Gift Ideas for the Animation Inclined (2022)
Plus: global news and Hermína Týrlová animation.
Welcome back! Another Sunday, another issue of Animation Obsessive. And here’s the plan for today:
1️⃣ Our animation gift picks.
2️⃣ News of the world.
3️⃣ [MEMBERS] Christmas wool animation by Hermína Týrlová.
Just joining us? It’s free to sign up for our Sunday issues — get them weekly, right in your inbox:
And now, we’re off!
1. The gift of animation
Christmas is just three weeks away — you might’ve already bought your presents. If not, or if you’re searching for last-minute ideas to fill out your list, we’re here to help.
This is the second year we’ve done a holiday shopping guide. Back in 2021, we offered suggestions ranging from Hayao Miyazaki’s Starting Point to Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy. Most of them would still make great gifts in 2022. Today, though, we’re bringing you an all-new slate.
The Animation Obsessive readership is international — we wish we could verify availability in all countries and regions, but it’s not possible for us. We’ve had to focus on what’s available to us, through the most reliable online stores we use. Hopefully, some or all of these items will be available to you as well.
While many of the products link to Amazon, these aren’t affiliate links. We encourage you to use other stores if you prefer (as we tend to).
Panda! Go, Panda! (Amazon) — GKIDS gives two Takahata-Miyazaki deep cuts a beautiful English re-release.
The Rabbit with Checkered Ears Vol. 1 (Amazon) — An import for anyone with a region-free DVD player and a love for unique Hungarian cartoons.
Memories (Amazon) — This Blu-ray edition is worth it just to see Magnetic Rose and Cannon Fodder restored. The bonuses are no joke, either.
Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Amazon) — A feature-rich Blu-ray with more Batman than you’d think possible, including two full-length films.
Grave of the Fireflies by BFI Film Classics (Amazon, Bloomsbury) — Alex Dudok de Wit delivers a concise but deeply researched study of Isao Takahata’s famous film. Simply the best writing on Takahata we’ve found in English.
Shuna’s Journey (Amazon) — Going two for two, Alex Dudok de Wit translates a Hayao Miyazaki manga rarity from 1983, bringing it to its widest audience yet.
A Moving Image: Joy Batchelor 1914–1991 (Amazon) — Now out of print, this is an essential read about an overlooked giant of British animation, full of rare images.
Anime Architecture (Amazon) — For anyone who’s marveled at the backgrounds in films like Ghost in the Shell or Tekkonkinkreet: this is the book. It’s this one.
The Nine Old Men (Amazon) — If you’re trying to understand how Disney did it, or learn the technique yourself, Andreas Deja breaks it down in minute detail. Loaded with rare animation drawings.
Mixing Work with Pleasure (Amazon) — Toshio Suzuki is the most important producer in Japanese animation history. Without him, Studio Ghibli wouldn’t exist. This translation is a rare chance to read one of his books in English.
Drawing the Iron Curtain: Jews and the Golden Age of Soviet Animation (Amazon) — Maya Katz pens an unusually in-depth English account of Soyuzmultfilm, and of the incredible artists who powered its best years.
Animated Encounters (Amazon) — Maybe a little niche or academic for some, but Daisy Yan Du’s peek into Chinese animation is almost unmatched in English.
Anime Archive: The Portrait Studio (Apple Books) — For anyone learning the craft, E-SAKUGA’s digital books are a blessing. And this one, on Takashi Nakamura’s modern classic, intrigues whether you’re a learner or simply a fan of the film.
2. Animation news worldwide
The week’s free highlights
Switching gears from gift-buying — this week brought lots to see for free.
The biggest one is William Joyce’s hyped film Mr. Spam Gets a New Hat, whose Oscar campaign is now underway. DNEG is streaming it at no charge. Mr. Spam draws on the style of early Hollywood, and gets closer than maybe any film ever has to the look and feel of Joyce’s actual book illustrations. Don’t miss it.
Elsewhere, the French school Gobelins continues to roll out the year’s graduation films. Check out La Quête de l’Humain, subtitled on YouTube. The design sensibility is far from run-of-the-mill — several scenes even resemble pages from an illuminated manuscript. Per the description, the story goes like this:
Gerror is a monster obsessed with the myth of humans, his research on this subject covers the walls of his house. As he sorts through his mail and throws away the Village Epic Quest’s flyer, brought by a postman dragon, he finds the newspaper and discovers an article that claims “a human has been sighted”!
Then we have Konyara to Gohan no Uta, the new commercial by Katsuya Kondo and Studio Ghibli — available on YouTube. It’s animated in the ink style that Kondo’s used for a number of his past Ghibli projects, like his recent short Zen for Disney+. This time, it’s to advertise the Nisshin Seifun Group, as Ghibli has done off-and-on for well over a decade.
Lastly, the oddity of the bunch: Saikyō Toshikoshi-hen. Manga author Sumito Ōwara (Eizouken) worked with Nissin Foods on an ad for noodles. It’s on YouTube, and it’s very surreal. Ōwara tweeted out some of his design work for it. According to the official page, the man in the ad is based on one of the lead characters from Eizouken.
Chinese animator Momo Wang (creator of Tuzki) has an eye-popping, mind-blowing trailer out for Penglai, an Oscar-qualified 2D film produced by Illumination. Really impressive.
With Christmas coming, Britain’s Magic Light Pictures (The Gruffalo) is readying another good-looking TV special. This one is called The Smeds and the Smoos. Find a trailer here and Skwigly’s in-depth interview here.
China’s box office is in serious trouble due to “COVID restrictions and a lack of new releases,” per Variety. The good news: the money-burning Bilibili saw a 36% year-over-year reduction in losses last quarter, and Yang Jian is coming to US theaters.
The share of Russian films in Russian theaters passed 50% for the first time, as 2022’s box office reportedly dipped 42% compared to 2021. A recent far-right bill against “LGBT propaganda” in media has people worried. And here’s one moral the state is looking for in films seeking funding: “Russia is a modern, stable and secure state, providing opportunities for development and self-fulfillment.”
American showrunner Owen Dennis (Infinity Train) went into great detail about the projects he’s been developing. A must-read for people interested in the inner workings of California animation right now. He talks IP, algorithms and more.
In Japan, director Naoko Yamada’s new feature Kimi no Iro has a teaser. The film is about a girl who sees emotion as color. Yamada wants to tell a story that’s “like a palette for mixing paints, or like a prism for gathering and dispersing light.”
Also in Japan: Suzume by Makoto Shinkai continues its streak at #1, earning over $45.5 million.
In Denmark, public broadcaster DR is “trading in its pipeline of Disney content for Danish and Nordic animated projects.” Its long-running Disney block is out.
Last of all, we covered the massive, winding, weird and funny story of UPA’s Bert and Harry Piel commercials that helped to define 1950s TV.