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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

Atama Yama ("Mt. Head")
Koji Yamamura

After a stingy man eats some cherry seeds, a cherry tree grows on his head and he gets into a lot of trouble. The animated film Mt. Head is a modern interpretation of the traditional Japanese Rakugo story "AtamaYama" set in contemporary Tokyo. The story draws to an end, overwhelming the audience with an accumulation of cuts filled with information.

The drawing style is sophisticated, yet the ambience and story are pure Japanese. Accompanied by a shamisen (Japanese strings), a voice chants the story of a man so stingy, so inside his own head, that he destroys himself. The cherry blossom festival, happening on top of the man’s head, is surreal and unforgettable.

Yamamura says: “A lot of my work is aimed at children, dialogue is limited, and the voice is small and sweet. Meaning is transferred through the visual. In Atama Yama, I collaborated with scriptwriter Shoji Yonemura. Here the words play a big part. Those films may be different, yet there is a theme running through all of them that is about communication. I am sure that if President Bush and Saddam Hussein could understand each other’s position, could really communicate, we would not have the political problems of today.
I planned to animate the story of "AtamaYama", a nonsense Rakugo, a comical story telling, hoping to express the theme of identity and social involvement as far as the constant thought about the enigma of world existence. Since the work is a complete access production, I worked on it between my jobs and so it took six years. I am truly grateful that the work is highly valued and acknowledged now.
The animations of Mt. Head were created with no 3D-CG guiding or roto-scoping, but with a classic hand-drawn technique on paper. I also drew lights and shadows separately on paper with pencil, scanned them, and combined them in RETAS! Pro, a Japanese multi-level animation software program, to give the characters a 3-D effect. As drawing materials for the outlines of the characters I used watercolor ink pens, oil markers, and color pencils.

I had installed RETAS! Pro only. During the month of production, as I was gradually mastering the software, I realised that I was managing to create more material at a faster pace, which was encouraging. Prior to digitising, the production of my material was then, and still is, - analogue. I did not use 3D guide when I made Atama Yama. The system I use for production on my personal computer, a Mac. is extremely simple. I use an application of RETAS! Pro: Traceman for flat materials and scan them. Once I have converted the animation into a movie file I rarely use software to make further enhancements. Adjusting each individual image with Adobe Photoshop is an extension of drawing each image in analogue. I use Adobe Photoshop for color adjustment and masks for compositing. To put timesheets together, compositing, rendering and conversion into movie files, my tool is an application of RETAS! Pro: CoreRETAS. I edit on Final Cut Pro.
Atama Yama has been awarded two grand prizes and three best prizes around the world and has also been nominated for the 2003 Oscar, 75th Academy Awards.