The wonderful, subversive world of animation

Animation has been an explosive business in recent times. Last year, Disney forked out $7.5 billion for industry poster child Pixar, the studio behind the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Despite initial concerns that it might not be a hit, Pixar’s latest, Ratatouille, had taken a mightily respectable $109 million at the box office by its second week. Adults and children alike continue to be entranced by fantastical worlds inhabited by ageing super heroes and talking cars.

But check out this comment, quoted in a piece on the Disney deal by my colleague, Ron Grover. It’s Disney studio chairman Dick Cook: “We didn’t buy Pixar for any one film… We bought it for people like John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, and many others who we hope will make hundreds of films for us.” $7.5 billion, in other words, for the creative talents and design visions of those capable of making animation a reality. Talk about the power of design.

There’s been a really interesting thread going on over on Bruce’s blog, discussing the importance of the CEO’s role in design. And it’s always heartening to see those who genuinely get it — and have the power and purse strings to encourage and inspire genuine creativity.

But those who love their super heroes and lovelorn rats would do well to look beyond Pixar to the industry and artistry beyond. There’s a wealth of innovation and creativity and wonderful design to be found which doesn’t get the airplay or attention it deserves. Not least, an amazing Japanese feature I saw the other day, Tekkonkinkreet. Here’s one still — more images and more blurb after the jump.

Ok. Full disclosure time. I'm friends with the people who wrote the soundtrack for the film. And love Toys et al as I do, I'm also a little biased towards the quirkier side of the spectrum (I wrote a book on independently produced animated short films that was published a few years ago). But still, this feature simply blew me away. It's by turn graphic, violent, surreal, heartbreaking, hilarious, enlightening, simple, abstract but always unremittingly, jaw-droppingly beautiful.

According to the film's American born/Japan based director, Michael Arias (who spent years working on the production), Sony owns the film and has say over whether it'll be seen or not. For now, wide release looks unlikely, but it's showing in LA and New York from the 13th of the month for one week only. Catch it if you can -- here are the details:

Landmark West Los Angeles at The Westside Pavilion 10850 West Pico (at Westwood Blvd.) (310) 470-0492

Quad Cinema 34 West 13th Street (between 5th & 6th Aves) New York, NY 10011 (212) 255-8800

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.