Many of you probably don't know but when I was going to art school, I was majoring in illustration. When I had graduated, I worked as a freelance artist for a while doing many illustration related projects for film, comic books, on-line games, and marketing comp art, to name some fields. I always had an interest in animation, from any country.
I remember being blown away the first time I saw AKIRA. I had never seen anything like it before. Growing up, watching Disney classic shorts and features as well as the slew of animation programming in syndication, I'd never been exposed to animation that was so technically well done. The story didn't quite jive with my western story sensibilities beaten into my subconscious mind from years of Western animation/ film exposure, but AKIRA had an unshakable quality of uniqueness and mastery that I've yet to see rivaled.
A short while into my freelance years, I had the opportunity to work @ Walt Disney Feature Animation on Mulan. That was my first total immersion into the process of animation. It was pretty intense work for someone new to the rigors of animation production. I remember long days into nights sitting at an animation desk producing drawing after drawing to get through each scene. Each drawing had to be of the highest quality so that it could "read" on screen what was being "sold" to the audience through the art itself.
When I think back on the hours, days, weeks, months, and years that I invested in the Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear, it all seems like a blur. Each film, I learned and grew as an artist, through sheer "pencil mileage", working with extremely talented artists, and learning the animation process from the inside out. Working conditions were generally good. We worked hard. Played hard. I met a ton of great people and influential artists. Together, we created outstanding projects that will stand the tests of time for that genre of animation.
So what does all this have to do with Japanese Animation? I was just thinking recently about the huge impact that the Japanese animation industry has had in America. Are the animators that create some intensely awesome and highly admirable animated product revered in Japan as they are here in the US? Are these animation ninjas treated the same as the top talent for major US animation studios? What's it like for them during a production, creating the amazing entertainment we've grown accustomed to seeing on our cable tv and sold in the big box retailers?
Now I can't say that all the statements in the link below are completely verified by a major news network special report. The article does share input from artists in the industry. (It's on the internet, so take it for what it is, right?) At the very least, for me anyway, give me a sense of what animation industry veterans and newbies in Japan go through to bring us their very best exportable entertainment artform.
p=111 What do you think?
Here's a perspective presented by a Westerner in Japan at Production IG: