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Anime Expo 2022

by Jacki Jing,

Eager to see A Whisker Away's director, Tomotaka Shibayama, dozens of people filled the Studio Colorido panel room at Anime Expo, excited to see his live drawing and to ask one of their favorite anime creators their burning questions.

The sound wasn't working, but they launched a beautiful 10th anniversary video to start off the panel, showcasing their thrilling and stunning animation from some of their most popular titles, including A Whisker Away and Burn The Witch. It ended with the beautiful message “the next 10 years with you...” Shibayama was introduced to the stage shortly after. He told the crowd “Hello, I am Tomotaka Shibayama. I directed A Whisker Away and I am happy for the opportunity to meet you today and I hope that we all have a good time.”

The host explained that Shibayama previously worked on Studio Ghibil's Spirited Away. Then he moved on to be a cell painter with A-1 Pictures studio. Recently though, he's been known for being the film director for A Whisker Away on Netflix, a storyboard artist for Penguin Highway and the effects director for The Anthem of the Heart.

Then the host introduced Studio Colorido's Kōji Yamamoto, known for his work on Psycho-Pass and Eden of the East. He was also a producer for Nodame Cantabile, anohana, and Natsuyuki Rendezvous. He told the crowd: “Nice to meet you all. I am Kōji Yamamoto. This is my first time at Anime Expo, enjoy this panel!”

They talked about Tite Kubo's Burn The Witch and their work on that anime, followed by a clip of their latest project Drifting Home. They soundless clip showed a group of children and a ship. The host said that the trailer will be dropping soon with sound.

Yamamoto then spoke about Studio Colorido's partnership with Netflix and how they reached out to him about creating three titles as Shibayama started drawing for the audience. The host gave a hint that it could be something from A Whisker Away and revealed that raffle tickets were handed out at the beginning of the panel, and the winner would get the drawing and his autograph. The crowd audibly reacted with “awws!”

Yamamoto talked about the importance of hand drawing in the anime industry, but said Studio Colorido was also a pioneer for using digital software and referenced Typhoon Noruda that was 100% produced digitally. They said Penguin Highway, the first film from their studio that they worked on with Wit Studio also relied of digital software.

The Q&A opened to audience questions, beginning with the repetition of birds often seen in Studio Colorido's projects.

Yamamoto: Yes it's in a few works, including Penguin Highway. The director of Penguin Highway [Hiroyasu Ishida] actually has a new project involving birds. One of the main concepts of Studio Colorido is jumping and so that leads to us often using birds.

What influences the cats seen in the film and how many designs did you look at?

Shibayama: Actually, I didn't look at that many. I had the idea of a white kitten early.

Yamamoto A staff member at the studio recently lost their cat at the time and that's why we picked the cat as a motif.

Is drawing in ink Shibayama's favorite medium and what's your thought process since you cannot easily fix mistakes?

Shibayama: Well, thankfully at Studio Colorido we use digital so with one touch I can go back [and fix mistakes]. It's been awhile since I've drawn like this so I'm actually having to prep a little bit.

Yamamoto: I strongly believe that Japanese animation is so loved all over the world because it's hand drawn, compared to 3D modeling and computer generated.

A young boy asked Shibayama why he didn't start with shapes and just jumped right in. Shibayama said he usually doesn't draw this way.

"You're not actually seeing the way I normally draw, I just broke it into parts in a different way," he said which had everyone laughing.

A woman also asked for advice for an aspiring artist and art director. Yamamoto said well I cannot draw at all (which was met with laughter). He emphasized the importance of practice. Shibayama responded that he also couldn't draw at one point but then he just imitated illustrators he really respected.

"I asked what about this drawing style appealed to me and asking myself those questions I figured out what to draw myself, Shibayama said.

Another attendant asked about the character design process. Yamamoto said the staff have an idea for the character design and then alter them for their main target. He said the animators' job is to to draw something very similar to the original design, so the animator doesn't always need to be artistic but to imitate original design.

Yamamoto also elaborated on their training process and the studio's preference for analog versus digital animation.

"Actually drawing on paper is more efficient. Digital drawing lead creators to cancel what they do and try again. So all the new guys are trained on paper drawing first and then transitioning to digital drawing is always difficult at first."

Then Shibayama finished his drawing and it was...the protagonist from A Whisker Away! Then they called out a winner 673257 and the panel wrapped!

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