Kiki’s Delivery Service at 30

Last Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite films, and the film I default to whenever twitter asks to post your favorite or just *a* film from the year you were born. Thirty looks good on us, Kiki.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a film directed by Hayao Miyazaki through Studio Ghibli. I remember when this movie first came to the US (in 1998), my tia bought it for my cousin, whose nickname was Kiki. She’d always make us watch it to the point that I avoided it for YEARS until I revisited it again in college and I was furious at all of the wasted years I could have been internalizing the messages of this film. So while it was technically my first Ghibli film, I wasn’t cognisant of that for a while.

Kiki is a film that gets more meaningful to me the older I get and the more I struggle to get back to who I was when I was…honestly, Kiki’s age.

The premise and overall plot of this film is simple enough. Kiki, having recently turned 13, is excited to now continue the tradition of witches like her mother, who leave their home for a year in order to hone their particular skill within witchcraft. Her mother, for example, is a potion master, and is seen in the film making medicine for a neighbor. Kiki moves to a new town with only one skill–flying–and she is admittedly not even that good at it. Through some lucky encounters with kind strangers, she’s able to start up a delivery service, and deals with the ups and downs of working, and of monetizing the thing you love. Eventually, she burns out and temporarily loses her powers. It’s through friends helping her through what is essentially her art block, that she pushes through and regains her abilities just in time to use her flying to rescue a friend in danger.

If you haven’t seen it and don’t want specifics spoiled, be warned.

Because I grew up with a lot of them, I’m used to and prefer the dubs for some of the older Ghibli films. I will note that there are some lines changes and localization choices that alter the sentiment or tone of some lines between the Japanese and English. The English dubs always take some liberties extra jokes or slightly changing the tone or personality of some minor characters/lines. Jiji’s a big one in this example. Nonetheless, the dub is what is seared into my soul, and what I default to when watching this film.


So, let’s talk about watching Kiki’s Delivery Service on its 30th birthday as a 30 year old who recently started down a new largely freelance career path.

Or better yet, let’s talk about all the moments this movie made me cry on this most recent revisit, or brought me pretty damn close:

Attacked By a 13-Year-Old

I set a new record for how quickly I started tearing up, because the waterworks started like 6 minutes into the damn movie. When Kiki decides tonight is the night she’s leaving home, she asks her dad to hold her and spin her around like he did when she was younger. He laments at how quickly she’s growing up, adding that if things are too rough out there that she can always come back home.

“And come back a failure!? Bleh!” she says, sticking her tongue out in disgust.

You sweet, sweet, beautiful child.

I am simultaneously in awe of Kiki and immensely wary on her behalf at the start of the film. This is a me problem though, and not Kiki’s problem. Yes, she is naive, and that’s ok–she’s thirteen. But she is also venturing out into the real world, so I want her to be a little more cautious. That’s also 30-year-old Jen talking.

As much as this film is about Kiki, it is also about community. And I live in a country, and in a point in time that is very distrusting and cynical about the individualism that exists in the place they live. Kiki would not have gotten as far as she did had it not been for the people she met, but also they would not have been such big supporters of her if she wasn’t the optimistic, honest, hard-working, kind young woman she was.

That she already was wary of “failing” despite having no skillset or life experience outside her small town, makes me sad. We of course live in a world that looks at failures as deeply shameful and embarrassing, and not trying new things and/or solving problems.

Kiki Leaves and Immediately Crashes Into Multiple Trees

I love this scene because it’s one that I didn’t…understand for so long watching this film. And then I think once I was in college taking film classes and properly starting to observe films more, it sort of clicked. Not that this particular moment in the film is so complex that it requires film studies, merely that I was just a bit oblivious. I liked movies but I hadn’t realized how much I wasn’t aware of them. I always was just like, “Aw how cute they hung bells in their trees, maybe like wind chimes?” But at some point I realized that they were basically warning bells so her parents would know when Kiki crashed into any of the nearby. And to warn Kiki she needed to focus more.

That she does so on the night she’s leaving, causing her parents to have those worrisome faces after expressing concern multiple times is just the cherry on top.

I love this scene because Kiki doesn’t have a skill that she’s been specializing in. Her mom expresses guilt at not teaching Kiki her own. Kiki doesn’t have a clear-cut skill to build a stable life with, but she decides she wants to leave and figure things out. Older me knows this is naive, but younger me was all about this. We’re always so eager to grow up when we have no idea what adult life actually encompasses.

Her first small taste of this is when she’s flying and encounters another witch who is at the tail-end of her first year away. She seems much more mature and grown up than Kiki, and Kiki’s made insecure, and aware she doesn’t really have a specialty (this girl’s is fortune telling).

Kiki’s First Customer

While the baker Asano is the first one to help Kiki get settled, it’s their neighbor (Maki) with the white cat (Lilly) that is her first true customer.

Kiki has no marketing strategy lol. She decides she’s going to use her flying skill set and start a delivery business after a fateful encounter with Asano, realizing that flying is a skill she sort of has, but can work with. She shares this with Asano, who cuts a deal with her for some help at the bakery, and Kiki gets setup with a room, a phone, and Asano’s word of mouth to her own established customer base.

Asano has clearly been talking, because word gets out somehow and she slowly starts to see some customers.

I love this scene because she’s so excited. She’d just bought a map of the area from the store, and when the woman asks about the price, she doesn’t even know. The woman gives her an amount that Kiki excitedly reacts to. As an adult, I wonder if it was actually a high amount or if Kiki would have been excited about seeing any money.

Later in the film, we see her weighing a product and using the cash register to calculate a rate based on that and the address, so now we at least know she’s got some kind of process.

Kiki Learns Work is Work

Thus far into her career, Kiki has been met with nothing but kindness and appreciation. She returns that kindness several times over when she takes extra time to help an old woman prepare a pie that Kiki is meant to deliver.

While the setback of a broken oven makes her run late, Kiki arrives at the granddaughter’s house, who, upon seeing the herring and pumpkin pie, remarks:

“I hate Grandma’s stupid pies!” as she begrudgingly signs Kiki’s receipt book.

She takes the basket and slams the door before Kiki even has a chance to react. Dazed, she begins to leave for home, only to be caught in the heavy rainstorm.

Miyazaki addresses the sentiment perfectly in the art book:

“In her line of work, Kiki’s experience is hardly unusual. Kiki learns the hard way how naive she’s been. She thought she;s be appreciated. But that’s not how the real world works. She has to deliver the goods because she’s getting paid. You’re lucky if you have a nice client. Of course, she doesn’t say this in the movie [laughs]. I like the way the potpie girl talks. It’s very honest.”

Hayao Miyazaki, The Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service, pg 118

Monetizing Your Passion

Through some more thoughtful meddling by Asano, Kiki is tricked into delivering something to her would-be-friend Tombo’s home. They have a short adventure as they bike to the beach, giving Kiki her first real laugh in a while. While sitting with Tombo, he expresses jealousy and awe at Kiki’s natural ability to fly, because lord help us if Miyazaki ever makes a film that doesn’t explore this obsession. Kiki sadly responds that she used to love flying, but ever since she started doing it as a job, she hasn’t enjoyed it.

Flying used to be fun…until I started doing it for a living.

Cue the tears!

I think this is especially something that applies for people who pursue careers in the arts, but of course applies everywhere. You spend your childhood obsessed with the thing, it becomes your passion, you probably become skilled at it and/or it becomes a big part of your identity, you likely study it in school, and you get your “dream job” doing the thing.

I know so many people like this in animation, who have the dream job at the big studio, and the last thing they want to do with their free time is look at anything to do with animation. I see that passion sucked out of so many people. Not everyone of course, but enough people. Or I see people trying to turn things they did for fun into a job and their relationship with the thing totally changes.

I’ve been very mindful of that for myself as an adult for sure. To not let bad experiences taint a thing I love, or to not take this site for example, too seriously, or else I’ll be paralyzed by perfectionism (still working on that). So this one hit home very much so for both my husband and I, as people who got into animation out of love and are doing what we can to continue to love it the deeper we get.

This was also something I was accidentally doing with hobbies. I’ve always been an arts and crafts type, but at some point in my life, I stopped doing a lot of things if I didn’t feel like I was good enough and that it wouldn’t lead to anything “more” beyond me just enjoying the thing. This is such a toxic thing, and a side effect of hustle culture and just a very uncertain time for people my age crippled with student debt, an unreachable housing market, etc.

It’s been on my mind as I navigate what I want my life and career to look like, and I’m so grateful to Kiki for being an early access point to this dialog.

Kiki Loses Her Magic

After returning home angry from her projecting her own insecurities onto Tombo, she laments to Jiji how bad she is at making friends. Jiji replies with meows instead of words. Fearfully, she grabs her broom and makes several attempts to fly, with no success. Her magic is gone. It happened so gradually that she didn’t realize it until it was too late.

My concept of ‘magic’ in this film departed from the traditional approach to magic stories. I only wanted it to be a limited talent. So at times she won’t be able to fly. It would’ve been pointless to explain, for example, how she couldn’t fly because of her fight with Tombo. I thought that girls watching this would understand the film on its own terms. We sometimes aren’t able to draw something that once game so easily. We might even forget how we learned to draw it in the first place. I really don’t know how this happens.

Hayao Miyazaki, The Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service, pg 128

Burnout is real, y’all. Kiki is at her lowest low.

Ursula’s Advice*

Ursula, a friend Kiki makes earlier in the film, is in town getting supplies. After hearing Kiki’s dilemma, she invites Kiki to tag along with her back to her cabin in the woods.

There, Kiki sees the painting Ursula’s been working on, and how Kiki was the inspiration for it. Ursula shares that it gave her trouble though, that she almost gave up on it a bunch. Ursula compares her skill as a painter with Kiki’s magic–something Miyazaki stresses a lot. That her magic is like that of an artisan or craftsman. It’s a skill that has to be honed. It’s a passion that can lead to burnout and artist’s or writer’s block.

Ursula encourages Kiki that when this happens, you don’t think about it. You do other things, since the more you think about it, the more you’ll stress about being unable to create and the problem we’ll worsen.

Understanding that, Kiki also realizes that she’d never really thought about why she flies. And yet this thing was so integral to her identity: if she can’t fly, she can’t be a witch, and if she can’t be a witch, then who is she?

Kiki: Without even thinking about it, I used to be able to fly. Now I’m trying to look inside myself and find out how I did it. But I just can’t figure it out…

Ursula: Then stop trying. Take long walks. Look at the scenery. Doze off at noon. Don’t even think about flying. And then pretty soon, you’ll be flying again.

This was the artist retreat Kiki didn’t know she needed.

She is understanding her relationship to her art. She is seeing herself as an artist, and has to further understand her relationship with her work, and how to protect herself from it. Maybe she’s recognizing that too much of her identity is tied into this thing. And not for nothing, embracing the people who have reached out to her in friendship will also help her learn about and explore new things. Ursula is already a great friend and mentor.

Ursula: When I was your age, I’d already decided to become an artist. I loved to paint so much. I’d paint all day until I fell asleep right at my easel. And then one day, for some reason, I just couldn’t paint anymore. I tried and tried, but nothing I did seemed any good. They were copies of paintings I’d seen somewhere before… and not very good copies either. I just felt like I’d lost my abilityIt’s exactly the same, but then I found the answer. You see, I hadn’t figured out what or why I wanted to paint. I had to discover my own style. When you fly, you rely on what’s inside of you, don’t you?

Kiki: We fly with our spirit.

Ursula: Trusting your spirit! Yes, yes! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. That same spirit is what makes me paint and makes your friend bake. But we each need to find our own inspiration, Kiki. Sometimes it’s not easy.

Kiki: I guess I never gave much thought to why I wanted to do this. I got so caught up in all the training and stuff. Maybe I have to find my own inspiration

Does this not just slap you in the face? DOESN’T IT?

After this. she returns home and takes some time off. She decides to continue staying in the town (rather than going home) and trying to be more open to meeting people.

A Letter to Mom and Dad

A mid-credit scene has Kiki’s parents receiving a letter from her, updating them about her life. She’s honest in saying it’s not always easy, but she loves her town. Her parents can breathe a sigh of relief that Kiki has landed on her two feet.

Miyazaki mentions in the artbook how he didn’t want the climax and resolution of the film to center on her job or becoming a town celebrity, but rather leaving audiences “…with the impression that no matter how dispirited she gets…she’ll always rise above.” (pg.143)

In that vein, I also do love that there’s no antagonist in this film, nor is there really anyone explicitly mean to her.

He Made a Movie About Himself

While watching this film, it struck me that Miyazaki made a movie about being an animator. I thought, he made a movie about himself. Maybe a younger self…and to be fair, there’s an argument that all of his movies are about himself considering how much creative control and influence he has on them. Regardless, it is still clear he had artists in mind. He shares a similar sentiment in the opening of the artbook:

“The issues of independence girls have to confront now are in some ways more difficult since they must discover, develop, and then actualize their talents. There are girls, for example, who move to Tokyo hoping to pursue a career in the manga industry…One can even make a living at it. The real challenge occurs when it becomes a routine part of your life…Kiki experiences loneliness–a yearning to connect with others. She represents every girl who is drawn to the glamour of the big city but find themselves struggling with their newfound independence…today’s girls also share Kiki’s naivete and lack of awareness.”

Learning a craft like animation–any aspect of it–is extremely isolating when working on your own skill. Of course, its crucial that you build a network and learn to work on a team to create things.

Knowing Miyazaki tends to board his films straight through from beginning to end by himself, I wonder how aware he was that he was sharing these parts of himself with us. While it is based on a pre-existing work, he changed it when writing the screenplay, knowing she needed to struggle for the story to work as a film. From various readings and documentaries about him, he’s definitely someone who develops a lot in his head, and he himself has said he doesn’t actively think about messaging so much as making sure it’s entertaining, and yet he always manages both.

Failure

Failure is a natural part of the creative process. It is also temporary. These are difficult things to remember, personally. These are difficult things to accept when you’ve developed taste that your skills don’t match. When you’re online all the time being bombarded by people’s highly curated work and lives.

There are clearcut moments in my career and my artistic journey where I absolutely lost my magic. I think it’s up and disappeared right now, to be honest, and that was why my brain kept telling me to make some time to watch this film uninterrupted. It was some medicine my heart needed. And when I’d learned on twitter that that day was its 30th birthday? Talk about a sign from the universe.

I’ve had so many ups on my journey that end up being fleeting moments before I want more and strive for the next one, and so many lows that, without even realizing it, made me scared to keep trying to soar higher and higher. You remember the pain more clearly than you remember the victories. You set the bar so high in the sky that you can’t see it anymore, so what’s the point in trying to clear it? It’s like Kiki and Ursula said, one day you just forget how to do it. You hit a wall. Some times its drawing, or filming or writing. Some times it’s being creative in general and then I really feel like a failure. It’s something I still struggle with and am working through. I’m learning to trust myself again bit by bit, and get back to being that self-assured witch-in-training I was.

The Past and the Future are Our Now: A Look at Environmentalism in Princess Mononoke & Wall-E

Wall-E (2008) is one of the strongest films to come out of the big US feature animation studios. I would argue that it might be one of if not the most important animated feature to come out that decade, including internationally.

Even with the leaps and bounds we’ve made with animation in the last decade, I still feel like if an animated feature at a major US studio with no dialog and a slow, meditative pace for the first 30-ish minutes was pitched it would get turned down immediately or green lit until it drowned in notes and was averaged out to look more like the gag or dialogue driven, quick paced snappy visuals we’re used to. While those are not inherently bad things, their complete takeover of the medium at large just makes Wall-E stand out that much more. (Honestly I’d love to go back to opening weekend now and watch people watch this film in theaters. Did kids get impatient? Or were they fixated on the screen? Were parents confused? Who knows!)

There are so many factors that are out of a director’s control, especially at a big studio, that it’s a miracle when any film gets made, full stop. That Andrew Stanton’s film seems to have come out relatively unscathed and different from any film before (or after) it is a testament to how unique and thematically strong it is.


This post will contain full spoilers for Wall-E and Princess Mononoke.

It will contain slight spoilers for Nausicaa.

You can listen to this article if you want! Click here to jump to the recording.


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2017 Animation Gift Guide

Is there an animation fan in your life that you aren’t sure what to get this holiday season? Or maybe you’re like me and you just want everything I’ve listed below. I wanted to give you all some options, so the range is pretty wide. Please enjoy my 2017 animation gift guide!

Art/Animation Books:

Art books were in some ways my gateway into the animation pipeline. As a kid, I knew there were different roles in making a film, but wasn’t sure where they split beyond artist, animator, and technical people. Art books showed me, if only briefly, how certain roles varied, and even what kinds of skills would be needed to pursue one. There are sort of two types of art books–the ones that are released to accompany a specific film or ones that cover an artist or time period, such as The Art of Coco or They Drew as They Pleased Vol. 3: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age (The 1940s – Part Two), respectively. Once you’ve looked through one ‘Art of’ book, you generally know what to expect in terms of the type of content. But that doesn’t mean they are all created equally. I especially loved the Coco art book for the higher-than-usual amount of pages that feature storyboards. They Drew as They Pleased is a very cool series that profiles specific time periods in Disney animation. You don’t need to own volume 1 or 2 to enjoy this third volume, though they make a great set.

Many art books were released in 2017 in addition to the two above. More and more are released each year, expanding the range of topics covered. The books below aren’t technically art books so much as informative texts, but are still filled with tons of art and historical photos. These are definitely good for the art book fan wanting a little more substance/text.

Two books that recently came out profile Paul Terry and Max Fleischer, two of the early pioneers of animation. These two, Terrytoons: The Story of Paul Terry and His Classic Cartoon Factory and The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer: American Animation Pioneer are on my wish list for sure. Another that I’m really excited to read is Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation. I’ve heard amazing things about this book, from the heftiness (almost 400 pages) and the large, beautiful photos. This book highlights the oft-overlooked women who worked in animation, in the only department where women were typically allowed.

A few more books that came out this year worth checking out are–big shock–more Disney books. Disney history is the bread-and-butter of the niche world of animation books, and there is no shortage of ideas. The first one up to bat is a book about Oswald, Walt Disney’s first big star who he lost ownership of (prompting the creation of Mickey Mouse). The book, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons is written by David Bossert, an 2D effects animator turned author who has written a number of books about Disney. Another famous Disney-alum, producer Don Hahn, wrote the next book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Disney’s Magical Mid-Century, about Walt’s interest and influence on mid-century design. This one seems to be a bit hit or miss with some reviews stating that they wished it was a bit more substantial with text, so maybe give this a flip through at the store before buying to see if it’s right for you. Lastly, we have Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle, an art book highlighting the Disney legend most famous for the beautifully detailed backgrounds of Sleeping Beauty (1959). This book is the compilation of pieces that were curated for an exhibition this year at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. I was lucky to have seen an exhibition of his work at a different museum while in LA last year, and adore his paintings.

SWAG:

Miyazaki Club pin: Created by artist Martin Hsu, and inspired by the old Micky Mouse Club regalia, this is a super fun way to show off your love for the famed Japanese director in a slightly more subtle way, while adding to your pin collection. This pin is a nice size, and great quality; it’s soft enamel, and has two metal clutches on the back for extra security. This product’s webpage looks a little janky, but I bought this item myself and had no issues.

Official Laika, Aardman Animations, or Cartoon Saloon Merch: This year three prominent yet smaller studios opened up online stores for fans to buy swag. Laika is the stop-motion powerhouse responsible for Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings. Aardman is best known for the character Morph, Shaun the SheepWallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, the upcoming Early Man, and so much more. Cartoon Saloon created The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, and the newly released The Breadwinner. From Laika’s site, I’d recommend the Coraline doll, which is a replica of the doll that Coraline receives from the Other Mother (I have this one!). There’s also a great Pride shirt featuring the characters from ParaNorman. From Aardman, I think the little wooden toys are so cute to have even just sitting on your desk, or their studio art book, “The Art of Aardman,” granted studio art books become outdated quickly. For Cartoon Saloon, they have some limited edition high quality prints for both Kells and Song, but if that’s too much, they have a postcard set containing stills from all three films. Those often look nice tacked up or even with some inexpensive IKEA frames.

Mondo pins: While best known for their prints, Mondo also has a fantastic selection of enamel pins, figures, and t-shirts featuring some animated characters we know and love. Properties include Adventure Time, Labyrinth, The Iron Giant, Coraline, ParaNorman, Samurai Jack, MegamanOver the Garden Wall (pictured right), Ninja Turtles, and plenty of comic book heroes and CG characters.

Other media:

Cuphead: This new video game, which is inspired by the 2d animation of the 1930’s, features assets that were largely hand-drawn. It’s your standard platforming shoot-em-up and I am so ready to play this game. In fact, the only negative thing that I’ve heard about this game is that it’s almost too hard, which, like, challenge accepted.  It’s available on XBox, Steam, and GOG (which is DRM free).

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening graphic novel: Medieval fantasy steampunk epic set in ancient China with monsters and badass women written and illustrated by badass women. Sign me the hell up. But please note that this book is definitely ages 18+. Written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda, this series focuses on a young woman named Maika, whose mysterious powers put her in the middle of a war between humans and otherworldly forces. Monstress Volume 1: Awakening is the first several single-issues collectively bound. So far three of these have been released. I’m on volume two and am loving it so far. I’d love love love to see something like this animated.

For the Collector:

A print from Gallery Nucleus: First of all, Gallery Nucleus is amazing. They are a small store in California (and now Portland too) that sells art books, animation-related goodies and prints, as well as a gallery that hosts shows and events. Recent events there, that you can get prints of (or original work, if you’ve got the dough) are a Laika 10th anniversary exhibition, a tribute showcase to Disney directors Ron Clements and Ron Musker, and tribute shows for properties like Power Rangers, Cartoon Network, and Final Fantasy. You can also purchase signed copies of art books or artists self-published sketchbooks too. And they also have a great pin collection as well. The sheer number of prints on offer can be daunting, so maybe start by seeing if there’s a collection to a property you love (i.e. Gravity Falls, Harry Potter, Overwatch, Mary Blair). Just take some time and find something. They have original prints from some pretty famous artists in the comics and animation industry, so there may be someone whose work you love on Instagram that you can find and support. I went crazy at their physical store when I visited California last year and spent like $300 on prints (some signed!) that hang framed in my apartment. And I’d also gotten a signed copy of The Art of the Little Prince. That was the one place in Cali that I knew I had to visit and splurge at–not even Disneyland and Harry Potter World were as big a deal for me merch-wise!

Aspiring Aritsts and Technicians:

Schoolism or Pluralsight online classes subscription: Depending on what you are looking to break into, a subscription to one of these only schools could be an amazing way to supplement your current schooling, or help you jump start an entirely new path. Schoolism is a bit more geared for the traditional artistic roles in animation, such as concept artists, character designers, art directors, and story artists. These classes are taught by leaders of their respective fields. Basically a lot of pre-production. Pluralsight, which used to be Digital Tutors, is a bit more on the technical side, focusing largely on different aspects of the CG pipeline, such as character or environment modeling, lighting, look development (shading/texturing, rendering) and more. Pluralsight has a crapload of courses across multiple programs too. Both of these sites offer monthly subscriptions. They are a bit pricey, with Schoolism offering full self-paced access for $30/month while Pluralsight runs for $300 per year. So they are definitely for the disciplined person, seriously looking to up their game.

Palomino Blackwing Pencils (12 Count): Blackwings are an animation staple, and just frankly a damn good pencil. They are super dark, but smooth, and the grain is perfect for toning and blending. They have a pretty fun history too, if…you want to learn about…pencils…? These pencils are items that you don’t need to spring for, but could be a nice gesture to an artist who might otherwise never consider spending the cash on themselves and their own works in progress. And while Blackwings can be bought by the box (as I’ve listed), you can also often purchase them for around $3 a pop, as well as extra erasers at art, craft, and stationary stores (I get mine at Kinokuniya in NYC). There are a few types of Blackwings, but I’d start with the proper black ones, and then maybe try the others in-person before committing, as their leads are different and not as dark.

Wacom Intuos digital art tablet: If you’re looking to up your skills, consider getting a tablet. Nowadays you can get a small one for around $100–the surface will be smaller, but these make a great starter tablet. You can of course spring for a slightly larger one at around $250, especially if you aren’t ready to commit to a $2k Cintiq. A graphics tablet is definitely a fantastic way to expand your digital art toolset if you are already working towards goals. But don’t feel like you have to buy one, or that you need a tool to be good. Do some research and find the one that suits your needs and price range. The one I listed is the one that I have for digital art and storyboarding, and it’s the perfect size. I’m not ready (artistically or financially) to spring for a Cintiq, so this serves my needs now.

MovieS:

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)As much as I love the offerings from the Criterion Collection, I can’t help but also hate them a little as they have very little to offer in terms of animated films. It’s like they’ve been ignoring this entire section of film because of the choice of medium. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a notable new addition. It was added by default when ALL of Wes Anderson’s films were collectively added. I imagine that means we’ll eventually get a Criterion blu-ray for his upcoming Isle of Dogs too. I have this blu-ray, and the bonus features (and picture quality of course) do not disappoint. This is one that you want to see in all its glory, as Anderson really leans into the medium with such a variety of textures and materials used.

Cartoon Roots: Halloween Haunts (Blu-ray/DVD Combo): This blu-ray is a collection of newly restored old cartoons all themed around Halloween and the spooky. It’s the third compilation to be released from animation historian and restorer/archivist Tommy Jose Stathes. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing talks from him at an event at the Brooklyn Historical Society and at the Brooklyn-based film festival Animation Block Party, and each time his enthusiasm, knowledge, and reverence is clear. This is one of the best ways you can support someone who is working to preserve the work of creators like Fleischer, Terry, and Disney, all of whom I mentioned in books earlier!

Momotaro: Sacred Sailors + Spider & Tulip Movie (SUB Only) (Blu-ray/DVD Combo): This blu-ray features Japan’s first feature length animated film, and if that isn’t enough I’m not sure what is. I attended a few panels at cons discussing the early history of Japan, as I find it interesting. This is definitely not for the casual fan. Maybe the trailer can help convince you?

Academic:

Animated Film in Japan Until 1919: Speaking of Japan, how about a super fun and dense book about early Japanese animation history? The blurb on Amazon sold me:

In 2017 Japan celebrates 100 years of anime. 1917 indeed saw the first Japanese animated movies being released in Tokyo cinemas, reflecting years of imports of Western animated movies and knowledge. Yet even earlier local printed animation, inspired by German models, had already been available in Japan for home projectors. This study presents, for the first time in English, a detailed and up-to-date account of foreign and local animation in Japan in the first two decades of the 20th century, also including biographical information on the three Japanese anime pioneers of 1917.

Some splurges:

Ema figure from Shirobako: I’ve recently become a figure collector and was thrilled that one of my favorite shows released a figure. You HAVE to watch Shirobako if you’re interested in animation production–it’s available to stream on Crunchyroll. Shirobako follows five friends on their journeys into the animation industry. The girls work to become a producer, voice actress, CG artist, 2D animator, and screenwriter. This figure is Ema, the 2D animator. I bought this for $130, a splurge for me, but I can’t say that I wouldn’t want the other four girls if they ever released the set. 😛

A Sculpture from Andrea Blasich: Andrea is a sculptor who has over 20 years of experience across many of the largest animation studios in the world. I found him through his Robin Hood sculptures, which are based on Milt Khal concept art. His sculptures run from $40-$500 but the Robin Hood ones fall between $200-$350. He offers Robin, Friar Tuck, Sheriff, Lady Kluck, Little John, a rhino guard, and the rooster. I absolutely adore Robin and the Rooster, so I’m having a hard time deciding. At the very least, give his Instagram a follow:

So there you go! Hopefully these will give you some ideas!


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