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The Airtight Garage or: Kurosawa's Shelved Animated Co-Production

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    Blah

    So I was searching for something on Google when I happened upon this curious article. Apparently, Kurosawa was going to be involved in producing an animated film based on Moebius’s “Airtight Garage,” to be animated by Katsuhiro Otomo, director of Akira. Moebius’s involvement in AK100 seems to make more sense now…

    This might be the start of another sad “Moebius can’t make a movie” story if it weren’t for Kurosawa Enterprises USA, which has hooked up with Rivier and Starwatcher Graphics (Giraud’s US corporation) to produce The Airtight Garage. Kurosawa is working on securing a worldwide distribution deal, and is supporting the animation production in Japan.

    Japanese film master Akira Kurosawa and French comic master Moebius make a complementary team. Giraud started out making Western comics and then moved into science fiction. Kurosawa directed Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, which became the basis for two world-famous westerns: The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars. His film The Hidden Fortress foreshadowed the plot of Star Wars.

    Rivier says that one reason he was so excited to have animation buff Kurosawa involved with the movie project was that the director has access to Japanese animators. The Starwatcher movie never got past a six-minute demo because nobody involved in the project realized how expensive it was to make a full-length movie using only high quality 3-D computer graphics. This time around The Airtight Garage will use a combination of traditional cel animation and computer animation. The cel animation will be done in Japan under the direction of Katsuhiro Otomo, whose animated feature Akira was a huge hit in Japan and a cult classic in the United States. Like Giraud in his cinematic approach to comics, “Otomo uses traditional cinematography techniques for animation,” says Rivier. “His angles and camera movement look like real life movies.” The computer animation will be done in the United States. Though Rivier says he’s been talking with Jim Cameron at Digital Domain, they haven’t chosen a studio yet.

    Has anyone heard of this before?

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    Vili Maunula

    An interesting link!

    I remember the rumours, but I think the project got cancelled in the mid-90s or something? Now that I did a quick search, I realised that Jeremy also mentioned this at one point in connection with AK100. Maybe there were plans to revive it?

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    Chris

    As a fan of both Giraud and Kurosawa, I found this very fascinating. But it’s very unclear how directly involved Kurosawa was in this. I wonder if this was just his production company, or whether or not he himself was more involved?

    The author also mentioned that Kurosawa was an animation buff as if this were common knowledge, but I’ve never heard this before. Granted my knowledge is somewhat limited, but can anyone answer if he really was strongly interested in animation?

    Ultimately, though, I’m not too sad that this project fell through. Airtight Garage is a series of improvised visual pieces and as a whole story it makes very little sense (but is wonderfully enjoyable nonetheless). I think the beauty of Giraud is in his brilliant artwork not in his story telling, and this would be thoroughly lost if animated exclusively with computer graphics (especially 1990s computer graphics).

    (By the way, the article failed to mentioned Rene Laloux’s wonderful film Les maîtres du temps (Time Masters) which is not Giraud’s story but is absolutely the most thorough adaptation of Giraud’s artistic style ever put on film.)

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    Vili Maunula

    The author also mentioned that Kurosawa was an animation buff as if this were common knowledge, but I’ve never heard this before. Granted my knowledge is somewhat limited, but can anyone answer if he really was strongly interested in animation?

    My abilities to find you a solid reference fail me at the moment, but Kurosawa did express an interest towards animation from the late 80s onwards. Reportedly, he loved Grave of the Fireflies and most other Studio Ghibli films, and considered himself a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s works. I don’t know how involved he was going to be with the Giraud film, though.

    You probably already know this, but Kurosawa’s script The Mask of Black Death, based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story and written in the late 1970s, is currently being turned into an animated film. It should have a release date sometime this year, although very little new information has been made available.

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    Blah

    I believe he named “Kiki’s Delivery Service” as one of his top 100 favorite films.

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    dylanexpert

    Blah:

    You are correct. “Kiki” appears as #97 on the list, with the following comment:

    “It’s an animation, but I was deeply moved. I really liked that ‘cat bus’, for no one else would think up such a thing! His “Majo no takkyuubin” [the original Japanese title] actually made me weep. Indeed, many talents nowadays whom I would have loved to kept [sic] for movies have gone to the animation industry… We, the movie industry, must not be lazy – we must make pictures that stimulate young talents’ interest in movies.”

    See the link here (about a quarter of the way down the page).

    There’s a kind of odd ambiguity here. He appreciates the art of the animator, but he can’t help wishing that talents like Miyazaki’s would instead have been attracted by live-action cinema, which is where AK’s heart really lies.

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    dylanexpert

    Blah:

    Correction to the previous post. It was Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro that was chosen as favorite film #97, but he alludes to Kiki’s Delivery Service in his comments. Clearly he is a fan of Miyazaki’s work, not just of one film by the animator.

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    Vili Maunula

    I have often wondered about that list. Unless I’m mistaken, it was actually compiled by Kazuko after her father’s death, based on the films that she remembers her father to have talked about?

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