Osamu Tezuka’s love of animation as an art form ran deep, and right from the very beginning he knew that he wanted to push the artistic boundaries as much (or more so!) than the commercial ones.
The evidence of this is quite clear. Although the original Black & White Astro Boy (1963-66) television series is often credited with getting Mushi Productions’ animation division off the ground, it’s quite telling that despite the pressure to succeed at the enourmous task he’d set for himself – the complete production of a weekly animated television program on a shoestring budget – he still held fast to the dream of creating animation as fine art. Shortly after production began on Astro Boy (1963-66) in August 1962, Tezuka carved out a hand-picked team to begin work (a mere one month later) in September 1962 on a medium-length experimental animation film that would become known as Tales of a Street Corner (1962). Furthermore, although the first episode of Astro Boy (1963-66) was undoubtedly the headliner, Tezuka screened two experimental anime shorts – Tales of a Street Corner (1962) and Male (1962) – at the company’s first public presentation of their work at the Yamaha Hall in Ginza on November 5, 1962.
In many ways, his experimental anime shorts represent the bookends of his career in animation. Although the pressures of running Mushi and later Tezuka Productions eventually drew his efforts away from pushing the artistic boundaries of anime, they couldn’t quell his passion and desire. So, after a 16-year absence, Tezuka returned to the world of experimental animation and began working on Jumping (1984). Released in 1984, the short six-minute film shows the world from the point of view of a jumping child. With each jump the camera goes higher, and each landing holds a new surprise. Although he could not attend because of work commitments, Jumping (1984) won the Grand Prize at the 6th Zagreb International Animation Festival, held in 1984 in Croatia – the first time the prize had been won by an entry from Japan.
Osamu Tezuka worked on experimental anime right up to his final days. His last work, The Legend of the Forest [Part 1] (1987) was based on an idea he’d had since 1978 – to craft an environmental message to be presented using a number of techniques to chronicle the history of animation. The ambitious project was to be set to Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony Op. 36, A Legend of the Forest. Although the 1st and 4th movements of The Legend of the Forest (1987) were completed by the end of the year, by March 1988 he was hospitalized due to stomach problems – the beginning of the decline towards his death in February 1989.
With his passing, Tezuka left behind a couple of ideas for experimental shorts still at the ‘basic concept’ stage. The first, known as “Party” is the story of an animator who works tirelessly alone in his room until a large gathering of random people with no connection to each other begin to turn up one after another until the animator’s room begins to become a gathering place for an impromptu party. The other, known as “Mosquito”, tells the tale of a climber preparing to mount an expedition to the summit at dawn and a mosquito that strays into his tent. As the two do battle in such a confined space, Tezuka intended to alternate between smooth and intentionally jerky animation in an effort to emulate real-life footage.
Unfortunately, Tezuka Osamu passed away before competing even the pre-production, leaving his staff with just the concepts, and his fans with disappointment.
|Tales of a Street Corner||1962/11/05||First Screening of Mushi Productions Work||Colour/Wide Screen||38 min.||Mushi Productions|
|Male||1962/11/05||First Screening of Mushi Productions Work||Colour/Wide Screen||2 min. 53 sec.||Mushi Productions|
|Memory||1964/09/21||4th Sogetsu Animation Festival||Colour||5 min. 13 sec.||Mushi Productions|
|Mermaid||1964/09/21||4th Sogetsu Animation Festival||Colour||8 min. 18 sec.||Mushi Productions|
|The Drop||1965/10/01||5th Sogetsu Animation Festival||Colour||4 min. 17 sec.||Mushi Productions|
|Cigarettes and Ashes||1965/10/01||5th Sogetsu Animation Festival||B&W||3 min. 50 sec.||Mushi Productions|
|Pictures at an Exhibition||1966/11/11||2nd Mushi Productions Festival||Colour/Wide Screen||39 min.||Mushi Productions|
|Genesis||1968/10||B&W||3 min. 42 sec.||Mushi Productions|
|Jumping||1984/06||6th Zagreb International Animation Festival||Colour||6 min. 20 sec.||Tezuka Productions|
|Broken Down Film
||1985/08/17||1st Hiroshima International Animation Festival||Part Colour||5 min. 37 sec.||Tezuka Productions|
|Push||1987/08/21||2nd Hiroshima International Animation Festival||Colour||4 min. 18 sec.||Tezuka Prodcutions|
|Muramasu||1987/08/21||2nd Hiroshima International Animation Festival||Colour||8 min. 44 sec.||Tezuka Prodcutions|
|Legend of the Forest (Part 1)||1988/02/13||Lecture commemorating the receipt of the Asahi Award||Part Colour||29 min. 20 sec.||Tezuka Prodcutions|
|Self Portrait||1988/06||8th Zagreb International Animation Festival||Colour||13 min.||Tezuka Prodcutions|