DIFF Daily 2010

Interview: Nayoshi Shiotani, director, ‘Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror’

Dec 16,2010 - 11:53 AM

In an era of CGI and 3D animation movies comes another magical movie ‘Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror’. It highlights the story of a teenager, whose life is predominated by the death of her mother. Being raised by a workaholic father, her life is lived in solitude. Until one day, when on a trip to the shrine, she follows a fox carrying a toy, in hopes of finding something she lost as a child. And so, the journey begins to the mystical place called Oblivion Island.
Having won awards eight awards, including Animation of the Year (Japan Academy Prizes 2009) the movie is now set to screen at DIFF. A brief chat with the animation director of the movie – Naoyoshi Shiotani – gave us a fascinating insight into the origins of this lovely film.
How did you come up with the idea for ‘Oblivion Island’?
It was actually a bit by chance. The creative team, along with the producer and director, were brainstorming and someone passed around a picture book with an old Japanese folklore tale. It holds that when you lose something you really treasure, you must go to the shrine and pray for the foxes to bring it back, and then in the night the foxes will deliver it to you. We all really liked the idea and things just went from there.
What inspired you to venture into the world of animated cinema?
I’ve liked drawing since I was a child, so getting into animation seemed like a natural outcome. Also Japan has had a long tradition of animation for TV and theatre, so I grew up in that environment. What happens with live action movies is that we have to rely on local movie stars and it’s difficult to work with them at times because of availability and things like that. However with animation, I can concentrate more on the visuals, the quality of animation, the colours and all of these combined make it somehow easier for me to reach a wide audience.

There seem to be many different types of animated movie; what kind of animation have you used for this film?
For Japanese productions, we cannot work with multi-million dollar budgets, we have to work on limited budgets compared to what they have in the US. So what we bring into the movie is our creativity and our way of making computer animation with limited resources, but bringing our personality into it at the same time. We use a lot of 2D animation in Japan so we try to develop 3D animation that was blended with our 2D visuals. Secondly, we did not have motion capture, but the animators have this skill of calculating movements and that’s how we worked.
How has the film been received by international audiences so far?
One thing I noticed is the difference in audience reactions when they are watching the movie. People in Japan are generally quiet when they watch a movie. Whereas, two weeks ago, when the movie was screened at Sydney, the audience reacted to different parts of the movie. For instance, when a cute character would come on screen they would react and laugh at all the funny parts, in contrast to the Japanese audience.
Apart from being a film for children, does your movie have a deeper message for adults as well?
Of course. The movie has two layers. One is to entertain children and the other is to remind adults to prioritise their families. Usually we tend to forget what is important, perhaps unintentionally, so the movie is like a lesson, teaching the audience to give importance to something they treasure.

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