to-video film, Rabbits Run, due to release on August 4. According to Cartoon Brew, this is the first Looney Tunes direct-to-video film in nine years. The film is about Bugs as he takes on the profession of cab driving in New York City. Watch the trailer here, from Collider’s website.

Traditionally animated direct-to-video features are rare today. An exception is Marvel, who have made more than a few in the past decade, the most recent being 2011’s Thor: Tales of Asgard. Similarly, DC Universe has made 23 direct-to-video films since 2007.

It is an interesting observation to note that the majority of traditionally animated direct-to-video films are superhero-based. For now, the Looney Tunes are back in the mix!

Sand animation in India

People know about sandcastles: these can be built for fun at the beach or be constructed into artistic creations. But sand animation? That is actually an existing at form, and it is happening at a cultural festival in Bhubaneswar, India.

According to The Times of India, the 10 minute short film is about rituals associated with Nabakalebar, a religious ritual which involves sacred idols. Read more about the preparation for the festival, which is a tourist draw.

Returning to the innovation of sand animation in Bhubaneswar, this says a great deal about the possibilities for creativity in animation. Although sand animation is not new (check out a an early example here from the 1960s), it is incredibly uncommon, so any news about the art form is significant.

Readers: next time you visit the beach or encounter desert sands, know there is a possibility for animation anywhere and with anything.