Sales-wise, the Korean animation industry continues its record-breaking streak overseas. Takahata Isao, one of the most respected Japanese animation directors, however, argues that it has failed in showing something uniquely Korean.
"Except for 'My Beautiful Girl, Mari
' (2002), Korean feature animations released in recent years are failures", the director told reporters in a press conference hosted by the organizing committee of the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival last week.
The co-founder of Studio Ghibli - founded with Oscar-winning Miyazaki Hayao - went on to say that he believes the main reason of the failure to be the overly market-sensitive approach of local producers.
"Thinking global from the planning stage seems to have increased the scale of animations at the cost of well-developed stories and plots. But what I think should be their primal concern is to make uniquely Korean animations that can satisfy Koreans first", he said. The 70-year-old director visited Seoul to participate in the screening of "Pom Poko", his 1994 animated film about the resistance of a group of magical raccoons against the destruction of a forest to develop a Tokyo suburb. As part of this year's SICAF events, four of his masterpieces ("Grave of the Fireflies", "Only Yesterday", "My Neighbors the Yamadas" and "Pom Poko") will be screened at CGV multiplexes in Yongsan, Gangbyeon and Sangam from Thursday through June 28.
Born in 1935, he has been in the anime business since 1961, working as an assistant director of several TV anime shows. He had his first job as a full director in 1964, when he directed several episodes of "Wolf Boy Ken".
The director is perhaps less known than Miyazaki, but his works are also considered anime classics in Japan. Compared to Miyazaki's films, which are typically rooted in fantasies and myth, Takahata's works are generally considered to be more serious and introspective.
His breakout film was "The Prince of the Sun", a 1968 adventure of Toei studio, which marked the generational shift in Japanese animation. Since then, Takahata has created such landmark films as "Grave of the Fireflies" (1988), a beautiful yet deeply saddening anime about two siblings orphaned in World War II.
Takahata directed many of the pieces that Miyazaki worked on in a lesser capacity, especially during the 60s and 70s, including "Panda Cub" (considered the precursor to "Totoro") and "Heidi: Girl of the Alps", probably one of his works best known to Koreans. The two Japanese masters of animation became partners and have often worked together since then, which is why Studio Ghibli is often associated with the works of both men. Studio Ghibli was created to produce many of Miyazaki's works including "Laputa: The Castle in the Sky", but is not exclusively "Miyazaki's studio", as some believe.
"Pom Poko", another masterful work of Takahata, is a tale of the clash between modern civilization and the natural world. "After the war, for more than 30 years, there was quite a bit of construction going on in Japan. I see the city of Seoul is still sprawling, so I guess you can understand the animation quite well", he said.
When a reporter asked him how he became interested in environmental issues, he replied, "How can one live without thinking about the issue in this modern world?" For more information about SICAF and the screenings of Takahata's films, go to Open the link
or call (02) 3455-8418.
By Lee Yong-sung