Kihachiro Kawamoto: Japanese Animator

I recently watched The Exquisite Short Films of Kihachiro Kawamoto. I had never heard of this animator and I did not know what type of animation I was going to get. But, being a fan of animation, I looked forward to watching the DVD.

After watching a few, I did a little research. It turns out that Kawamoto was a well-known animator in Japan and internationally. One of his signature animation styles is stop-motion animation, especially his use of puppets. As Wikipedia points out, Kawamoto was well known for his puppet making skills and design.

The Films

I wanted to share these films as another example of storytelling. Japan has so many traditional methods of storytelling, which these films are a part of. As far as World and Character go, many Japanese stories are set in the samurai/Edo period. Most of the films below are the same. I suppose that frees up the storyteller to focus on the subtleties of how the story is told, rather than convincing the audience that the world and characters are believable. For instance, in Dojoji, there’s a scene where the woman chases after the priest. I love that Kawamoto takes the time to animate her breathing.

All the Kawamoto films were good, but there were a few that stood out to me. Here they are below:


19 minutes

Dojoji is a well-known Japanese play and one of the few that involves a large prop. The play tells the story of the installation of a new bell in Dojo-ji Temple. After the monks have been hypnotized by a mysterious dancer, the abbot tells the story of what happened to the first bell. The story is a woman falls in love with a priest who stays in her father’s inn every year. When the woman admits her love, the priest rejected her. She pursues him anyway, across a river to Dojoji Temple. In her passion, she transforms into a demon that kills him and destroys the bell. Kawamoto’s version of Dojoji is the story of the woman and the traveling priest. It is very tragic.

Going into the story of Dojoji more, I’d heard of this story after watching a Japanology episode on Kabuki and Noh. Dojoji was one of the examples of Kabuki, which is more elaborate than Noh and features a female dancer.

I was very impressed with the beautiful watercolor backgrounds serving as the backdrop for Dojoji and House of Flame (below). The sets are also well done.

The Demon (or Oni)

7:30 minutes

The Demon is also based on an old story, but I did not come across any versions of it as a play. The story is that an old woman, who has had a hard life, now lives as an invalid with her 2 sons. One day they go out to hunt and come home to a shocking discovery.

The postscript of the story is: “It is said that parents in their old age become demons who will consume their children.” Maybe this is the origin of the practice explored in Ballad of Narayama?

House of Flame

19 minutes

House of Flame is another stop-motion puppet animation that caught my interest. This one animates a horse, very realistically. I was quite impressed. This is also the only story with a narrator for the puppets. The story is about a woman who cannot decide between two suitors and lives in guilt forever more.

As I mentioned above, this one is another example of beautiful backdrops and sets.

A Poet’s Life

19 min

I chose this story for the interesting story about a worker who is fighting for worker’s rights after losing his job. The details of this story are too unusual to give away, but it is a very unique story.

This animation is a drawn style, though it still could be stop motion using paper cutouts. It reminded me more of The Snowman, by Diane Jackson, because of the way the pencil markings jump around frame by frame.

Happy New Years!

My New Years e-Card 2009 from Allison Walker on Vimeo.

2009 was a big year for me. And, I spent some time today reflecting on how I relied on the help of a lot of people, both personally and professionally, to make this year a success. I met so many fun and exciting people, and my life changed so much, I just couldn’t ring in 2010 without writing something to thank them.

The problem is writing/sending something appropriate for both professional and personal contacts. That led me to look for a nice e-Card that wasn’t too sassy, but still fun. Well, I looked for a card and frankly, I didn’t like them so much. I guess the ones that were so generic to work for everyone seemed like cards I could make myself. So, I did…

First, I had the content, or copy, and figured out what I wanted to say. Then, I looked for the picture I wanted, and found a nice one of the Statue of Liberty that I’d taken earlier this summer and had already adjusted the colors. Then, in Photoshop, I continued to add text and image layers, and adjust color balance just to what I liked. When I was satisfied, I pulled it all into After Effects.

In After Effects, it was pretty easy to pull the composition together. Since I ended up animating one big image, instead of an arm or mouth, the animation part was super quick, relatively. Finding the image files was sort of difficult, but not too bad. I didn’t edit the sound files ahead of time, mostly because my impression was that After Effects could handle what I wanted, which was just fade in and out. Sort of, yes, but after this project I’d probably use any sound editor other than After Effects. It works but it’s not a sound editor – much like double-stick tape will help in a pinch, but it’s not sewing.

Then, when all was finished, I exported as a .mov file and that was that…or not. Rendering so I could watch the animation and the sound together took kind of a while, and I made a couple of .mov files as I made small changes here and there. (Actually, the RAM preview and exporting eventually took about the same time!)

In the end, I ended up with a generic enough card, that also includes something meaningful to me and New York. Not perfect, but it works.

Phys Comp Midterm: Balance board video controller

For my Physical Computing midterm, I worked with Andrea Wolf and Sindy Butz to create a balance board that controls a video in Processing.

Here’s a video of me demonstrating for our class.

Balance Board Media Controller from Allison Walker on Vimeo.

The way it works: User steps on the board, which completes a switch inside the board. An accelerometer inside the board reports back to Processing which way the user is leaning. Right – fast forward. Left – slow down. Tilt forward – screen gets darker. Tilt backward – screen lightens.

Here are some photos of us during prototyping stage and assembly. Here’s a slideshow on Flickr.

Event: The Kitchen Presents – Nancy Garcia/Chase Granoff

Saturday, November 7, I went to The Kitchen with a friend to see a double performance by Nancy Garcia and Chase Granoff. Nancy Garcia is also a graduate of ITP.

As far as Chase Granoff’s work, “The Art of Making Dances”, I quite liked it. I found it easy to “get” quickly, in that I found it both entertaining and provoking in a non-intimidating way. They were offering a copy of The Art of Making Dances after the show. I didn’t get it because, well, mostly because I didn’t want to spend $10. Maybe if it had been $8 or $9, I would have bought it. Plus, I wasn’t alone and I didn’t want to hold up my friend. We were hungry.

As far as Nancy’s work, “I need more”, I really wanted to like this particular performance a lot more than I did. Maybe I was hoping for something that better fit my particular aesthetic needs, or maybe I was hoping for something I could connect with on a more immediate level. For instance, I would have liked to see more of an emotional statement with the choreography, as well as more cohesiveness between the dance sections. Although the four parts flowed one to the other, I also had a feeling of choreographic separation between the parts, but maybe that was done purposefully. In addition, I also did not appreciate the how loud music/sound was, and I didn’t understand the purpose of the singing. On the other hand, my exposure to the type vocal performance she was doing is still quite limited, so I guess I would have always a difficult time connecting with anyone’s show that involved that type of sound/vocal performance. I’m still learning, so there’s still time.

Anyway, none of these things really turned me off to her work, and I only offer these critiques as audience feedback (should she ever check out my blog). In viewing her website, I found her other work interesting and I’m impressed by her continued activity as a dancer, so if I have a chance to see her work in the future I’ll probably take it.

In any case, before I wrote this post, I checked my Gmail account and found the email Nancy sent to me regarding ITP. I asked her advice regarding ITP and she really wrote the most comprehensive and useful response of all the people I talked to about ITP. I wish I had looked it up when I was selecting classes this semester because it was really good advice. Well, I won’t post her answers but I will post my questions:

Hi Nancy,

Midori Yasuda sent me your contact info regarding the ITP at NYU. She
also sent me a link to your thesis, and I thought it was really very

I plan to apply to ITP. My background is in dance and human-computer
interaction/usability. I’m interested in this program because I have
been looking for a way to synthesize dance and technology; although I
do not dance as much as I used to, I still have a passion for the art.
Your thesis seems very similar to an example something I might like to

If you don’t mind, I have some questions that I’d like to ask:
I’m interested to learn more about what led you to ITP? Did you have
any doubts?
What have you been up to since graduation? Did you have a plan for
what you wanted to do after graduating?
What types of ideas did you want to explore?
How difficult was it to pursue study in movement, dance and
technology? What were some of the challenges? highlights?
How challenging did you find the more technical aspects of the program?
Is this still something you are pursuing?
If this was my focus at ITP, do you have any advice for me?
How did you come up with your thesis?

Tuition is a big factor for me. How did you deal with tuition costs?
Are you aware of any scholarships or grants for dance-based work in

Now that you’ve graduated, what is your opinion of the experience?
Would you do it again? Is there anything you’d change?”