Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sticking to Hand-Drawn

There's one animation icon who isn't going the pixel route:

Revered Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki has no intention of swapping his pencil for computer graphics and will keep hand drawing his films for as long as he can, he said on Sunday.

Miyazaki's new animation "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea", already a big box office success in his home country, is vying for top prize at the Venice film festival

The way it works is, you can make any film you want as long as your box office holds up. Make your distributor a mint, and your distributor will cater to your every whim. Produce a bomb, and the company soon stops humoring you.

It also helps when you can keep your labor costs down:

... 90% of [Japanese] animators and directors are freelancers, and those who have trouble making ends meet are expected to face increasing hardships as they grow older. In particular, there are veteran creators in their 40s and 50s who are getting by on ... $30,000 (US) a year ...

So march on, Miyazaki, and keep the hand-drawn torch alive.


Anonymous said...

I think Miyazaki once intimated that he'll never have a film with more than 10% computer animation... or something along those lines. Howl's Moving Castle being the most.

Unknown said...

I applause Miyazaki's dedication to hand-drawn animation.

Anonymous said...

Studio Ghibli's in a rare position for an animation studio in Japan. First, Ghibli's been financially self-sufficient ever since they started licensing Totoro merchandise. Licensing gives Ghibli the financial freedom to make the films that they want.

Second, Ghibli keeps animators on staff instead of freelancers. I think they were the first Japanese animation studio to do this.

That said, when Studio Ghibli looked for new hires in 2004, their starting salary was only 167,000 yen per month. That suggests that the older artists working at the studio make a higher wage, but the starting point is still low. :^(

Anonymous said...

Ponyo is a terrific film--saw it about a month and a half ago. Not as great as Totoro, but not as boring as Princess Mononoke. Why is it Miyazaki is one of about 3 Japanese animation directors who can tell a compelling story?

Anonymous said...

Why is it Miyazaki is one of about 3 Japanese animation directors who can tell a compelling story?

If the other two directors on your list are also Ghibli directors (like Isao Takahata, Hiroyuki Morita or Yoshifumi Kondo), then the answer must be Ghibli's unique financial independence among Japanese animation studios.

That said, I think there's more than three good directors of animated stories in Japan. Off the top of my head, I can name Koji Morimoto, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Satoshi Kon, and Katsuhiro Otomo.

I also know someone who loves every film Mamoru Oshii ever directed, though Oshii gets a little too contemplative for my tastes.

Anonymous said...

167,000 yen per month!?!?!?

Holy shitcakes. How could you EVER make rent?

That's about $1500 a month. Yeah, good luck making ends meet in Tokyo on that!

Anonymous said...

How could you EVER make rent?

That's about $1500 a month. Yeah, good luck making ends meet in Tokyo on that!

Again -- that's the starting wage for young Studio Ghibli employees in 2004. It's not clear what the older Ghibli artists make, or if the young Ghibli employees get a salary increase after completing their nine months of training.

Maybe the Ghibli kids live the same way as Industrial Light & Magic kids. ILM is located near San Francisco, where rents are not cheap. I've heard of kids getting paid $33,000/year to work at ILM ten or twelve years ago. I've also heard stories of twenty ILM kids splitting the rent twenty ways on a house, or living 2.5 hours away from work so that they can afford rent.

Older, more seasoned ILM artists probably make more than $33,000/year, just as older, more seasoned Ghibli artists probably make more than 169,000 yen/month.

Steve Hulett said...

Tom Sito told me a couple of years ago, after visiting Studio Ghibli, that few of the artists made a hell of a lot of money. Some grizzled veterans were fatalistic and cynical about it.

That's about as specific as I can get, since I have no hard statistics.

Khylov said...

Time to add 2 cents. Literally, because that's all it's going to be worth:

Animation studios are like castles: Does the king decide to groom loyal soldiers, or does he hire out mercenaries?

If the former, his house may be stronger for it, more diligent in their work ethic and more willing to put the extra hours in... but it may also breed insularity and elitism, which can kill fresh ideas. Plus, it gives management a chance to know a persons habits: Will they work harder without a payraise? Will they do OT at any time, unannounced? How long can we keep them off contract til we've groomed them properly? In other words, it gives the powers-that-be opportunity to know how far to wrench the screws to whatever -inth degree on a soldier.

If the latter - freelance - it may be more fluid as far as maneuverability for the troops - which means more mental freedom to perform tasks, and it may mean they work harder in order to remind their paymaster that they are a worthy investment for the next job... but it also means less loyalty is to be had. And more than likely means that deadlines are stricter because - to be honest - freelance houses tend to have less cohesion when it comes to scheduling; hence, hectic deadlines and even more hectic OT.

Damn... seems either way that depending on who the master carpenter is, both options can lead to the age-old formula: Fish on a pole held out in front of the sled dogs.

Here's to hoping that animation houses find suitable shepherds that can lead their troops confidently and conscientiously, esp. in these times of woe and want.

..Right, and the point of the article: Traditional art in Japan has been around for... what, how many centuries? I can see why there's still the preference for it - if something is done as well traditionally, then why find a more complicated way to achieve the same? The West is all about innovation and invention - very rarely about how to achieve the same with simpler, tangible methods.

It's an adage: You would need a natural disaster to destroy a museum, but only a drop of water to crash your computer.

And, hand drawn has had a longer history than pixels. Something to be said about having a tangible connection to the past.

Site Meter