I watched a lot of cartoons and movies. I draw incessantly and carry a sketchbook everywhere. I work in animation and self-publish my books. There are monsters in the streets, don't wear red. Mad bulls and monsters hate that color. I still watch cartoons.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Gallery this weekend!

Enrico and I are putting up work from "Fragments"on the gallery space of Super 7. They've generously offered to feature us starting this Saturday, March 5, 2005 and will run for a month. Artwork from both our comic books, sketchbooks as well as other pieces created to sell just for this show, like this one.

Gouache and pencil on color board

Super 7 is at 1630 Post St., SF, CA 94115. Call them at 415 409 4700. Opening reception starts at 6 p.m. There'll be refreshmenst and a good crowd o' drawing and toy folks about. See you there.

Super 7 store. Check out their blog. Heck look at the rest of the site. Chock full of stuff you want and those great nice folks who run it are the best. Am I gushing?

Enrico Casarosa Journal

And, as if that wasn't enough--SKETCHCRAWL! The very next day at that. March 6, 2005 we'll meet at the Starbucks on Stockton and and Sutter, one block from Union Square and right in front of the Stockton parking garage and the tunnel. Okay, you can give us grief about the choice of cafe, it's what we came up with for the moment. Next time we'll do the east bay and we'll pack Gaylords' on Piedmont Avenue or Rooz (hey, free wireless for the price of a cuppa joe, not bad). Bring your sketchbook and drawing implements of choice and we'll leave all our cares back at the office where they belong. It's about drawing damnit!

Sketchcrawl forum

Friday, February 25, 2005

Quick lists

Cintique drawing with Photoshop. Nina seem more belligerent to you?

Got the blahs. No amount of coffee seem to work these days. There's stuff to do but I seem to be ensconced in an emotional block. Sigh. No need to join me in the pit. Check these out instead.

Time online's Best and Worst: Comix list. Check out the other best/worst items on the side nav bar.

China on Site has has classic chinese stories told sequentially with text. More like illustrated books really but they call it comics, I won't argue. Illustrations are amazing, though small.

Kazuhko Nakamura--or "Almacan" to you, presents Mechanical Mirage. A digital image gallery of his work combining 19th century machines and armor.

Takahashi Hikaru is the gentleman who was very kind to have met us--and driven us around--in Japan when we visited Tadahiro Uesugi. This is his excellent website--my favorite image is the collection of noir illustration he has on the opening page. He is a graphic novelist as well as an avid puppeteer.

And speaking of Tadahiro Uesugi, he has an exhibit March 8, 2005. Check out this page--"e" link to exhibit. I want to go and see! But I can't. Lament.

"How and Why Wonder books," remember those? They were wonderfully illustrated and large format. This is a gallery of covers with still some extant.

Monday, February 21, 2005

WonderCon 2005 thrives

The good news: WonderCon 2005 is a hit. Not by margins that make people search for how to describe it but by emphatic reports. “It’s so much better than last year!” as I check in with someone who’d had less than stellar things to say about it a year ago (compare this to a Tirade post about WonderCon a year ago). The aisles were busy with attendees on the half day of the Friday opening that easily overtook any pessimism of how this year will be. By Saturday it was a full blown mob that could almost rival a San Diego crowd ( If you were at S.D. you know about that mega all-media frenzy that tend to make devoted fans of comics question, “Is this a comic-con anymore?”).

The rains didn’t deter the determined crowds from appearing and partaking of what the organizers had wisely gambled on: Move WonderCon earlier in line on the convention going calendar away from San Diego Comic-con. Swapping succession with the independent fest APE, WonderCon can now tide fans over, coming from the winter holidays and hibernation (just enough time to recover some finances from that gift-giving hullabaloo) and well before you really have to do taxes—is all very welcome it appears.

Smashing Biscuit Mia is the conglomeration of the moment that Enrico Casarosa, Bill Presing and myself had forged just for WonderCon. It is our first year at WonderCon as exhibitors and we are very happy to be part of the success of this con. We were busy, at times as much as San Diego, but the comparative leisure to connect with fans and pros was such a welcome relief—we actually convened! Look at the people who I managed to bug--my apologies to all whose conversations I barged into in my fervor to document the event.

Bruce Timm and I meet every year here at WonderCon to catch up, brief as it is, and here he was reliable as sunrise. Paul Dini came by to catch up and reports not only that he is writing on the TV hit “Lost” but is also engaged! Congratulations! There's another certain bachelor who also got engaged recently, I'd blab about it here but he should announce that himself. But congratulations anyway, buddy! Jeff Pidgeon and Anita Coulter were roaming the con looking for treasure and certainly found them--they do conventions right, I swear. Jamie Baker and Rhode Montijo (Nerve Bomb and Pablo's Inferno) were bookends to us on the floor; they are great partners to be close to. Alex Woo (director of Rex Steel) and Christine Wei were there in our booth doing blazing commerce. Stuart Ng did land office sales with a new Claire Wendling book--it was the book to have at this con as well a loads of albums from France that Stuart is threatening to unleash on us as the orders come in--I put myself down for all of them, course. Howard M. Shum (Gun fu) and Alberto Ruiz (Dr. Cyberfunken to you) who sat next to each other handed me goodies, thanks guys. Charles Kiyasu and his beauteous wife, Fe, graced our booth for a spell; Jennifer Wang of Flight came by to say hi; the ever reliable Karen checked up on us regularly and even left me with a Constantine memento of a the noisy cricket in a matchbox; Tony Salmons along with daughter Phoebe posed with Steve Oliff for a photo for me. There was also the contingent from the grand tradition of Komiks from the Philippines, legends Tony de Zuniga, Ernie Chua, Danny Bulanadi. Towards the end of the con gentle giant Steve Leialoha came by to say hi, we were passing each other on the way to handling matters the whole time and this was our one time to really regard each other properly. Thank you Steve.

Dan Brereton came by and we finally got to talk about the success of his gaming book on the Nocturnals. It was at WonderCon that we spoke about my possibly doing drawings for the book, Nocturnals Midnight Companion a year earlier or so. And here we finallly are, the book has won three ENnie Awards already. Glad to have been a part of it. I had unceremoniously blasted through a dialogue Al Gordon was having with someone to ask him what he thought of the convention and he was exuberant about how like night and day it was. Paige Braddock had the same report as well--we traded books and I must say that having a book to trade with at this convention is one of the best reasons to self-publish (if not outright be published by someone, that is), you have new things to read!

A gentleman came by the table and addressed me by name, " Ronnie, I have to say that..." Well, I'll have to reconstruct this because I lost all track of what was said after I saw his name tag. "Howard Chaykin," it read. I got up immediately and maybe cut him off as he paid me compliment upon compliment. I shook his hand and blathered on about being a big fan, managed to gain some awareness of my surroundings to introduce Enrico...we now both were doing the same thing. I think it was gawking. Anyway, I handed him copies of my books and so did Enrico. Howard seemed genuinely flattered with our gesture and we talked some more. Inquisitve, he asked about us and what we did, and then he volunteered that " When I saw "The Incredibles I sh*t blood." He goes on to say that an imminent movie about a super family can never capture what might have been rightfully theirs because of Brad's obvious powers. We agree.

I was so flabbergasted that Howard Chaykin came over to the table looking to speak to me that I really didn't get my bearings on events till much later. I forgot to snap a picture. I found him later in the middle of a rather substantial circle in the Image booth. I snapped a picture from a distance (hence, the blurred image) and managed to stop the proceedings. My manners had completely left me all day Saturday (I even disturbed an ongoing dialogue earlier between Bruce and Mark Chiarello. Oh, boy). Eric Larsen talked to me, jovial as ever, and we traded business cards," Howard tells me that he got all this stuff from you." I remind Eric that I see him here every year and he could've had stuff from me anytime. What's more, he lives in Oakland. We're practically neighbors.

Okay, I have more to say but it is really just about how glad I was that WonderCon seemed to have found traction here in the Moscone Center. Jamie Baker and I talk briefly and he was feeling good as well, "I'm just really happy to see this succeeding." I applaud the leadership of the organizers for taking action and finding its footing finally. I hope to be back here again next year and hopefully along with a larger exhibitor and fan base--and if all indications are correct, that's probably a safe bet.

"There is another."

Watch out! They're everywhere!

Another del Carmen, that is. Random Anomalies is Louie del Carmen's blog. Yep, another del Carmen in the blogosphere and one who works in animation, too--like one wasn't enough to foist on the world. Oh, yeah? Well, I gots news for you, there's actually three of us in animation. Rick del Carmen who's in also in animation is brother number two (Louie is the youngest of the three boys).

And what's an older brother good for if not to promote his kid brother's soapbox. Louie's a veteran of many productions (Invader Zim,Kim Possible,Foster's Home for Imaginary friends...I forget the thorough list) as board artist and, I am not a biased big bro here, he's damned good and funny. Well, he's also the jovial one anyway, me and Rick tended to be less so (though I get the prize for King of Sulk). He has one post there now. He's new at it, so give it a few days. I'd get on the ball if I were you, Barno--He he, big bro needling comes with the deal.

While I'm at it, Rick is the musician/artist and is in a real band (Bluescasters) with legitmate gigs (as in, they get paid). He's also a mainstay in the animation pro circuit doing boards for various productions around town (Sony's Jackie Chan and Disney TV productions which escapes me at the moment). All three play guitar (Rick has twenty some guitars in his home, I think) and we used to have our own language that only the three of us could speak--drove the sisters into incredulous confusion, parents into panic that the boys are either mental or in league with dark spirits. Who can be sure, really. And the funny thing is we all learned to do all this around each other but we never coached each other. Just happened.

Visit Louie's blog and tell him, Ronnie sent you.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

WonderCon! February 18-20

WonderCon 2005. I will be there in a booth with Enrico Casarosa and Bill Presing. What booth number, did you ask? Why, booth 211, that's what! Look for the sign that says, "Smashing Biscuit Mia." Okay, we had to find a way to have one billing, see?. Enrico and I have a second edition of "Fragments" on hand sporting a new french fold on the cover. Same cover image but without the dust jacket this time (frankly, I kinda like this one a little better).

That and our regular fare of books: Paper Biscuit 1, Paper Biscuit 1.5 and last summer's Paper Biscuit 2. Enrico will have all of his Adventures of Mia on hand as well as his "Fragments: Intermezzo." Bill Presing will have his Nazi Smasher books and DVD's. Most of the books debut last summer in San Diego but is now making its first convention appearance in our very own city of San Francisco! Along with that we have T-shirts to sell and maybe an original sketch or two to sell.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Temper on that one

Oekaki board drawing program--So, it's drawn online with Cintiq

I really should be working on other stuff that's pressing. But I had to doodle today. Nina's a little testy today. Check how work was today for her here.

You'll just have to pardon that I couldn't stack it from top to bottom. Start with the picture above for the short strip, then scroll up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Movie as quilt

Cinema Redux. Brendan Dawes explores a vantage point that no filmmaker thinks of when making a film but since we can do these things now, why not? Can you see the color flow of a movie? Cut frequency differences? Where it resembles an L.A. glass building near sunset? Or is this nostagia for the now gone era of what a T.V. screen looks like when your aerial is on the fritz? You decide.

This explores the idea of distilling a whole film down to one single image. Using eight of my favourite films from eight of my most admired directors including Sidney Lumet, Francis Ford Coppola and John Boorman, each film is processed through a Java program written with the processing environment. This small piece of software samples a movie every second and generates an 8 x 6 pixel image of the frame at that moment in time. It does this for the entire film, with each row representing one minute of film time.

The end result is a kind of unique fingerprint for that film. A sort of movie DNA showing the colour hues as well as the rhythm of the editing process. Compare Serpico to The Conversation. You can see there's far more edits in Lumet's classic compared to the more gentle slower pace of Coppola's Conversation.

Jojo in the Stars

Jojo in the Stars is a film by Marc Craste, a senior animation Director at Studio AKA in London. It is a compelling use of atmosphere and spare story elements that packs an emotional whallop in the end. My only complaint is that there arent' more in the series. I know that a lot of you may have already seen the short and also visited the studio site but it is always such a treat to watch the shorts and commercial again...and again. "Jojo" is the first film to come out of Studio AKA, which actually grew out of a series of short one minute animation's called "Pica Towers," elements of which were developed for some TV idents.

The Characters were created in CGI, using Softimage XSI and After Effects for postproduction. Emphasis was placed on creating a compelling atmosphere with dramatic lighting and reductive forms whilst capturing the absorbing beauty of black and white film. The idea was to explore a look not often associated with computer generated images, avoiding the overall sheen and even lighting in favour of a more heavily textured, less defined look.


- BAFTA 2004 ~ Best Short Animated Film.
- Clermont Ferrand 2004 ~ Prix Du Meilleur Film D’animation
- Aspen Short Film Festival 2004 ~ Special Jury Prize
- International 3D Awards Copenhagen ~ Best Short Film
- Animasia SICAF 2004 ~ Short Film Grand Prize
- Bradford Animation Festival 2004 ~ Grand Prix
- Brief Encounters Festival 2004 ~ Best of British

I've been in correspondence with Philip Hunt (a studio partner/director) and Director Marc himself. I got to screen a copy of Jojo they furnished me(we made a trade, my books for the dvd copy of the short. I was reluctant since my books, in my opinion, don't quite make it up to the level of a finished short. I keep my silence) projected large in a proper screening room--that was a treat. You can order your own copy of the short from the studio, they just offered it for sale late last year.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Darwin Day February 12

Darwin Day. Seems like a good time to raise a glass to that other old man with a white beard of our textbooks (okay, him and another) given that there are some alarming statistics about how (read: how little) of this science is taught in this country and what it may mean to your progeny.

Human evolution is included in the National Science Education Standards and the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, our national statements of the fundamental science concepts for grades K-12. The Standards and Benchmarks describe the basics for scientifically literate citizens. At the state level, politics overtake science education. Human evolution is included in only 8% of the state science standards, and is therefore not required in almost all American elementary, middle or high school science courses.

Fossil records showing actual living things that aren't here anymore are so intriguing. As a kid I imagined every bit of rock I dig up around my tropical neighborhood was some piece of a dinosaur bone. Man, dinosaurs rule--millions of years rule. How's that for a successful political party? They had their detractors, not timid little furry creatures underfoot, some of them had a hankering for the same thing that tips Fred's car at the drive thru in Bedrock (here).

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Flight Volume Two

Impressive. Okay, the first Flight book was a runaway success and it's because of the high caliber of work very much evident in the contents. That's easy, you flip through the book and you just have to like it. But I gotta add that the people involved are not only talented but they seem to have their hearts and minds in the right place--they love comics and the opportunity to tell stories. And boy, do they ever pull out the stops for the second one. If these images are any indication this summer's book to have will definitely include Flight Volume Two. Congratulations to all involved.

Check out the images.

Link to CBR article on Flight Volume 2.

Dan Lee remembered in the Ottawa Citizen

Article on Dan in the Ottawa Citizen. Copy below thanks to Craig Good of Pixar:


Latest News

The genius behind Nemo

You may not have known Dan Lee, but you probably know his animated characters, who were as full of life as their Canadian creator, writes Christopher Shulgan.

Christopher Shulgan The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dan Lee led a healthy life. He didn't smoke or drink. He liked hiking on nature trails, and the Toronto-born California cartoonist often rode his bicycle to his job at Pixar Animation Studios, where he designed some of the entertainment industry's best-loved characters.

Nemo and Marlin, his best-known creations, were the lovable father-son duo at the heart of Finding Nemo, whose $865-million U.S. worldwide gross makes it the second-biggest animated movie of all-time, behind Shrek 2.

Despite his lifestyle and easygoing sensibility, Mr. Lee died Jan. 15 after a 17-month battle with cancer. He was 35.

"Dan was a longtime member of our Pixar family," says Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton. "He single-handedly designed Nemo and has been a major influence at Pixar. Dan was a wonderful, irreplaceable, talented human being, and we miss him terribly."

Character creation was Mr. Lee's gift, Mr. Stanton says.

That's an early part of the animation process that entails designing the look of each character. It typically happens after the movie's story has been roughed out, but before the screenplay is drafted.

With Nemo, the challenge was to draw a fish character who nevertheless gave the impression of an endearing human youth.

"It's really tough to create these animated characters. You have to make the character look appealing and likable, but not so cute they make you want to throw up," says Mr. Stanton. "Dan was exceptional at it. He never needed much direction. In fact, much of our collaborating involved me just getting out of his way. With Nemo, he hit the bull's-eye with his first sketches."

Mr. Lee was raised in Scarborough. His parents are first-generation Chinese immigrants, and he has three older sisters.

As a child, his drawing ability grew out of his love for cartoons and Japanese animation, particularly the Robotech series.

William Cheng met Mr. Lee in their Grade 10 science class.

"Instead of listening to the teacher, we doodled," says Mr. Cheng, who is now a Toronto set designer.

The pair competed to improve their drawing abilities, buying art books and making weekly pilgrimages to Toronto's Silver Snail comic book shop.

Mr. Lee loved to peoplewatch in cafes, where he created cartoon characters of his fellow coffee drinkers, then dreamed up fictional histories for his doodles.

When he graduated high school, Mr. Lee enrolled in Sheridan College's animation program and graduated in 1991 at the top of his class.

In 1996, after several years working in Toronto and California for animation companies that did a lot of advertising work, he sent his portfolio to Pixar, which had a lot of buzz thanks to the unexpected success of their 1995 movie, Toy Story, which grossed $362 million U.S. worldwide.

Shortly after Mr. Lee applied, Pixar asked him to visit the company. Psyched up for an interview, Mr. Lee arrived to find the company wasn't interested in just talking with him: Purely on the strength of his portfolio, they wanted to give him a job.

At Pixar, Mr. Lee's favourite work entailed doing exactly what he did for fun as a high school student in coffee shops: He created characters. His first success was on the 1998 hit, A Bug's Life, where he drafted Rosie, the black widow spider voiced by Bonnie Hunt. Rosie's movements mimic Audrey Hepburn, who Mr. Lee particularly revered.

"Once my parents were cleaning his house in Richmond and he made sure they didn't hurt the spider living outside his front door," says his sister, Sunny Lee-Fay. "Because he studied the spider in order to get Rosie to move realistically."

Ms. Lee-Fay recalls how thrilled she was when she saw a theatre full of children laughing at her brother's work on the movie's opening day in 1998.

"It was so neat to see something he had created giving so many people so much joy," she says.

Mr. Lee would go on to work on Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 2 as a sketch artist, character designer and animator.

Other characters he designed include Princess Atta, Dot, Hopper and Tuck & Roll in A Bug's Life; Henry J. Waternoose in Monsters, Inc.; and Bloat, the barracuda in Finding Nemo. A perfectionist, he worked long hours to get his characters just right, often kept company in his workspace with his pet rat -- whose name, Zippity, also graced the licence plate of his Honda Civic.

When he wasn't working or sketching, Mr. Lee enjoyed hiking, cooking and cycling, frequently making the commute to and from Pixar's Emeryville, California, studios on two wheels.

Fine dining was a particular pleasure. His friend Onny Carr recalls the pot-luck dinners Mr. Lee hosted at his apartment.

Along with Mr. Cheng, Mr. Lee also made annual pilgrimages to Montreal to the Bar B Barn restaurant, where he enjoyed slow-roasted spareribs for lunch, dinner and the following day's lunch, then drove back to Toronto. "That was our rib intake for the year," says Mr. Cheng.

In August 2003, Mr. Lee was about to fly from California to Toronto when he had a coughing fit that wouldn't stop. As that was the time of SARS, he visited the hospital, where doctors discovered he had fluid in both lungs. Tests showed he had cancer in both lungs and in the bones of his spine.

"When he first got the diagnosis, we were all in denial," says Mr. Carr. "The statistics for lung cancer are pretty dire -- something like 85 per cent don't make it past five years. But I thought, Dan's healthy and young. Maybe he'll be in that 15 per cent."

Two types of radiation and chemotherapy were among the treatments Mr. Lee tried. When he felt able, he continued to work at Pixar.

"He could have travelled, or taken time off, but he didn't," says Ms. Lee-Fay. "That showed how much he liked what he did."

With his options for treatment diminishing, Mr. Lee's doctor suggested in the fall of 2004 that the animator should make an effort to see everyone he wanted before he died. He prepared himself for his death by reading about different religious conceptions of the afterlife. Buddhism and Eastern spirituality particularly interested him.

"I don't know whether you can ever be ready for something like this, but he had come to terms with it," Mr. Carr says, "One day we were watching Winged Migration and he kind of muttered to himself, 'Maybe in the next life I'll be an eagle'."

Mr. Lee was hospitalized at Berkeley, California's Alta Bates Summit Hospital on Jan. 10 for complications due to a lung infection. Surrounded by family and friends, he slipped away after five days in intensive care. He was cremated after a private service in California.

"He followed his dream and ended up at the top of his profession, doing exactly what he wanted," says Ms. Lee-Fay. "How many people are able to say anything like that?"

Pixar is planning a private tribute party to honour Mr. Lee's life on Feb. 13. "It's going to be a tribute," says Ms. Lee-Fay. "We're going to celebrate his life."

Mr. Lee is survived by his mother and father, Kam-Sau and Hung-Yau Lee of Toronto; and sisters Sunny Lee-Fay of Vancouver, Mei Okurmura of Tustin (Orange County) and Brenda Lee Truong of Toronto.

The family asks that donations in memory of Mr. Lee go to the Alta Bates Summit Foundation, 2450 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Studio Ghibli visit

The visit happened last year and I’m just getting to recounting this event now. Tantamount to a religious pilgrimage the Studio Ghibli premises is landfall that I will treasure forever. After our visit to the museum (see the entry here) we headed for the studio in the quiet streets of Higashi Koganei. They remind me much of my neighborhood in my small city of Cavite when I was a boy (though, as it is everywhere in Japan, it is so much cleaner).

Around the afternoon all the houses are quiet, people were at work and the grandparents are asleep, light breezes carries over the front steps of family homes and small gardens. And just as you're feeling that an afternoon nap would be good around just then, there it is. The White building seems to want to blend in with all the other family homes,and though no one could mistake it for a home it’s welcoming as office buildings go. No gates or high walls. No hint of a security passage. It strikes me that for a world renowned studio with fans from all over the globe—and if I my idea of fandom is just like yours you know they can have no notion of boundaries—there seems to be no indication that it’s ever been necessary to guard against this.

We are met at the door by Rieko Izutsu-Vajrasarn of their International Division. She went to college in the U.S. and translates for us as she gives us a tour of the studio. We were not allowed to take any pictures inside the studio so this recounting will have to do. We stayed at their lunch area/cafeteria. All the glass surrounding the room makes it a pleasant area to have a coffee break but at this hour in the afternoon Enrico and I were the only people here. We proceed to go through all the rooms upstairs. Animation is busy at work on jobs for other studios (Japanese studios tend to help each other out from time to time) as well as some that were in-house projects. Earlier that day at the Museum we saw again the short of the little Cat Bus and May. Now, walking the floors of quietly working artists we are told that they are working on four shorts for the studio and the museum. It was great to see the paintings of the backgrounds and the characters that we’ll be enjoying in the future--and here we are standing around it being made (geek glee about this notion, obviously)!

The one thing that stands out about the paintings was that they were painted with Chinese brushes. Of course they would, we're in Japan after all. But after being in U.S. studios for all this time I’ve never seen this brush used professionally. I even remember a professor back home who pooh-poohed the idea of using such a pedestrian tool. But he’d be eating crow if he saw these paintings. Such craft and charm in the magic hands of these masters, all using poster color, a gouache like water based paint that I remember using as a teen (we visited Production I.G. of Ghost in the Shell and Innocence fame and they used the same technique).

We were shown to the wing of the technical director who is responsible for making the walking castle of “Howls Moving Castle.” He had the challenge of making master Miyazaki’s design retain its drawn qualities while utilizing the computer to assist in keeping such a complex array of disparate elements unified. It will gladden the heart of any 2D fan to know that the movie has no overbearing 3D elements that stick out like a sore thumb. And the results of this man’s work on the screen is magnificent and simplicity itself. The demo tied it all together and it made me think I could make a moving castle of my own.

(On a side note, I made sure that I saw the movie the day before this visit. Enrico had already seen it so I sought the movie out. It wasn’t hard. It is only the most popular movie in Japan that week of my visit. Like I said, it was easy to spot because all I had to do was look out for long lines. And there it was. A line snaking out and around this theater. I bought a ticket for the next show. The audience was mostly young and mostly couples. Miyazaki’s movies are date movies in Japan. Over in the U.S. it would be animation enthusiasts or Miyazaki fan parents bringing their kids. I love this country.)

There are two buildings that comprise Studio Ghibli, the second one is called, not surprisingly, Studio Ghibli 2. It was mostly for other offices and perhaps for when the full heat of production is on. It is very quiet in the studio overall. When we were introduced people smiled and bowed saying hello but just audible enough to hear and then they were back to work. Very few offices or cubicles, mostly tables were side by side with small shelves above for some and drawers. Any office set up you can name back in the U.S. is space extravagant by comparison.

We met with Ghibli President, Toshio Suzuki, who was just back from a trip to Europe, likely doing “Howl”work. He was very pleasant and welcoming, handing us CD’s and boxes of gifts to reciprocate the one gift we had for him. And after asking about John at Pixar and the movies he apologizes that he has to meet another visiting animator from Europe and could not spend more time with us. Earlier we were told that Miyazaki himself was on the premises but was asleep. Serves us right arriving right after lunch. In any case I managed to get a photo with Suzuki san for our files.

Sigh. There it was. My pilgrimage was complete. I will not be able to do this trip again any time soon and I don’t think that I will be able to top all the things I managed to do and see on this first visit. We left and said our thank you’s to Rieko. I was going to snap one more picture of the studio behind us outside, so I walked over to the street pointing the camera at Enrico and Rieko, with the notion that he’ll take one of me and her after. A group of moms of the neighborhood was walking by so I moved to let them by. One of the moms walked toward me, extended her hand gesturing to give her the camera in a very assured manner saying all that to me in japanese. Really, she would not have any of it and motioned for me to join Enrico in the photo. She snapped this photograph and handed me the camera back, waving me off as if to say,“See, wasn’t that much better?”

Can’t argue with that.

(Enrico is an old hand at visiting the studio and talks about his visit at Ghibli before "Howl" was finished in his journal.)