Watch 13 Experimental Short Films by Tezuka Osamu, the Walt Disney of Japan

Tezu­ka Osamu (1928–1989) is known as “the God of man­ga” in Japan. He cre­at­ed clas­sics for both chil­dren and adults in every genre – from hor­ror to romance to action. The sheer amount of work pro­duced in Osamu’s rel­a­tive­ly short life is stag­ger­ing; some esti­mates have it that he drew over 150,000 pages of comics.

While focus­ing just on man­ga would have been enough for most mor­tals, Osamu was also a trail­blaz­er in ani­ma­tion. He cre­at­ed Astro-Boy, the huge­ly pop­u­lar char­ac­ter that spawned com­ic books, TV shows, video games and a cou­ple of movies. The visu­al style of Osamu’s ani­mat­ed work — Astro-Boy and oth­ers — proved to be very influ­en­tial. Those trade­mark giant eyes on ani­me char­ac­ters come straight from Osamu (who in turn was influ­enced by Walt Dis­ney and Max Fleis­ch­er).

Osamu relent­less­ly chal­lenged the lim­its of what man­ga and ani­me could do. He’s cred­it­ed with mak­ing the first ever X‑Rated ani­mat­ed fea­ture film, Cleopa­tra, Queen of Sex (1970) — imag­ine Dis­ney doing that. He also made a series of exper­i­men­tal ani­mat­ed shorts, which show­case not only Osamu’s cre­ativ­i­ty and range but also his phi­los­o­phy, which was heav­i­ly influ­enced by Bud­dhism.

His 1962 work Tale of Street Cor­ner is a sur­pris­ing­ly mov­ing short about the day-to-day life of a city street cor­ner as seen through the eyes of some anthro­po­mor­phized mice and sen­tient street posters.

And if you want get a sense of Osamu’s ver­sa­til­i­ty, check out his 1966 movie Pic­tures at an Exhi­bi­tion. The work is an omnibus film fea­tur­ing ten small­er shorts, all set to Mus­sorgsky’s famous suite. Osamu recre­at­ed each short in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent style from the oth­ers.

His 1984 short, Jump­ing is a tech­ni­cal tour-de-force told with admirable sim­plic­i­ty. Seen from a first per­son point of view, the movie is about a young child who is jump­ing down a coun­try road. As each jump gets high­er and longer, the cam­era pass­es through cities, fields and oceans and even­tu­al­ly into a war­zone. The sharp-eyed view­er will see R2D2 and C‑3PO make a sur­prise cameo at around the 2:57 mark­er.

And final­ly, here is an inter­view with the mas­ter him­self as he talks about mak­ing these movies. And you can see all 13 of the ani­mat­ed shorts here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Des­ti­no: The Sal­vador Dalí – Dis­ney Col­lab­o­ra­tion 57 Years in the Mak­ing

Kafka’s Night­mare Tale, ‘A Coun­try Doc­tor,’ Told in Award-Win­ning Japan­ese Ani­ma­tion

Japan­ese Car­toons from the 1920s and 30s Reveal the Styl­is­tic Roots of Ani­me

How to Make Instant Ramen Com­pli­ments of Japan­ese Ani­ma­tion Direc­tor Hayao Miyza­ki

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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  • Nor­mal­ly I would call Tezu­ka an ani­ma­tor sim­ply because he was a comics author first, but cer­tain­ly a pro­duc­er of ani­ma­tion he was. He at least both­ers to draft these projects when he had the spare time to do it, but I often find it hard to pic­ture him in front of an ani­ma­tion table like an ani­ma­tor would be, unless he has done so as well. Hav­ing run stu­dios, he oth­er­wise had the sup­port and staff handy to make these work.

    One ani­ma­tor that Tezuka’s work reminds me sim­i­lar­ly of is Ital­ian Bruno Bozzet­to. He’s done some great, thought-pro­vok­ing works over the past 50+ years of his life in ani­ma­tion.

  • Luke says:

    First 3 video links are bro­ken.

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