not sure if this is a repeat post, if it is, my apologies…put the link up here- since its art related, I thought id share and give a heads up…Peace all. :bluu: the link below…
QUICK DISSOLVE: Spirited away:As merchandisers grow rich, the animation industry is losing jobs to cheaper labor abroad.
By YUZURU TAKANO and KIYOHIDE INADA:The Asahi Shimbun
`Unless something is done, Japanese anime will be ruined.’ KOICHI MURATA President of animation company Oh Production
For all the fat profits that Japanese animation generates from merchandise these days, the wallets of the animators who piece the cartoons together are as thin as the cels they painstakingly paint.
To take one example, the worldwide market for the video games and merchandise related to the late-1990s cartoon series Pokemon is worth some 3 trillion yen.
Yet an animator, toiling away on cels in a tiny Tokyo studio, might be fortunate to pull in just 50,000 yen a month.
Much of the recent interest in, and the money for, Japanese animation, popularly known as anime, comes from abroad, notes Kiyokazu Matsumoto, president of Dream Ranch Inc., a Sony Music Group company.
Matsumoto said one U.S. toy manufacturer offered his company about $10 million (about 1.1 billion yen) for the rights to market merchandise featuring the characters of an animated cartoon his company hadn’t even completed. The figure was particularly eye-popping for Matsumoto because it was 100 times what animated films earn on average from broadcasting rights in Japan.
The offer came just as Matsumoto and his company were starting to map out an animation based on illustrations by an artist whose works often appear on comic book covers.
Dream Ranch has since neared a deal with a Hollywood company to turn the story into a full-length animation.
In recent years, the trend has been to turn cartoon characters into merchandise and video games as quickly as possible.
It was the Pokemon series in the late 1990s that revolutionized the conventional notion that animation was first and foremost for the domestic market and the overseas market a mere side business.
Pokemon video games, stuffed dolls and other merchandise proved an instant success when they hit the U.S. market. About 120 million Pokemon video games have so far been shipped around the world. The Pokemon cartoon has aired in 68 nations.
The Tokyo-based company that manages the Pokemon copyright has licensing contracts with about 200 companies overseas and about 70 in Japan. About 2,000 items, including stationery and toys, now feature Pokemon characters.
Of course, international acclaim for Japanese animation is nothing new, having started with ``Astro Boy’’ in the early 1960s.
More recently, Hayao Miyazaki’s ``Spirited Away’’ won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2002 and then won Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards the following year.
Mamoru Oshii’s ``Innocence’’ was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May and will open at theaters in 10 major U.S. cities this fall.
The creators of
Innocence'' are also fully aware of the ripeness of the overseas market for Japanese animation. In part to channel the animation toward the American mainstream, they spent about 2 billion yen making the film, an enormous amount in Japan for an animated feature. A sum of a similar level was also spent to make Spirited Away.’’ Still, this is nowhere near what Hollywood spends on animated films, which cost the equivalent of about 10 billion yen each.
The sponsors of ``Innocence’’ include major Japanese companies as well as the Disney group.
The producer of
Innocence,'' Katsuji Morishita of the studio Production I.G., notes, Unlike conventional anime, we aimed for Hollywood from the beginning.’’
Because Japanese animation creators have nowhere near the funds of Disney animators, they must make do with fewer frames and instead concentrate on creating appealing story lines. They also have at their disposal perhaps the largest number of comic books in the world to tap into for inspiration.
Japanese animations tell good stories and are popular overseas, too,'' says Yasuki Hamano, a media professor at the University of Tokyo. They have a lot of potential to be competitive overseas.’’
At the same time, however, the small subcontractors that have made Japanese animation such a big success are now fast losing out to competitors in South Korea and China, where labor costs are lower.
Many of the 70 or so subcontractors clustered in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward are in a bind. Even as the cost of rent and paying animators rises, there has been no corresponding rise in production budgets.
One of those feeling the pinch is Oh Production, which created the cels for popular animations like
Arupusu no Shojo Haiji'' and Chibi Maruko-chan.’’
Disheartened by a monthly salary that tops out at 50,000 yen, a 26-year-old animator who joined the production team a year ago said, ``Sometimes I want to give up-I never imagined it would be like this.’’ Only with parental financial support can the animator make ends meet. A single cel earns an animator 200 yen, yet might, if the image is complicated, take a whole day to make.
Of the approximately 440 animation production companies in the country, about 70 percent are small, with 30 workers or fewer, according to one estimate.
Such companies receive around 10 million yen for a single job from advertisers and sponsors. Sometimes, it isn’t enough to cover costs.
The real money comes from broadcast rights, which are usually held by TV stations, publishers and major animation production companies. Consequently, the small subcontractors do not share in the windfall from thriving sales of merchandise featuring animated characters.
Many young animators, fed up with the low pay, quit in a few years. And with more and more cels getting painted in South Korea and China, many in the domestic industry worry about the ``hollowing out’’ of the animation industry.
``Unless something is done, Japanese anime will be ruined,’’ laments Oh Production President Koichi Murata.(IHT/Asahi: June 2,2004) (06/02)