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Anime Expo 2008
Production I.G

by Mikhail Koulikov,

Production I.G has consistently been both one of the most innovative of Japan's anime companies, and among the friendliest to Western fans. Along with Aniplex, it was the only Japanese studio to host an Anime Expo panel.

Maki Terashima, of I.G's North American office, presented the panel, as she has in the past three years, and introduced fans to the entire line-up of films and television series that she is currently working on.

Mamuro Oshii's newest movie, The Sky Crawlers, will open in japan on August 2. A U.S. distributor for the film is still being determined. After screening a full-length trailer for this drama about a group of "killdren" - children who are forced to take part in aerial dogfights, she talked about a recent trip the entire production team, including Oshii, took to California's Skywalker Range, home of the Skywalker Sound studio. Skywalker was responsible for creating and mastering the film's audio and soundtrack, and well-known sound designers Randy Tom and Thom Myers worked on it. The standard schedule during the trip was work until seven p.m., drinking in the local bars until the bars closed, then mah-jong back at their hotel. Weekends were filled with trips to the wineries of Napa Valley - and more drinking. And along the way, Oshii took the time to bond with Lucy, the basset hound of one of Skywalker's employees. He actually first used Skywalker Sound in 2001, when he was directing the live-action Avalon. For that film as well, Skywalker provided post-production sound services.

On Monday, the latest I.G animated television series, World Destruction: Sekai Bokumetsu no Rokunin, is set to premiere on television stations around Japan. It is I.G's fourth new anime of the year, along with the ongoing Real Drive, Library War, which just finished airing last month, and Sisters of Wellber Zwei. Their second movie of 2008, a re-release of Ghost in the Shell updated with computer graphics, digital effects, and 6.1 surround sound, will hit Japanese theaters on July 12, Its U.S. release will be handled by Manga Entertainment, with details scheduled to be unveiled at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month. Yet another project the studio is involved with is the Batman: Gotham Knight anthology, for which its animators created the Crossfire segment. Gotham Knight is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday.

Starting in the fall, America's Cartoon Network and TNT cable television stations will begin airing episodes of the CGI animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars. I.G will also be involved, handling the animation duties on Episode 12. Atsushi Takeuchi, an experienced production designer and animator who has worked on Oshii's Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor, as well as Gunbuster, the Ah! My Goddess television series, and Yukikaze will step up for his first directing credit.

During the short question-and-answer section of the panel, Terashima mentioned that because of overall economic trends, it has been increasingly difficult for I.G to sell its new anime to American distributors. In fact, in her experience, it is now much easier to secure distribution of newer series in Europe than in North America.

A second audience member brought up the film that introduced I.G to a much wider audience - the short animated sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. That was the first time I.G cooperated with a Hollywood studio on a major motion picture, but at least two more projects of this type is now in development. More information on them will be relealed next year, most likely at the 2009 Anime Expo.

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