Interview With theTeam
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Features Pokemon New Adventures Mickey Is Ink Dance Central : Producers on balancing genders and keeping it fresh
La petite artiste brings the street to the crib to the streets
The Come back of Kick Ass 2
he World Amazing Toy Collection from Takashi Murakami
by Matt Miller An In Depth Look at the Art and Animation Disney Epic Mickey is months away from release, but the work involved in its creation began years ago. Anyone who has perused the November 2009 issue of Game Informer understands the projectâ€™s dramatic scope and ambition. However, we can only fit so much information in the magazine. In our first Inside the Game online feature, we follow the art and animation development from concept to implementation to get a better sense of how Mickey and his world came to life. Donâ€™t miss your first-ever chance to see early animation tests of Mickey and his friends in action.
tastic,” Warren Spector tells us. “I gave Rolf a nearly impossible task. I said, ‘We’re creating a world where we have to have this painted, bright, cartoony, puffy marshmallow look side-by-side with this gray, blasted, dark, twisted, pointy, inert look.’” The resulting art style that Mohr and the rest of the team created was a mix of aesthetics, using familiar visual cues of colors and angles to help gamers immediately identify the different objects and creatures on screen. With the art style established, concept artists begin their work in earnest. In the case of Epic Mickey, the art team maintains a constant contact with the level design team. It’s an essential cooperation, since the central gameplay mechanic revolves around a paintbrush that can paint in and erase elements of the world as a player moves through the game. “look at the
cartoon stuff in the world, all of that is supposed to be stuff players can affect,”
The process of level creation begins as a collaborative project; as the development team throws around ideas for game design and story the artists begin work on concept art in earnest.
“It starts on paper with the general idea of the storyline that Warren [Spector] is going for,” ex-
plains art director Lee Harker. “We read on paper the general gist of what the level or the area is supposed to be, and we just start firing off ideas all over the place. At that point Warren will come by and we’ll review the work and talk about general direction that we want to go for in each of these areas. Once we nail in on something, it’s just a matter of refining it and refining it until we have it just right.”
From early on, the game featured story elements that emerged from the history of Mickey Mouse, which the art needed to reflect. “You’ve got this wealth of subject matter out there that’s known all around the world and respected by so many people. It’s just an honor to be able to work with that, and it’s a big responsibility as well,” Harker admits. “You’ve got to continue on top of all these great artists that have come before you and build off of it.” While the concepts embraced the long history of a beloved character, Spector’s vision for the game took Mickey in a new direction. Much of that tonal shift was established under the eye of Rolf Mohr, the visual development director on the project in its early days. “I look at our game even now a while out from shipping – I’m prejudiced obviously – but I think it looks fan-
Harker exp all where we just put colorful cartoon stuff everywhere, and that mucks up the design where you’re able to access areas that the designers don’t want you to.” Environment artists take the concept art and integrate it into a 3D framework through an imaging program called Maya. The environment team then changes size and shape of objects in a way that helps guide the players through the world. The level designers continue to contribute the necessary elements so the levels
emerge as engaging and fun playgrounds. By this point, the designers and other parts of the development team can jump into a rough version of an environment and begin playtesting. But to do so, another major component has to be progressing at the same pace – characters.
Characters and Animation
By necessity, the character artists need to stay one step ahead of those working on the environments and levels. “They’ve got to have the characters done in time to get them to the animators. So we want those guys way out in front,” Harker says. The character artists’ most important focus is obviously Mickey, as players constantly interact with him. Dozens of versions of Mickey Mouse are created and scrapped, exploring any number of ways to interpret the classic character. At times, these new versions are elongated and modern, and at other times they stay as close as possible to older interpretations of the character. As of now, the team has settled on a colorful version of Mickey that reflects how he appeared in the 1930s – mischievous and cartoony. However, Spector demands a character that alters in response to player actions, so the character art team must create three Mickeys – a dark scrapper, a middle-of-the road version, and a heroic version. Each one poses differently and looks different, and the distinction needs to be sharp enough for players to recognize at a glance. Even after a nearly complete version of Mickey is ready to go, the character artists have plenty of work to do right through the end of the project. New characters are added all the time, but the goal is to give more complicated and important characters the attention early, as they will be the ones that have the most complex and involved animation sets to complete. Animators keep in close contact with the character artists long before they begin bringing them to life. “We don’t want to overcomplicate things, but we also want to make sure that when the animation finally gets to us, all our needs can
The original version of this lab was nearing completion when members of the art team became increasingly dissatisfied with their first attempt
be met, and that we’re not creat isomething that’s going to be a problem down the road,” explains lead animator Jorma Auburn. The goal is to keep the character artists in the loop on what requires time and energy to animate and compute. “If it is going to be an ambient creature, and you want to have a lot of them on the screen, then having a bug with 20 legs is not the way to go,” Auburn says. Character artists/modelers then work with rigging to shape a 3D version. A character rig is an essential component of the process, since it dictates the actual in-game form of a character. “It’s the infrastructure, all the joints and bones,” Auburn explains. “At some game studios that I’ve worked at in the past, the animators also did the rigging. Thank goodness we’re not doing that here. These rigs are way too complex for us to do that. I’ve found that when you separate the roles, you get better results on both ends.” With a character like Mickey rigged up, the animators then have a “really cool puppet to play with,” as Auburn describes it. They can begin testing the character’s boundaries – how far can he stretch, what poses can he take, what emotions can he project
given his facial structure, etc. With Epic Mickey, the animators have the advantage of decades of Disney animation to inspire and direct their choices. Mickey’s tradition also allows them to explore ideas that would be impossible in a more realistic setting. Many studios would have a hard time depicting a gritty space marine who can walk away from an anvil that drops on his head, but the animation team on Epic Mickey has the tools to pull it off, even if it mean days or even weeks of animation work to get the squashed and stretched version of the character to appear correctly after the anvil falls.
Modern development studios can ill afford having departments working in isolation, and Junction Point is no exception. Throughout our visit, we witnessed the iterative process that interconnects different sections. The animators keep in constant contact with those implementing, playing, and testing the game. The artists respond to needs for new environments and characters as they emerge, requiring a constant effort throughout the development cycle.If this iterative
process succeeds, Epic Mickey could put the mouse back on the map. Modern 3D techniques finally allow for the team at Junction Point to present a Mickey Mouse game with the cartoon sensibilities that have been present in his films for decades. Colorful, humorous characters fill the cast, and the environments pull inspiration from classic Disney iconography. Simultaneously, the game introduces a dark and twisted element to Mickey’s world that stands in sharp contrast to his normal environs. It’s a visual framework primed to catapult him back into stardom. If the process behind the art and animation for Epic Mickey has captured
your interest, you’ll want to explore our two videos on the subject, Sketching Mickey: The Time Lapse Video, and our video montage of The Art of Epic Mickey. For more on the real-life story of Mickey Mouse, you might enjoy Rise of an Icon: A Pictorial History of Mickey Mouse. Or, for a menu of all our Epic Mickey coverage, visit our landing page for the game, and check out the November 2009 issue of Game Informer magazine.
Warren Spector Talks Mickey, Wii Development, Ultima Dreams, And Duck Tales When we launched our magazine
redesign last year, we kicked things off in an epic way with a gorgeous wraparound cover featuring Mickey Mouse holding a paintbrush and standing strong in a dark and twisted world. Junction Point's project, Epic Mickey, is just days from launch so if you're looking to get your fix to tide you over to release, check out our interview with Warren Spector. We talk digicomics, third-party Wii development, other cartoon franchises Spector would like to explore, and more.
At San Diego Comic-Con Games are really good about showing players what’s happening in front of their face. We can’t exactly cut away.
Many types of blotlings show up throughout the game, but the spatters shown here are the simplest and stupidest of the bunch Any time we cut to another location or what other characters are doing we get ourselves in trouble because we’re removing the player from center stage. The comics are parallel action — you can show what Oswald is doing while mickey is doing something else in another location. You can't do that in games. We don’t do very well at getting inside a character’s head, and we don’t want to, we want the player to be the space between Mickey’s ears. In a comic book we can have an internal monologue, we can say "here’s what mickey feels about this," "here’s what Oswald thinks about this," there’s just two of the examples. They’re completely different media. Peter David is a master of his medium and watching him work was unbelievable so we’re able to tell the same story in very different ways which is really cool. I’m
just a total fan geek. He wrote the hulk for 10 years for crying out loud.
Typically the games that look most impressive from a graphical standpoint on Wii hardware are first-party titles. Epic Mickey, however, looks fantastic. What's your secret? Disney’s all about quality and Walt, the man, was all about quality, nothing else mattered to him. I've modeled my life after two people: Walt Disney and David O. Selznick. I just hate settling so when we started this project I told the team many things, but one of them is someday we’re going to be at E3, there’s going to be 2500 games out there, and 2499 are going to be blue world, or gray world, or brown world this year, and I want
people to look at our game and in five seconds know this is not like the other ones. And the other thing from a graphical standpoint is I want all the other developers out there, players especially, to say, "Holy cow I didn’t know you can do that on the Wii." All it takes is talent and being unwilling to settle. That hardware is more powerful than people give it credit for. You have to be clever, creative, talented, and be willing to put in the time and money to get it right.
You've obviously invested a lot of your time into this project. After a long work week, do you ever dream in cartoons?
I've been dreaming in cartoons since I was a baby. It's funny you should ask, I know when I'm getting to the end of a
We’re creating a world where we have to have this painted, bright, cartoony, puffy marshmallow look side-byside with this gray, blasted, dark, twisted, pointy, inert look.
check out more information at www. EpicMickey.com
project – this is my 20th game — and every one of them, at one point you just start living in the game. You’re there at the office, 10 to 15 hours a day, six to seven days a week, and you’re so immersed in it that I know I'm getting to the end of the project when im dreaming in the perspective of the game. In first person games it's okay, and even when in third person you can live with it, but when I was doing Ultima games and I was looking at the world as this sort of 64 pixel-tall guy and that was my dream world that was just freaky. I would really like to do a Duck Tales game. I love the Duck Tales TV show, but even more people who love them need to go back and rediscover Carl Barks, who is the greatest comic book writer and artist of all time, ever, anywhere in the world. Carl Barks is number one and about half of the Duck Tales stories were based on Carl Barks' comic books. I want to do a Duck Tales game real bad. I don’t know if Disney will let me do it. And
Character artists on Epic Mickey begin with numerous exploratory sketches that establish the overall style for a character. After sketches, the team creates colored character images and passes them off to be rendered in 3D.
Press/Grafitti Artist La petite artiste brings the street to the crib and the crib to the street
rebel against her parents but said she found that graffiti “gave color
to the people in the streets, enlightening their path through the city.” At age 20, she moved to
Paris, where she met fellow street painters Kat and Plume, who took her under their wing. In the early years of her career, her provocative images of sexy, aggressive, cigarette-smoking girls (whom she dubbed “Fafinettes”) became her calling card, a response to an otherwise male-dominated graffiti scene.
By Margeaux Baulch While in New York in March to promote her Fafi for LeSportsac collection of handbags and accessories, French graffiti artist Fafi couldn’t resist taking an excursion uptown to paint a mural and be “a Bronx chic for a few hours” despite a hectic schedule of personal appearances and events. Over the French electronica blasting at yet another converted warehousecum-club space in New York’s tragically hip Meatpacking District, she talked about her jam-packed schedule of continent-hopping, including stops in Japan to promote her Adi-
das shoe collection and a spring live graffiti tour in Australia. The latter event is called the Curvy tour and is sponsored by YEN magazine, which some people informally consider to be “the Australian Venus Zine.” A petite, dark-haired woman with blunt bangs and a mischievous smile, Fafi resembles Amélie Poulain’s slightly punkier sister, wearing a purple satin jacket emblazoned with the phrase “most official bitches” and wedge platform shoes. She made her way to the center of the launch party where an easel waited for her, and without any introduc-
tion, she started painting amid the popping flashes of photographers, loud music, and a screaming crowd of fans. After finishing one of her signature Fafinette girls, she posed for a few pictures with the canvas (which will be later donated to the Lower East Side Girls Club of New York) and then darted out of the party, rockstar-style. Like other artists who have benefited from their street cred, Fafi has turned a career of painting sexy girls into a successful business venture, painting street murals around the world. Unlike graffiti artists who use spray paint, Fafi uses brushes and paints in a very traditional way on unconventional surfaces. In France, Fafi’s brand of fine art and graffiti has made her a household name. She has cultivated a cult-like following among hipster girls of all ages. And her distinctly feminine drawings have appeared on everything from jewelry and clothing to books, dolls, and Diet Coke cans. Even celebrities, including Fergie, have been snapped wearing pieces from her clothing collection. Fafi, 31, started painting as an 18-year-old in her hometown of Toulouse. She initially painted to
But with every passing year, her work evolved to include a collection of other characters she dreamed up including “Birtaks” and “Hillminis.” A cross between, say, a deer and a koala, Birtaks look like huggable, flying creatures; whereas Hillminis are large, blobby creatures. “I didn’t want the Fafinettes to be alone in the world,” she said. Like other graffiti artists, Fafi doesn’t disclose her real name for legal reasons. Although she admits to having been arrested in the past for reasons related to her work, these days she is more likely to be stopped by a fan than a police officer. Since becoming a mother last year (she is married to French music producer DJ Medhi), Fafi’s work has entered what she referred to as a “quieter phase,” inspired by the world of children. Her next big project is to write and illustrate a children’s book, something she has dreamed of doing for years. Her latest collaboration with
handbag company LeSportsac illustrates that wish. No longer satisfied with drawing “just a girl picture,” she was inspired to tell a story of a girl who finds LeSportsac bags blooming in trees while on an Alice in Wonderland type of adventure. Although she said collaborations with companies like LeSportsac are “good for the money” and have even inspired counterfeit Fafi merchandise on eBay, Fafi considers her art and fashion designs to be an extension of her work on the street. “It’s not
“gave color to the people in the streets, enlightening their path through the city.” -FAFI
about being a fashion designer but more about trying different kinds of mediums to put my art on,” she said.
Pokemon New Adventures By : Annette Gonzalez
This week marks the long-awaited release of the fifthgeneration of Pokémon titles, Black and White. Game Freak producer, Junichi Masuda, and the graphic designer who created many of the game’s 150 new Pokémon, Mana Ibe, tell us about the past, present, and future of the long-running franchise. Did you know the traditional routes found in Pokémon games were initially created as a workaround for cartridge limitations? Did you know that Pokémon originally didn’t evolve? If it weren’t for the lengthy six-year development cycle of the original games, these seriesstaples would not have existed. Read on to learn more franchise secrets.
Game Freak’s Beginning
Masuda: First it was a gathering
of people who knew each other who really liked games, “game freaks” if you will, kind of like indie developers. We all got together with Satoshi Tajiri and decided to make an indie game at the time for the Famicom, Quinty (Mendel Palace in North America). After creating that game and nearing the end of its completion, we decided to come together and form the company Game Freak. From here on out, Game Freak’s philosophy is to challenge new things, challenge ourselves, and make games that make people happy, games that people can play over and over for a long time, and have a smile on their face when they play it.
Pokemon Began As a Vehicale for Communication
Masuda: At the time the Game
Boy had just come out and it had the Game Link Cable that allowed communication between two Game Boys. Tajiri came up with the idea that he really wanted to find a way to use that link cable so players could trade. At the time the idea for Pokémon still wasn’t right there. The starting point of creating Pokémon came from the idea of finding a way of communicating to trade.
The Six-Year Develoment Cycle
:The development processes for the first two games was very long – it was a six-year development span – and at first obviously with the Game Boy the cartridges didn’t have much memory at all, as a result of that, we had to program it
in a way for the data to be as small as possible.
Pokemon Open World Game ?
Masuda: In the beginning we
really wanted to make a really big world, a really big field, kind of seamless, but because of the hardware limitations we had to connect these various maps with routes and it’s become a tradition that we still use in the games up until now. It wasn’t originally planned, but because of the hardware limitations we had to implement that.
No Evolution, Types at Outset
Masuda: During original concept, there was no concept of evolution for Pokémon to evolve and get stronger,
and have their design and appearance totally change. That’s obviously an important part of the Pokémon series, one of the characteristics that wouldn’t have come if the development process wasn’t so long. Also, stuff like individual types was something that came up later in development that really added a lot of
doesn’t mean you can’t make a similar type of Pokémon in a different light.
Finding Inspiraion inreal-life animals,objects Ibe:
strategic importance to battles, and the reason a lot of this was gradually added on when development went on was because the Game Boy cartridge’s memory continued to expand over its lifetime. This allowed Game Freak to increase the amount of Pokémon in the game and add the Pokédex because at that point we had so many Pokémon we wanted something that players could use to look at detailed information for each Pokémon.
Capsulmon? Masuda: One
of the original names [for the games] was “Capsule Monsters” because they go in capsules, but decided later on to go with Pocket Monsters or “Pokémon.” From Red and Blue to Black and White
was actually the themes behind the games that decided the titles [for Black and
White]. One of the themes is to really express two polar opposites. For example, you have the big city in one field, and then you have the countryside in the other field. The theme of the polar opposites is what brought us to think of black and white. Masuda: Portability is really important
Pokemon RPG not designed for console
for the Pokémon series. For example, in Pokémon Black and Pokémon White versions we have the new C-Gear that appears on the bottom screen that has a lot of communication features. When it’s on it’s always communicating information with players nearby, for instance, at a place where a lot of people get together or at a friend’s house. Turn it on and if other players are nearby you can find out what they’re up to, whether they’re catching Pokémon or in a battle with trainers. It’s this concept of always
I’ll sometimes go to the zoo and look at various animals or animals outside and study their behavior. I also get inspiration from inanimate objects as well, such as an umbrella. If you combined an umbrella with an animal, how would they use that umbrella? How would you combine that to make an interesting creature? Never running out of ideas
Munna playing and communicating with nearby players that has always been important to the Pokémon.Aside from that, to be able to communicate with players who are really far away or can’t be in the same area, in Pokémon Black version or Pokémon White version we are introducing the Pokémon Global Link (PGL) that allows players to communicate data from their DS to their computers, go on the Pokémon Global Link website, and view rankings for battles or communicate with players that are really far away. I look forward to seeing how well this does, especially in the United States, as a lot more people use the internet off their computers. Ibe: There were about 17 designers for Black and White project at Game Freak and one of the ways we
Designing 150 New Pokemon
make sure we don’t have too much overlap with any of the previous Pokémon is if we have a new design, we’ll take a silhouette of it, just the outline of it, and color the rest of it in black, and make sure the shape of it doesn’t overlap with previous Pokémon designs, and make sure it still looks original. We also do that with the color palette, color combinations, and make sure that there aren’t any Pokémon in the older games that share that exact same color palette as the new ones. Some of the directions we got from planners was to not be restricted or bound by old designs, for example, just because there might be one type of Pokémon existing in the old games,
Video games haven’t been around as long as other media. In the past I was worried that once I turn 50 would I still be able to come up with new ideas? But then I look at other creators in the industry who are older like Shigeru Miyamoto, who keeps coming up with new ideas. I’m relieved to see that because even if you keep getting older you keep coming up with original ideas. There’s still a lot of stuff that hasn’t been done. In the past it was sometimes said in Japan that people over 30 wouldn’t be able to use computers because they just get too old for them, but nowadays you have grandparents, people at work in their 50s using computers. There’s still a lot of room for innovation and I hope to keep making games as I grow older. I’m always thinking about new ideas and trying to find ways to realize those ideas, and I feel confident going forward that I’m going to find ways to innovate the series and just games in general.
Masuda: Often I’ll think about what
computers are going to be like 10 years from now. In movies you’ll see representations of the future. You’ll see transparent floating computer devices in the air, touch and pull screens
on a transparent screen. It’s just something like in a dream. I hope that the Pokémon series can turn into something that we would dream of now in the future.
Future of the franchise Ibe: I
played the original Red and Blue games years ago, I was a kid back then, and I’m really impressed that Pokémon is still accepted by society and still popular among people. I never even imagined that I’d work at Game Freak. The ones that come out now are made by people of my generation, obviously the older people make them as well. The new games are matching this generation and I expect that they’re going to continue to evolve with new generations. With the exciting release of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver this week, we got a chance to interview members of the Game Freak team, who were part of the conception of the the video game series. Director Junichi Masuda, game director Shigeki Morimoto, art director Takao Unno, planner Kenji Matsushima, and programming lead Akito Mori tell us the development process behind creating and naming Pokémon, suprises you’ll find in HeartGold and SoulSilver, the idea behind the Pokéwalker, and more
Interview With Team Behind the Pokemon Franchise : Game Freak
Morimoto: This is the second
time we have created a remake. When we create Pokémon games, we always keep in mind the look of the game and its approachability. It has been 10 years since Gold and Silver launched, and we felt it was the best timing to create remakes since there are more people who have not played the original Game Boy titles. The Pokémon brand is obviously still very alive and well in Japan as HeartGold and SoulSilver have sold incredibly well there. What is it that keeps people interested in such a longrunning franchise that already has a lengthy list of titles?
her Pokémon all the time, even when he or she is walking. Because you can play anytime, anywhere, it seems there are many players who play with the Pokéwalker as much as the actual games. I am happy to see that. Mori: There were many ideas, but in the end we settled on Director Morimoto’s decision to make a product that would make fans happy.
Because we always add new gameplay so each time the game evolves. I am confident that all the people engaged with the Pokémon brand including The Pokémon Company are making great efforts to ensure it’s a longrunning franchise.
We challenge ourselves to create new gameplay every time we develop a new Pokémon game. I believe such effort is received very well by the players. I would like to keep challenging ourselves to determine how we can add new elements like wireless and WiFi communication, as well as things like the Pokéwalker for HeartGold and SoulSilver.
I believe it is because we keep challenging ourselves without changing the core. The core for Pokémon game is collecting, trading, and battling. For HeartGold and SoulSilver, it was the Pokéathlon and Pokéwalker.
Mori: I think it’s because the game
is attractive to not only boys and girls, but also adults. Where did you get the idea for the pedometer peripheral bundled with HeartGold and SoulSilver?
The idea came up when we thought about what we could do to make players’ dream — “I would like to become a Pokémon Trainer!” — possible. Our focus was to enable a player to be with his or
We took some elements from Pokémon Pikachu, which was sold at the same time as Pokémon Gold and Silver. We wanted to provide more nostalgia to the players who played the original Gold and Silver games.
As for the scenario, we tried to keep the storyline truthful to the original all while adding something new. As a result, it has good depth. There is a lot of gameplay you didn’t experience in the originalGold and Silver games.
Even though it is the same storyline, there is a new experience!!
Even though it is the same storyline, there is a new experience. For example, players can walk with his or her Pokémon. It is a whole new experience to walk into towns and down the street with your Pokémon. Also, you might want to enjoy competing with your Pokémon at Pokéathlon Dome. Matsshima: We replicate the Gold
For fans Who have Already Played Gold and Silver , what surpises can they exspect to discover? and Silver storyline, but we added more stages. Now you can meet familiar Pokémon in the Kanto Region. Mori: The Pokémon are now able to show off their movement. Also, those who played using the black and white screen of the Game Boy can finally see what the Johto Region looks like! Unno: When we create new Pokémon, a few graphic designers bring their own ideas to the design meetings lead by Sugimori [art director and board member at Game Freak.
-Ed]. Basically, each brings his or her ideas, discuss, brush-up the ideas, and finalize the design. Sometimes, all designers go to a zoo or museum to get some ideas. Also,they work on new Pokémon based on the requests they get from planners who ask things such as “we would like to get this kind of Pokémon” or “we would like to have a Pokémon who appears in this kind of setting.” As for the naming, designers bring their name ideas. If it’s brilliant, we use it. Matsushima: We decide the setting for a particular Pokémon based on the designs that our designers pro-
Sandile pose. Sometimes we request changes to the Pokémon. As for the new names, first, we find words to describe that Pokémon. We try to rephrase the words or add another word and eventually we come across the final name. Morimoto: There is always room for new players. I hope those who have never played Pokémon will jump in and play these Pokémon games. It is difficult to satisfy both core players and beginners, but that is something I always have on my mind.
The World Amazing Toy Collection From Takashi Murakami
TakashiMurakami.com is a tribute to Takashi Murakami (b. 1963), one of the most thoughtful-and thought-provoking-Japanese artists of the 1990s. His work ranges from cartoony paintings to quasi-minimalist sculptures to giant inflatable balloons to performance events to factory-produced watches, T-shirts, and other products, many emblazoned with his signature character, Mr. DOB. Takashi Murakami was born in Tokyo in 1963 and received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. He has had recent solo shows at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York (2003); Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain,Paris (2002);Museum of Contemporary Art,Tokyo (2001);Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2001); and Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris (2001). In addition to his work as an artist, Takashi Murakami is a curator, entrepreneur, and a student of contemporary Japanese society. In 2000, Murakami curated an exhibition of Japanese art titled Superflat, which acknowledged a movement toward mass-produced entertainment and its effects on
contemporary aesthetics. Murakami is also internationally recognized for his collaboration with designer Marc Jacobs to create handbags and other products for the Louis Vuitton fashion house. Takashi Murakami's work has been exhibited in prestigious museums all over the world, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and a recent solo retrospective exhibition at the Bard College Museum of Art. Through his work, Murakami has played with these oppositions in East and West, past and present, high art and low culture while remaining consistently amusing and accessible. His work morphs the worlds of popular contemporary Japanese cartoons and historic Japanese painting (he is classically trained, with a Ph.D. in the traditional nihon-ga style). His recurring character, Mr. DOB, appears on t-shirts, posters, key-chains, etc. world-wide and has even come to life in the form of one of these 3-D sculptures. Murakami has also curated "Super Flat" an exhibition of contemporary Japanese artists.
If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else thinking
Interview: Dance Central producers on balancing gender and keeping it fresh by Alexander Sliwinsk During our extended preview of Dance Central at Harmonix's studio (post-E3), we talked with project lead Kasson Crooker and lead producer Naoko Takamoto about the challenges of making a new dance " franchise" (a term Crooker doesn't like) and finding gender balance in a game that's all about shaking what your momma gave you.
From House Party. Sombody may realize: I want to get into it because it seems way more fun than having to go to the gym.
Joystiq: Is Dance Central considered
I don't believe just because you're a younger guy, you just don't want to dance. I'm calling 'bullshit' on it.
"a platform" in the same way that Rock Band is?
Kasson Crooker: Yeah, it is a platform. We're at the beginning and DLC will be the extension. And I hope that if people take to it -- the non-dancers take to it, the dancers take to it, people take to it from a fitness workout physical experience -- that this is the beginning of a huge world of dance for Harmonix. The same way Rock Band has been. Are dance moves trademarked? Do you have to get the rights for that? Something like Madonna's "Vogue" or Michael Jackson's moves. Crooker: You would have to get the rights to that. It's highly associated and very specific ... well, "Vogue" is actually very interesting, because vogue was a style of dance before Madonna decided to make it her own. that's "their thing," then anything oth-
Takamoto: Which Madonna doesn't
er than that is kind of like gray area.
We're still trying to actually figure out
How do you add variety to the cho-
all that stuff. It all just depends, but,
reography? You look at a group like
yeah, vogueing is crazy
NSync or Britney Spears and the cho-
because it's an actual huge
reography is similar because it was ...
Takamoto: Wade Robson?
Crooker: Yeah, it's a style of dance
Yeah. So, how does Harmonix make
Naoko Takamoto: We have a vogueing move in "Funky Town." The thing is, if it's more a routine that's lifted from something, then you'd have to get licensed. Like, an individual move, unless it's completely associated with somebody and that's "their move,"
and he's amazing. And Devon's very bombastic, huge moves, very manly and we're like: "'Poison!' That's the guy that's doing 'Poison.'"
Crooker: Sometimes you just know Movin'" versus Frenchy Hernandez who has to do an M.I.A. song that just needs something more booty shakin', or hips, or that kind of thing. How would you freshin' up, say, an Abba song to make it work for the game? The music may be over 30 years old, but the choreography isn't going to be a 30-year-old routine, is it? Crooker: Well, one of the things for me was to make sure that we didn't the Disco song" and have it be really
you think it should go to, but you're
sorta "gender neutral"? This has been
also thinking one of other choreog-
a huge topic.
I wanted to make sure that, while the
raphers could come up with a great,
I want guys to play this game. I don't
songs may come with inherent flavors,
albeit completely different routine? Is
want this to be a game just for girls,
the choreograhy actuallly always
it routine for the same song?
and that means that there are a lot of
comes off as fresh, like you would see
Crooker: Yeah, the genderizing
guys who are uncomfortable about
if you asked a choreographer to come
-- we've thrown out so many words,
shaking their hips, or popping their
up with new choreography. Like, if you
like, "it's a feminine move," and we're
chest, or doing things like that --
put "Funky Town" on MTV today, that's
like, "Wow, that's a horrible concept."
things they don't feel comfortable do-
the style of choreography you would
And then we're like, "it's a sexualized
ing. And so, figuring out how to make
see in it. Have you had a situation
move," and that feels weird, too. I've
most of the game feel "good" to both
where you have, say, this Lady Gaga
gone back to: Does it feel feminine, or
sexes has been super important. So,
song and give it to the choreographer
does it feel masculine, or does it feel
that came up and we were like: "We'll
have the token disco song. So, if you sure that when adding dance moves
tremely unique people and they are
use "Funky Town" as a good exam-
to songs that really don't have rou-
very different from each other. We
ple, which could be the token disco
tines associated with them that there's
have three other choreographers who
song, you do see some disco moves
variety? One choreographer is going
do not work in the office, and we just
in there. You see this move [Crooker
to do it this way and another is going
give them songs when we find that
points his finger to the sky and to the
to do it that way -- how do you chose
one is a good fit. So, we kinda just like
ground Saturday Night Fever-style]
huddle and go, "We have these songs,
but you also see it mixed in with other,
who do we think they should go to?"
fresher, more contemporary moves.
Takamoto: We have our two in- It just naturally falls out. Like, we have
And, for me, that was actually really
house choreographers and they're
one of our choreographers for "Poi-
important -- because I didn't want it to
both very versatile, they're also ex-
son," his name is Devon Woolridge
be like "this is the Reggae song, this is
moves in the game?
just do two routines. And we can
that it's something fun, or a guilty
games coming up, so it's going to be
from people on. And I'm just gonna
want to play a driving game, they want
get up and goes, "Hey, hey hey, some-
have the female sexy version -- or
pleasure -- or maybe you're just not
a less weird thing. I just think it's good
call "bullshit" on it. We can teach you
to blow stuff up -- that's fine. I think we
body step up!" We don't do that.
whatever feels good for the woman
that confident about things. I don't be-
that a lot of people will be
some simple stuff to do that you won't
will try to encourage them and maybe
We were really worried that people
dancing. And then if a guy wants to
lieve just because you're a younger
dancing and there'll be less assump-
feel stupid doing, and if you like the
it won't be up to us. Maybe it'll be their
would get accidentally stuck in a situ-
dance the female version, or vice
guy, you just don't want to dance. I'm
tions made. Like, "You have to like
song, take the time, then you can do it.
girlfriends, or maybe they'll realize
ation where they are over their head
versa, we could do that."
calling "bullshit" on it. I remember
techno" and "You have to go to the
Crooker: People are into different
it's their lack of girlfriends -- some-
and they feel disconnected, confused,
That seemed like the wrong way to
being in high school and Jodeci was
club," if you like to dance. These are
things. There are people out there
thing out there will drive somebody.
and then they're done. And then they
go, but it would also be ridiculously
the biggest shit in the world. It's four
weird things that I've gotten feedback
who are going to hate this game. They
Somebody may realize: "I want to get
walk away. We didn't want that.
expensive because it would double
guys who are just extremely sexual
into it because it seems way more fun
all of our budgets for routines; and
and dancing on stage all the time.
than having to go to the gym."
we just didn't have the time to do
And guys I went to high school with,
They can do it in their living room and
that. It is a very interesting topic,
when we had dances and stuff, the
learn a real skill. And now, when I go
and not many people have asked us
guys would just go out and start wind-
to my next wedding -- where I used to
about that, but, for me, the biggest
ing their hips, or they would do moves
sit out -- I can actually do a few things.
thing about learning this (dance)
from House Party.
But, you know, that is going to be the
world has been difficulty and gen-
I'm totally '90s, so anything new jack --
der. It's been really, really fascinat-
people were doing "the running man"
demographic of potential people who
ing to me. Dance Central is a dance
all the time. It's just fun.
will like our game, and I hope they
game. An actual dance game. While
I don't believe that just because you're
take to it.
the mainstream audience may get
a guy and you like video games that
There are various levels of embarass-
into it (as we've seen with some-
you don't want to do it. Maybe you
ing in Rock Band, tapping buttons on
thing like Just Dance), what's your
don't and that's fine. And maybe, if
the guitar is pretty low compared
pitch to the 18â€“35-year-old male?
you do want to do it and you don't
Crooker: Singing. Right, trying to get
Takamoto: So, I think there are
want to tell anybody, this is something
someone to singer is the hardest part.
lots of types of people out in the
you can just have in your house and
Crooker: For me it would be how criti-
world, and I think it's half-unfair to
hide under the couch like it's Playboy
cal we are being of them. We can't en-
just assume that people just don't
or something. I just don't think that
courage them to stand up and dance.
want to dance. I think it's fair to
across the board people are going to
We don't have a mechanic that brings
assume that people don't want to
be, "I don't want to dance."
up a character that realizes there's a
dance in front of other people, and
I'm glad that there are a lot of dance
room full of people sitting who won't
Publish/Manga & Comic Books
Kick Ass 2 That Mark Millar isn’t exactly a Chris Nolan when it comes to spilling the goods! In an interview with Movieweb the writer tells pretty much all. He also talks about American Jesus, and Mathew Vaughn’s progress on XMen: First Class. Obviously spoilers lie ahead... Here is the interview highlights, in which Miller tells us what to expect to see in the sequel from HitGirl, Red Mist and basically the plot structure of the movie/comic... When asked how the movie’s progress is coming along.. I am writing the comic book right now. Matthew Vaughn is directing X-Men: First Class, which he will be doing until about April. I will have finished writing the new comic by Christmas. Then, in April, we will begin working on Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall.. The film and the comic book are very closely tied together. There are only a
few minor changes towards the end. It does led directly into a sequel, and I am writing the sequel as I always planned it to be. The actors may be a little bit older, or bigger. They can address that in the movie. But I am not changing anything for the comic book. We left things off with her being adopted by this extremely nice man. He is a cop. And she has to stop killing people, you know? That seems like an interesting starting point in the next one in regards to her character. She is going to be like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, where she hasn’t picked up a gun in years. It’s that type of thing. I like the idea of doing that with an eleven year old girl. She was part of this massive cacophony of violence. But she’s not allowed to kill people anymore. She is consumed with anger, and forced to watch TV shows instead. Halfway through the movie, or the comic, we will follow her as she
picks up a gun again. It is going to be awesome. And Red Mist? This is a guy who has had his entire family killed by Hit Girl. He heads off and develops his martial arts skills. He learns how to become a better villain. That type of thing. He is going to come back and wreck unholy vengeance on our team. But in reality, he just comes back and gets stoned, and he spends a lot of money. He can’t do anything, so he hires this bad ass girl from Russia, she comes into the story, and her plan is to kill Hit Girl. Red Mist becomes like Charles Manson. He goes on-line and influences a bunch of young villains to go against Kick-Ass and Hit Girl. The whole thing ends up as a big gang fight like you’d see in The Warriors. There is going to be a big gang fight in the middle of Times Square between all of these costumed heroes. And at the head will be the Red Mist and Hit Girl. When asked about his other project, American Jesus.. I think that film is going to remain in development Hell. Several people came forth to talk to me about AmeriThat Mark Millar isn’t exactly a Chris Nolan when it comes to spilling the goods! In an interview with Movieweb the writer tells pretty much all. He also talks about American Jesus, and Mathew Vaughn’s progress on X-Men: First Class. Obviously spoilers lie ahead... Here is the interview highlights, in which Miller tells us what to expect to see in the sequel from HitGirl, Red Mist and basically the plot structure of the movie/comic... When asked how the movie’s progress is coming along.. I am writing the comic book right now. Matthew Vaughn is directing X-Men: First Class, which he will be doing until about April. I will have finished writing the new comic by Christmas.
Then, in April, we will begin working on Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall.. The film and the comic book are very closely tied together. There are only a few minor changes towards the end. It does led directly into a sequel, and I am writing the sequel as I always planned it to be. The actors may be a little bit older, or bigger. They can address that in the movie. But I am not changing anything for the comic book. We left things off with her being adopted by this extremely nice man. He is a cop. And she has to stop killing people, you know? That seems like an interesting starting point in the next one in regards to her character. She is going to be like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, where she hasn’t picked up a gun in years. It’s that type of thing. I like the idea of doing that with an eleven year old girl. She was part of this massive cacophony of violence. But she’s not allowed to kill people anymore. She is consumed with anger, and forced to watch TV shows instead. Halfway through the movie, or the comic, we will follow her as she picks up a gun again. It is going to be awesome. And Red Mist? This is a guy who has had his entire family killed by Hit Girl. He heads off and develops his martial arts skills. He learns how to become a better villain. That type of thing. He is going to come back and wreck unholy vengeance on our team. But in reality, he just comes back and gets stoned, and he spends a lot of money. He can’t do anything, so he hires this bad ass girl from Russia, she comes into the story, and her plan is to kill Hit Girl. Red Mist becomes like Charles Manson. He goes on-line and influences a bunch of young villains to go against Kick-Ass and Hit Girl. The whole thing ends up as a big gang fight like you’d see in The Warriors. There is going to be a big gang fight in the middle of Times Square between all of these costumed heroes. And at the head will be the Red Mist and Hit Girl. When asked about his other project, American Jesus.. I think that film is going to remain in development Hell. Several people came forth to talk to me about American Jesus, and they wanted to make so many changes. Jesus movies are
really hard for Hollywood. For some reason, Hollywood is very abashed to doing them. Even though they do quite well. Just look at The Passion of the Christ. But people would ask us, “Can you change the movie to where you don’t actually have Jesus in it... But someone kind of ‘like’ Jesus?” That defeats the whole purpose. This film is supposed to be about the return of Jesus Christ, you know. So I have put it on the back burner. Because Matthew and I are going to do Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall this next time around. Has he given Mathew Vaughn any insight into the characters of X-Men: First Class? Yes. Matthew and I talk about it every couple of days or so. He knows his way around X-Men really well. He’ll sometimes call me up and ask a couple of things. Generally, he knows what he is doing. About three years ago he was going to do X-Men: The Last Stand. He did about six months work on the film. He really got to know those characters. He is pretty well versed on it. Occasionally, he will call me and ask me to check on something. But he really knows that material well, man.