Animator Jimmy Murakami dies
Monday 17th of Feb 2014.
The death has taken place of animator and director Jimmy Murakami, an influential figure in animation. He was 80.
Paying tribute, Cathal Gaffney, CEO of Irish animation company Brown Bag Films, said Murakami was "a founding father of Irish animation" and a 'huge inspiration to so many'.
THE MORNING OF A HUNDRED SUNS
Having directed the successful TV special The Snowman, its author, Raymond Briggs, sent me the manuscript of his newly completed book When the Wind Blows. Nothing prepared me for the impact of such a work – so utterly the opposite in content and tone to The Snowman with its theme of friendship and the inevitability of ultimate loss being playfully hinted at.
What I was looking at now was something much less cosy, something indeed shocking in content, and at the same time poignant and heart-wrenchingly sad: the pointlessness of war, in particular nuclear war, and just how helpless we would be in the face of it.
Reading it a second time, I struggled with an unseemly knot in my throat.
But if I were mournful, I was also excited. For this was the subject matter for a film I had long since yearned to direct: a satire on nuclear war. True, a modern audience would have little direct experience of war or the threat of it. And the bête noire of their elders – the nuclear threat – was unlikely, surely, now that Russia and America were no longer at each other’s throats? Might not the story then lose impact? Would a modern audience be moved by a send-up on nuclear war?
It was with considerable excitement the team came together to pull the idea about. For here we had something that had not been done before: an apocalyptic horror about to be animated. Could we ram the futility-of-war message home even harder than the story’s author without resorting to sentiment?
It was a challenging film to make, taking twenty-four months to complete.
But the time did come when I, as Director, and artists, musicians and actors declared ourselves pleased with the final product. When the Wind Blows exceeded all our expectations. Wherever it was screened, critics afforded it rave reviews. It rowed in fiftieth out of a hundred of the best war films ever made. It was rated after Kurosawa’s epic film Ran - I was of course greatly honoured to be in the same company as my favourite director. The Sunday Times declared the film: a visual parable against nuclear war, all the more chilling for being in the form of a strip cartoon.
In 2004, The Hiroshima International Animation Festival kindly invited me to be a member of their jury. The festival featured When the Wind Blows in its program. It was this invitation that afforded me the opportunity to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
I was overwhelmed by the compilation of material.
For hours I read and re-read the documents leading up to the dropping of the atomic bomb. The photographic images showed in disturbing detail this apocalyptic nightmare - the disappearance of a city, the devastation of families and every living thing that stood in the path of the bomb.
That 75,000 people should die – incinerated – in the space of ten seconds seemed beyond imagination. So thoroughly documented was the exhibition one cannot but react with sadness to the tragedy caused by the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima at 8:30 am August 6th 1945. The images were much more hellish than I had expected and have left me with a heavy heart and impressions that have changed the way I view the world.
My visit, in short, rekindled the reaction I had had while reading for the first time When The Wind Blows, and I was convinced of the importance of reminding people - by whatever means - of the senselessness and destructive power of a nuclear bomb, and the untold suffering to survivors.
With tears trickling down my cheeks, I left the Museum. I was somewhat shamefacedly dabbing my eyes when I noticed I had company: a group of European students had also given way to tears.
I returned to my home determined that I would personally continue my quest to make people aware that the future of their children, and of their children’s children, as well as of their planet, was not altogether guaranteed. Although it is a new millennium, the threat of a devastating and `final` war still stalks us.
Is there anything we can do about it?
Jimmy T Murakami
JIMMY MURAKAMI, NON ALIEN at the Irish Film Institute
24 Feb 2010 - 18:30 (90 mins)
The world-renowned animator Jimmy Murakami (When the Wind Blows, The Snowman) was eight years old when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour during World War Two. Like many other Japanese-American citizens, the Murakami family was evacuated to a concentration camp called Tule Lake in the California desert. Considered a threat to national security, Jimmy’s family, along with many thousands of other internees, spent four years in the camp, where they suffered all kinds of deprivations and where his young sister Sumiko died of leukemia. Jimmy, now in early retirement, decided to return to this period of his life by creating a series of stunning paintings that illuminate his memories of prison life. He also finally chose to return to Tule Lake Camp. Made under the Arts Council’s Reel Art Initiative, Sé Merry Doyle’s wonderful new film follows this extraordinary journey with great compassion and grace.
Director Sé Merry Doyle and Jimmy Murakami will be in attendance at this screening.
JIMMY MURAKAMI, A Brief Overview
Jimmy T. Murakami started his career in animation at UPA Studio, Burbank, California.
Jimmy's travels took him to New York as a director of Pintoff Studio where he worked on the Academy Award nominated short film The Violinist. He also worked for a while at the Toei Studio in Tokyo as consultant director before travelling to London to become the director at TV Cartoons Ltd. It was at TVC that Jimmy co-produced and directed the British Academy Award winning film Insects.
Back in Los Angles, Jimmy set up Murakami Wolf Films where he produced the Academy Award nominated film Magic Pear Tree.
Jimmy now lives in Dublin, Ireland, where he continues to produce and direct animated shorts, TV series and feature films. Amongst the film he as worked on are TVC's When the Wind Blows (director) and The Snowman (supervising director).