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Japan’s 3D CG feature “Friends”

Here’s a wild looking kids film coming later this year from Japan, Friends (mononoke shima no Naki). Toho is planning to qualifying it for an Academy Award. Is this Japan’s first feature-length 3D CG-animated film?

(Thanks, Sandra Khoo)

  • Oh, little one! Whose rear end will you torch next? I actually thought it was really cool seeing the super-stylized human villagers, like the elder. And I enjoyed the CG interpretation of a lot of exaggerated anime expressions. Beautiful scenery.

  • snip2354

    Japan making a CG feature film!?! The world is ending!!!!!

    Wait, there was Appleseed. Wasn’t that fully-computer-generated?

  • There was an Appleseed movie a few years back, though I don’t remember if it was motion captured or not, or if it was in 3D.

    Now I know anime has varying art styles, but this looks so much different from the other stuff. It’s….bizarre.

  • Looks like they have been getting their inspiration from Dreamworks.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It certainly looks that way to me too. I could just picture this being brought over and dubbed without anyone recognizing the differences!

    • …and Japanese culture itself, and the famous Chinese fairy tale: Monkey.

  • It looks kind of cool in an unholy creepy way. It doesn’t have the same oppressive Hollywood vibe oozed by every recent trailer for an animated movie.

    • DBC

      what? oppressive?

  • I hope having a varied diet of film making methods in at least one country will lead to such a broader public view of what animation is internationally. Maybe if Japan can do cgi features the west can have drawn animation with grown up themes? …Please?

    • Do you think there is a wide audience in the West that desires hand drawn animation with adult themes, or is it mostly people working in the animation industry and smaller cult audiences? The films in theaters are doing so well! I wonder if the movie going audience craves new and different animated films. I personally think an adult film could work better as hand drawn than CG though I could be wrong on that.

      • There doesn’t seem to be any reason to suppose the wealth and variety of audiences that live action enjoys for example, do not exist for animation. In Japan it is simply accepted that hand drawn animation can be for young and old audiences of all tastes. All we can do as animators is not censor ourselves in the work we produce and create honest work that we think is worth watching and leave the audience targeting to the distributors.

  • This looks amazing! I hope it gets some kind of distribution in the UK so I can see it. So exciting to see something that uses CGI in a creative and innovative way.

    lovely jubbly.

  • Rufus

    I guess this means we finally find out what happened to Ross & Rachael.

    Ok, bad joke. Reminds me of a Dreamworks feature.

  • Silence Dogood

    Its like Monsters Inc in Middle Earth.

    • Richard Bradford

      That’s what i was thinking as well.

    • MadRat

      Actually it’s a Japanese version of Shrek. I saw a version of this story when I was a kid and like most trailers, hides some of the details of the story like the fact that the original was a tear jerker. The original story is about a red ogre and a blue ogre. The red guy wants to be friends with some kids, but he’s an ogre so they’re afraid of him. The blue guy, his best friend, terrorizes the kids’ village so the red guy will seem more friendly. It works! But the blue guy is beat up and chased off by the villagers. The the red guy realizes his best friend got hurt for his sake, they’ll be separated forever and bursts into tears (not that I blame him).

  • tonma

    Lord let this be something original and new, and not a bunch of bad influences from the west.
    From this clip with no subtitles it’s hard to tell…..

  • Baron Lego

    Some additional info about the film:

  • I can already see the poster for the U.S premiere
    ¨FRIENDS¨ featuring the voices of TOM SELLECK and TED DANSON.

    That is in case they don´t get MATT LEBLANC and DAVID SCHWIMMER

  • Liam Scanlan

    And the film’s English title is…..Friends: Naki on the Monster Island:

  • If Wikipedia is accurate (HAH!), A.Li.Ce was Japan’s first feature-length 3D CG-animated film, back in 1999. GAGA Communications was responsible for that and 2000’s Blue Remains.

    ArtsMagic DVD released both films in the mid-2000s. Japan’s waded in the CG pool for a while. I’m not sure if this is Toho’s first CG film, though.

  • Krayon

    Kinda looks like drew inspiration from “Where The Wild Things Are” and put Monsters Inc. in the jungle. Yet it looks interesting, I hope the subs (and dubs) come out for this

  • Randy Koger

    Looks like Ice Age with Japanese monsters.
    I’ll pass.

  • Production I.G is currently working on a 3D-ified CG-version of the CYBORG 009 franchise.

    Did Studio 4c finish working on their 3D project called AMBIENT LOVE, directed by Koji Morimoto? Dunno if it was a short or a feature, though.

    In any case, this looks more like a film that would be released in the west… Crazily-designed alien-type characters who have a run-in with bad (human) luck. The two buddies have to figure out how to solve their problem and make peace with the strange (human) world in the process.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It certainly appears to play out like that without knowing what was being said here. Certainly a looser adaptation of the Japanese folktale given the circumstances.

  • Appleseed was fully 3D. Also don’t forget Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and Final Fantasy; Advent Children.

  • Anh-nimation

    You forgot Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children. That was fully CG. But most of that stuff is motion capture.

  • Alissa

    The monsters’ designs were really off-putting, but that’s the point of monsters, right? The human characters were adorable though.

  • Bud

    Same designers as How To Train Your Dragon? Imitation is the sincerest form of….

  • Skip

    I’ve never seen anything like this from Japan. It’s peaked my interest and I look foreword to seeing the finished result.

  • There was also Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror:

  • By 3D I guess they in this case mean stereoscopic.
    Looking forward to this one. :)

  • RadFemHedonist

    There was also a film called Yona Yona Penguin, which I think was directed by Rintaro (Metropolis, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999).

  • I likes! The design of the granny is gold!

  • red_spoon

    The child’s design is VERY similar to the child in Emperor’s New Groove.

  • Knut

    That Friends movie is directed by Takashi Yamazaki. He is known for making CG heavy movies. His latest movie was Battleship Yamato, based on Star Blazers.

    Like someone said, 2-3 years ago, there was Oblivion Island, from Production I.G.

    The movie is notable for its blend of CG and 2D backgrounds, that didn’t always work though (some scenes look too much like a video game with 3D characters over prerendered backgrounds).

    Another CG movie released this year is Tofu Kozo:

    And there was a Resident Evil CG movie too.

    • Hardsuit


      Star Blazers was based on Space Battleship Yamato, similar to how “Battle of the Planets” was a re-edited Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.

  • I’ve seen a million anime drawings that look like these characters. They’re mostly in kids fantasy stories that have nothing todo with Dreamworks or Pixar. There have been plenty of Japanese CG films. Final Fantasy Advent Children for example was a huge success. What world do you guys live in?

  • Vzk

    As long as they don’t play “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts, I’m kind of interested.

  • GW

    I prefer this corny air battle animation from China.

  • That made me smile.

  • NAveryW

    I can think of several fully CGI films from Japan (To my surprise, Resident Evil: Degeneration and its sequel haven’t been mentioned yet). However, most of them seem to use a good deal of mocap.

    Leaving mocap aside, there are still those 3D Pokemon films. Yes, they’re stereoscopic 3D, and they were shown theatrically. But they aren’t feature length.

  • JMW

    Looks like it could play well with kids, but I don’t see the mainstream anime crowd liking it too much.

    Personally, I really hope Japan can become a competitor to the US in terms of CGI animation, if only to get an alternative to: “Anthropomorphic thing 5” or “Pop-culture fairy tale 6”. Although, it’s only a matter of time before Japan’s CGI film industry becomes “Stupid tabletop game 7”

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Yeah there’s always money to be made.

  • Well, this certainly is a departure from what makes Japanese animation interesting.

    Japan has been one of the few places on Earth that still appreciates handdrawn animation——-not so much for it’s realism but its appeal in pushing the illustrative interpretation of the characters and the action. (almost to the point of iconic)

    With the exception of Katsuhiro Otomo’s works, Japanese animation has never been big on “acting” (but big on story) in animation.

    I dunno about this. Jury is still out on this. Just hope this is is not a sign of Japanese producers about to drink the CG animation Kool-aid.

  • Clint H

    I’m not a fan of anime that much, but this looks awesome! Looks wild and colouful, just the way I like my cartoons. Chances are this might not get an English dub, because it looks like it shares similarities with MONSTERS INC. , and the mouth movements seem to go well with the Japanese dialogue, and it’ll just look weird if it were dubbed into English. Still, looks great!

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    Looks great. It looks like its derived from the Japanese fairy tale of Momotaro the peach boy.