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A ‘Usagi Yojimbo’ Stop Motion Short Film—And Possibly A Feature


Stan Sakai’s much-admired comic book Usagi Yojimbo is being developed as a feature film. Upstart studio Lintika Films has been chosen to produce the project. They won the rights from Sakai based on this proof-of-concept short film called Usagi Yojimbo: The Last Request:

Lintika debuted the short last month at San Diego Comic-Con during the “30 Years of Usagi Yojimbo” panel. The director, Roel Robles, tells me that the short was made on a “super low” budget with the help of industry friends. “We are speaking with investors so hopefully it will get funded,” Robles tells Cartoon Brew. “I have something epic in mind. This short film was done on a shoestring budget so just imagine what we can do with an actual film budget. If we get the budget to make this film it will look 100x better.”

Robles is an industry veteran who worked as a concept artist on all of Robert Zemeckis’ motion capture films such as The Polar Express and Beowulf, as well as Episodes 1 and 2 of Star Wars. Lots of Lucasfilm alumni are listed in the credits including Robert Barnes, Euisung Lee, Fon Davis, Ray Gilberti, Lauren Vogt, and Todd Fellows, among others. “It’s been great to have so many friends from Star Wars come along with me on this journey and help out,” says Robles.

The immediate plan is to release the short on DVD with a finalized sound mix and extras. The proceeds will go directly to Sakai, whose wife has been battling a brain tumor. To stay tuned to the progress of the feature film or the upcoming short film release on DVD, “like” the Lintika Films Facebook page.

  • Raspyberry

    Wouldn’t mind if the feature stuck to this hybrid of mediums.
    Best of luck and condolences to Sakai’s wife.

  • when I was still going to SCAD I was lucky enough to go on a off-campus, 2 week trip to Tokyo with a bunch of other sequential art and animation students in 2009…they would do this every year and every year they’d get a professional artist or two to come on the trip, Stan Sakai was one of them, he brought his wife with him too, so it’s sad to hear she has a brain tumor, they were such nice people. I hope this project gets funded.

    I knew of Usagi Yojimbo, but I had never read the comic, but this animated piece is great, the movements were a little slow during that action scene, but it’s hard to fault these guys, the fact that they managed to pull this off on a tiny budget is pretty impressive

  • Steele Carter

    Very cool! :)

  • Pretty impressive considering the shoestring budget. (The voice acting and pacing leaves a bit to be desired, but they certainly got the overall look and atmosphere down.) If they get the funding, will the feature film be done in stop motion as well?

  • DangerMaus

    I’ve been a fan of Sakai’s UY, since it first appeared in Gallaci’s “Albedo Anthropomorphics” as a back up feature. I’d be all over a UY film like white on rice. A stop motion similar to this would be okay, but I would prefer to see a full animated B&W feature film of UY. It is the only way that full justice could be done to the property. Barring that, a 2D colour film would be my next choice with stop motion being third. CGI for this character would be last, unless they could do it so that it looked 2D.

    In regards to Stan Sakai’s wife’s health problems. There is currently a hard cover book that has been put out, featuring renditions of UY by a number of notable artists. Proceeds from the book are intended to be used to help pay his wife’s medical costs. Anybody interested in giving a hand should look it up. It’s called “The Sakai Project”.

  • Oliver_C

    In a PG-rated animation, how many bad guys would Usagi be allowed to kill with his katana — 1? 2?

  • Ant G

    Never heard of the comic but that was an awesome proof of concept. Totally watchable for a low budget, even the 2D part. Could tolerate an online series animated like that.

  • Mister Twister

    While I do appreciate the effort, there are hardly any emotion in those faces.

    • Liam Feld

      Ronin and bounty hunters and ninjas are not known for emotive faces… though I do think they could have pulled the emotions farther in the 2D flashback. Trying to animate off comic book panels is like trying to inbetween a single keyframe… that was already a breakdown pose.

  • Platynews

    Awesome ! =D

    Still waiting for the inevitable Miyamoto Usagi appearance in the nick TMNT cartoon

    • James VanDam

      they did introduce the multiverse in that show so It is possible.

    • Gemma Seymour

      I’m pretty sure that already happened in the cartoon.

  • Liam Feld

    Love the piece! Stodgy, bleak, fuzzy and lumpy – not in the way of terrible student films, but in the tradition of all the great samurai films of the fifties. Badass.

    My one complaint is that… you know how fanboys try to make everything canonically accurate? This was so tied to the comics that it would be unclear to me what the hell was going on if I wasn’t already well-versed in the characters and story. It’s there to show, not explain. (The animation is quite good for the budget and the set design quite truthful to the period – my other complaint is that the screen compositions got bland at times.)
    But since they had an audience of loyal fans and the creator, I’d say it was an ideal way to pitch it – accuracy!