How the Astonishing Sushi Scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Was Animated: A Time-Lapse of the Month-Long Shoot

Since the moviegoing public first started hearing it twenty years ago, Wes Anderson's name has been a byword for cinematic meticulousness. The association has only grown stronger with each film he's made, as the live-action ones have featured increasingly complex ships, trains, and grand hotels — to say nothing of the costumes worn and accoutrements possessed by the characters who inhabit them — and the stop-motion animated ones have demanded a superhuman attention to detail by their very nature. It made perfect sense when it was revealed that Isle of Dogs, Anderson's second animated picture, would take place in Japan: not only because of Japanese film, which opens up a vast field of new cinematic references to make, but also because of traditional Japanese culture, whose meticulousness matches, indeed exceeds, Anderson's own.

Most of us first experience that traditional Japanese meticulousness through food. And so most of us will recognize the form of the bento, or meal in a box, prepared step-by-step before our eyes in Isle of Dogs, though we may never before have witnessed the actual process of carving up the wriggling, scurrying sea creatures that fill it.




One viewing of this 45-second shot is enough to suggest how much work must have gone into it, but this time-lapse of its 32-day-long shoot (within a longer seven-month process to make the entire sequence) reveals the extent of the labor involved. In it you can see animators Andy Biddle (who'd previously worked on Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, and before that his animated The Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Tony Farquhar-Smith painstakingly positioning and repositioning each and every one of the bento's ingredients — all of which had to be specially made to look right even when chopped up and sliced open — as well as the disembodied hands of the sushi master preparing them.

Shooting stop-motion animation takes a huge amount of time, and so does making sushi, as anyone who has tried to do either at home knows. Performing the former to Andersonian standards and the latter to Japanese standards hardly makes the tasks any easier. But just as a well crafted bento provides an enjoyable and unified aesthetic experience, one that wouldn't dare to remind the consumer of how much time and effort went into it, a movie like Isle of Dogs provides thrills and laughs to its viewers who only later consider what it must have taken to bring such an elaborate vision to life on screen. If you want to hear more about the demands it made on its animators, have a look at the Variety video above, in which Andy Gent, head of Isle of Dogs' puppet department, explains the process and its consequences. "It took three animators, because it broke quite a few people to get it through the shot," he says. "Seven months later, we end up with one minute of animation." But that minute would do even the most exacting sushi master proud.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Blade Runner Getting Adapted into a New Anime Series, Produced by Cowboy Bebop Animator Shinichiro Watanabe

You may remember, in the run-up to the theatrical release of Blade Runner 2049 last October, that three short prequels appeared on the internet. Black Out 2022 (above), the most discussed installment of that miniature trilogy, stood out both aesthetically and culturally: directed by famed Japanese animator Shinichiro Watanabe, it expanded the reality of Blade Runner through a form that has drawn so much from that universe over the previous 35 years. "I just want an animated bladerunner series now," says the current top-rated comment below that video, "this was magical." And so, a year later, the answer to the prayer of that commenter (and clearly many other viewers besides) has appeared on the horizon: a Japanese animated series called Blade Runner — Black Lotus.

Overseen by Watanabe in the producer role and directed by Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki, the latter of whom worked in the art department on Black Out 2022, the new series will take place in 2032, between the events of the short and those of Blade Runner 2049.




"It will also include some 'established characters' from the Blade Runner universe, but that could mean all sorts of things," writes The A.V. Club's Sam Barsanti. "Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard would already be in hiding at that point after fathering the miracle replicant baby, so it could be about him going off on some cool guy adventures, but Deckard doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who goes on cool guy adventures. Ryan Gosling’s K probably wasn’t 'born' yet, since he’s a Nexus-9 replicant and those weren’t created until later in the 2030s, but we don’t know for sure."

Perhaps supporting characters from both movies, "like Edward James Olmos’ Gaff (he might still be an LAPD cop) or Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace (he’s definitely hanging around, being an evil rich guy)," will show up. Whatever happens, the thirteen episodes of Blade Runner — Black Lotus will certainly have no small amount of both familiarity and surprise in store for fans of Blade Runner, as well as those of Watanabe's other work. That goes especially for his philosophical space bounty-hunter series Cowboy Bebop, itself the source material for a new live-action television series on Adult Swim, who will air Blade Runner — Black Lotus at the same time as it's streamed on anime site Crunchyroll.com. No release date has thus far been announced, but odds are the show's debut will happen some time in 2019 — the perfect year for it, as everyone thrilling to the prospect of more Blade Runner already knows.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Alan Watts Dispenses Wit & Wisdom on the Meaning of Life in Three Animated Videos

Since his death in 1973, the popular British philosopher, writer, speaker, and onetime-Episcopal-priest-turned-student-of-Zen-and-wildly-eclectic-countercultural-spiritual-thinker Alan Watts has become a cottage industry of sorts. And if you were unfamiliar with his work, you might think—given this description and the mention of the word “industry”—that Watts founded some sort of self-help seminar series, the kind in which people make a considerable investment of time and money.

In a sense, he did: the Alan Watts Organization (previously known as the Alan Watts Electronic University, the Alan Watts Center, or the Alan Watts Project) maintains Watts’ prolific audio and video archives. Founded in the last year of his life by Watts and his son Mark, the Organization charges for access to most of his work. The collections are pricey. Albums of talks on such subjects as Buddhism and Comparative Philosophy and Religion are extensive, but come at a cost.




Though the organization offers free content, you could find yourself spending several hundred dollars to hear the collected Watts lectures. It's money the Mark Watts suggests covers the “substantial undertaking” of digitizing hundreds of hours of recordings on lacquered disks and magnetic reels. These are noble and necessary efforts, but fans of Watts will know that hundreds of selections from his deeply engaging talks are also freely available on YouTube, many of them with nifty animations and musical accompaniment, like the videos here from After Skool.

Watts would likely have been pleased with this situation—he loved to give out wisdom widely and kept no esoteric trade secrets. But he was also, by his own admission, “a spiritual/philosophical entertainer,” who made a living telling people some of the most unsettling, counterintuitive metaphysical truths there are. He did it with humor, erudition and compassion, with intellectual clarity and rhetorical aplomb.

So what did he have to tell us? That we should join the church of Alan Watts? Attend his next lecture and buy his book? Shape our lives into an emulation of Alan Watts? Though he wore the trappings of a Western expositor of Eastern thought, and embraced all kinds of non-traditional beliefs and practices, Watts was too ironical and detached to be a guru. He couldn’t take himself seriously enough for that.

If there’s any one thread that runs through the incredibly broad range of subjects he covered, it’s that we should never take ourselves too seriously either. We buy into stories and ideas and think of them as concrete entities that form the boundaries of identity and existence: stories like thinking of life as a “journey” on the way to some specific denouement. Not so, as Watts says in the animated video at the top. Life is an art, a form of play: “the whole point of the dancing is the dance.”

But what about the meaning of life? Is Alan Watts going to reveal it in the last course of his ten-week session (payable in installments)? Will we discover it in a series of self-improvement packages? No. The meaning of life he says, is life. “The situation of life is optimal.” But how is anyone supposed to judge what's good without unchanging external standards? A classic Zen story about a Chinese farmer offers a concise illustration of why we may have no need—and no real ability—to make any judgments at all.

You’ll find many more free excerpts of Watts’ lectures—of varying lengths and with or without animations, on YouTube. To get a further taste of his spiritual and philosophical distillations, see the links below.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Psychedelic 1970s Animations of Keiichi Tanaami: A Music Video for John Lennon’s “Oh Yoko!,” Surreal Tributes to Elvis & Marilyn Monroe, and More

If you want to see the West as you've never seen it before, go to Japan. Since the end of the Second World War, there have been few big Western phenomena in which Japanese creators have not taken an interest, then turned around and made their own. One of the most powerful imaginations among those creators belongs to Keiichi Tanaami, who came of age surrounded by the likes of Mickey Mouse and Elvis after doing much of his growing up amid the chaos and devastation of war. Born in 1936 and still active today, he's produced a body of work whose earliest pieces go back to the 1950s, and even the variety of media he's used — illustration, graphic design, paintings, comics, animation — can barely contain his ever-expanding vision, a mixture of pop culture and and symbolic iconography drawn from America, Japan, and deep down in his own psyche.

"A magazine that is packed to the brim with human interests and desires bears a strong resemblance to who I am as a person," Tanaami once wrote, a description reflected by his current work as well as that of previous eras. Take these short animated films, three of which come from the early 1970s — an auspicious time indeed for his brand of psychedelia to break through in the West.

In 1971's Good-Bye Marilyn, Tanaami pays tribute to perhaps the most iconic woman America has ever produced; that same year's Good-Bye Elvis and USA draws its inspiration from quite possibly America's most iconic man. Tanami makes use of the imagery of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley in a way no other artist has, though he was hardly alone in his fascination with the very fascination those figures commanded: Andy Warhol, for instance, also got artistic mileage out of them.

It was Warhol who showed Tanaami how artists of their sensibility could make a career. Tanaami first saw Warhol's work on a trip to New York City in 1967. "Warhol was in the process of shifting from commercial illustrator to artist, and I both witnessed and experienced firsthand his tactics, his method of incision into the art world," Tanaami once recalled. "He used contemporary icons as motifs in his works and for his other activities put together media such as films, newspapers and rock bands." In 1975, after becoming the first art director of the Japanese edition of Playboy, he returned to New York to visit the magazine's head office and took a side trip to Warhol's Factory and took in what Warhol and his collaborators had been up to with experimental film. But Tanaami had already been making serious inroads into that field himself, as evidenced by the two aforementioned shorts as well as his 1973 animation of John Lennon's "Oh, Yoko!" — a kind of early music video — up top.

Few artists of any nationality have hybridized the thoroughly commercial and the deeply personal as Tanaami, who got his start in advertising and not long thereafter was designing the covers for Japanese editions of albums by Jefferson Airplane and The Monkees. But as he also said in a recent Hypebeast interview, "a lot of my work is driven by old memories of the past, especially the fear that I felt as a child during the several wars that took place. The fear I felt seeing a person dying. But then there’s also the good feelings I have from playing as a child. I integrate all aspects of my mind and memories into my work." You can see other examples of it at Ubuweb, and Tanaami's 2013 animation Adventures in Beauty Wonderland above shows how that integration has continued, taking as it does just as much from traditional Japanese symbols and design motifs as it does from the work of Lewis Carroll — a characteristically thrilling and elaborate aesthetic journey, all of it commissioned by the cosmetics company Sephora.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch “The Midnight Parasites,” a Surreal Japanese Animation Set in the World of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1972)

Hieronymus Bosch’s bizarre paintings might have looked perfectly ordinary to his contemporaries, argues Stanley Meisler in “The World of Bosch.” Modern viewers may find this very hard to believe. We approach Bosch through layers of Freudian interpretation and Surrealist appreciation. We cannot help “regarding the scores of bizarre monsters”—allegories for sins and punishments far more legible in 15th-century Netherlands—“as a kind of dark and cruel comic relief.”

While Bosch might have intended his work as serious sermonizing, it is impossible for us to inhabit the medieval consciousness of his time and place. There’s just no getting around the fact that Bosch is really weird—weirder even (or more imaginatively allegorical) than nearly any other artist of his time. In some very important ways, he belongs to a 20th-century aesthetic of post-Freudian dream logic as much as he belonged to peculiar medieval visions of heaven and hell.




Bosch “described terrible, unbearable holocausts crushing mankind for its sins,” writes Meisler, visions that seemed both stranger and more familiar in the wake of so many man-made holocausts whose absurdities defy reason. What modern horrors does famed Japanese animator Yōji Kuri invoke in his psychedelic 1972 film “The Midnight Parasites,” above, a surrealist short set in the world of Bosch?

Dangerous Minds’ Paul Gallagher describes the plot, such as it is:

Here Kuri imagines what would life might be like if we all lived in Bosch’s painting “Garden of Earthly Delights.” It’s a basically shit and death or rather a cycle of life where blue figures live and die; eat shit and shit gold; are skewered, and devoured; are regurgitated and reborn to carry on the cycle once again.

Kuri’s satirical vision, in films long favored by counter-cultural audiences, has “bite,” writes Animation World Network’s Chris Robinson: “he helped lift Japanese animation out of decades of cozy narrative cartoons into a new era of graphic and conceptual experimentation. His films mock and shock, attacking technology, population expansion, monotony of modern society… Witnessing the surrender of Japan during WW2, the devastation of his country followed by the quick rise of Western inspired materialist culture and rampant consumption, Kuri, like many of his colleagues at the time, questioned the state and direction of his society and world.”

His creative appropriation of Bosch, “dark, dirty, oddly beautiful, with a groovy soundtrack,” Gallagher writes, may not, as Meisler worries of many modern takes, get Bosch wrong at all. Though the Dutch artist’s symbolism may never be comprehensible—or anything less than hallucinatory—to us moderns, Kuri’s half-playful reimagining uses Boschian figures for some serious moralizing, showing us a hell world governed by grave lapses and cruelties Bosch could never have imagined.

via Dangerous Minds

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Edward Gorey Talks About His Love Cats & More in the Animated Series, “Goreytelling”

My childhood discovery of Edward Gorey proved revelatory. I recognized my own bewilderment in the blank expressions of his obsessively-rendered Edwardian children. His characters, imprisoned in starched collars and stays, stared at the world through hollow eyes, struck dumb by alternating currents of absurdity and horror. Every youngster with budding goth and New Romantic sensibilities found themselves drawn into Gorey’s weird worlds. Confessed Goreyphiles like Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman took much from a style Steven Kurutz describes as “camp-macabre, ironic-gothic or dark whimsy.”

He gave his readers permission to be odd and haunted, and to laugh about it, but he never seemed to have needed such permission himself. He was as sui generis as he was mysterious, the scowling older gentleman with the long white beard assumed the role of an anti-Santa, bestowing gifts of guilt-free, solitary indulgence in dark fantasy.




But the man himself remained shrouded, and that was just as well. Learning more about him as an adult, I have been struck by just how closely he resembles some of his characters, or rather, by how much he was, in work and life, entirely himself.

A fashionably bookish hermit and Wildean aesthete, a man to whom, “by his own admission… nothing happened,” Gorey organized his life in New York around reading, seeing films, and attending George Balanchine’s ballets. (He rarely missed a performance over the course of three decades, then moved to his famed Cape Cod house when Balanchine died in the mid-80s.) “Despite being a lifelong Anglophile, he made just one brief visit to Scotland and England,” writes Kurutz, “his only trip abroad.”

In a Proust Questionnaire he answered for Vanity Fair, Gorey wrote that his favorite journey was “looking out the window.” The supreme love of his life, he wrote: his cats. Those beloved creatures are the subject of the third episode of Goreytelling, at the top, an animated web series consisting of short excerpts from an upcoming documentary simply titled Gorey, directed by Christopher Seufert, who spent several years recording his conversations with Gorey. The very Gorey-like animations are by Benjamin and Jim Wickey.

If you’ve ever wondered what Edward Gorey sounded like, wonder no more. Hear his solidly Midwestern accent (Gorey grew up in Chicago) as he describes the travails of living with adorable, frustrated predators who destroy the furniture and throw themselves on his drawing table, ruining his work. Further up, he tells the story of a mummy’s head he kept wrapped up in his closet, and just above he tells a story about The Loathesome Couple a 1977 book he wrote based a series of real-life murders of British children by a married couple. “A lot people,” he says, would tell him “this one book of yours, I really find a little… much.”

Goreyphiles out there, and they number in the millions, will thoroughly enjoy these animations (see episode 2, “Fan Mail,” here and 4, “Dracula,” here). Gorey the documentary promises to bring us even closer to the curmudgeonly author and artist. His life makes for a quirky series of vignettes, but ultimately Gorey was a “Magellan of the imagination,” says cultural critic and biographer Mark Dery. “He journeyed vastly between his ears…. So that’s where you have to look for the life. On the psychic geography of his unconscious,” and in the pages of his over 100 satisfyingly unsettling books.

via Laughing Squid

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

157 Animated Minimalist Mid-Century Book Covers

Graphic and motion designer Henning M. Lederer can’t get enough of those minimalist midcentury book covers.

Apparently, the over-the-top pulp scenarios that inspire fellow period cover enthusiast Todd Alcott leave Lederer cold.

He’s drawn to the stark, the geometric, the abstract. No heaving bosoms, no forbidden love, though there’s no denying that sex was a topic of great clinical interest to several of the authors featured above, including psychiatrists Charles Rycroft, H. R. Beech, and R.D. Laing.




Visually, the psycho-analytic titles appear interchangeable with the more straightforward texts in this, Lederer’s third in a series of lightly animated period book covers:

The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Atomic Radiation

Medical Complications During Pregnancy

Generalized Thermodynamics

Pinwheels, ripples, and scrolling harlequin patterns abound. Stare at them long enough if you want to cure your insomnia or become one with the universe.

Tilman Grundig’s soundtrack ensures that the playing field will stay level. No title is singled out for extra sonic attention.

That said, Noise by Rupert Taylor, an expert consultant in acoustics and noise control, stands apart for the humor and narrative sensibility of its visual representation.

Perhaps that’s why Lederer saved it for last.

To date, he’s animated 157 covers. Enjoy them all above.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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