A LETTER TO MOMO Press Notes
In a world wired with high-speed communication technology, real connection between people is getting thinner and superficial. Are you sure you are telling your beloved ones what truly matters?
From its full-house screenings in Toronto, New York and Sitges, to the Grand Prize at the New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival and Best Animated Feature Film Award at APSA 2012, the highly anticipated second directorial effort by world-acclaimed animator Hiroyuki Okiura — A LETTER TO MOMO (ももへの手紙, Momo e no Tegami, 2012) — is mesmerizing audiences all over the world.
Produced by Production IG, the animation studio behind such classics as GHOST IN THE SHELL and PATLABOR, A LETTER TO MOMO was seven years in the making. With the exception of few details, the film was completely
hand-drawn… no motion capture was used for the characters; they are entirely animated by the skills of some of the best professionals in Japan. The result is a wonderfully expressive and beautifully visualized tale that combines bursts of whimsy and kinetic humor with deep felt emotion and drama for children and adults alike.
The animation crew includes such talents as Masashi Ando (PRINCESS MONONOKE, SPIRITED AWAY), Toshiyuki Inoue (TOKYO GODFATHERS), Ei Inoue (THE CAT RETURNS), Takeshi Honda (EVANGELION: 2.22 YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE), Tetsuya Nishio (THE SKY CRAWLERS), Hiroyuki Aoyama (SUMMER WARS) and Hiroshi Ono (KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE).
The last time Momo saw her father they had a fight — and now all she has left to remember him by is an incomplete letter that he had started to write her, a blank piece of paper penned with the words “Dear Momo” but nothing more.
Now, following the premature loss of her father, the 11-year-old girl has to move with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the old family house on the remote Japanese island of Shio. Here, time seems to have stopped: old wooden buildings, holy shrines surrounded by trees, fields painstakingly carved out from steep hills… and no shopping mall.
Needless to say, Momo is not overly enthusiastic about her new habitat. Most of all, her heart is still feeling uneasy about the unfinished letter left by her father. What was dad going to say?
One day, exploring the attic of her new big house, Momo finds an antique book. And from that moment, something really unexpected starts happening around her. She discovers three goblins living in her attic, a trio of mischievous spirit creatures who have been assigned to watch over her and that only she can see.
The goblins are also perpetually famished and they begin to wreak havoc on the formerly tranquil island, ransacking pantries and ravaging orchards — acts for which Momo often has to take the blame. But these funny monsters also have a serious side, and may hold the key to helping Momo understand what her father had been trying to tell her.
DIRECTOR HIROYUKI OKIURA
Born in 1966 in Osaka Prefecture, Okiura is considered a natural talent in the world of animation, having started his professional career at the age of 16 with no academic background. His credits include some of the most sophisticated animated feature films produced in Japan: AKIRA (1988, key animator), PATLABOR: THE MOVIE (1989, key animator), PATLABOR 2: THE MOVIE (1993, assistant animation supervisor), MEMORIES (1995, key animator), GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995, character design, animation supervisor, layout artist), COWBOY BEBOP THE MOVIE: KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR (2001, opening credit sequence director and key animator) and Palm d’Or-nominated GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE (2004, character designer, animation supervisor). Okiura made his feature film directorial debut in 2000 with JIN-ROH, which was selected for the 49th Berlin International Film Festival and won several recognitions in Japan and the world. A LETTER TO MOMO is his second directorial effort after more than a decade-long hiatus.
Filmography as Director
• JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE (director, storyboard, character design)
5th Animation Kobe 2000
Individual Award for his directorial debut
Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival 2000
Minami Toshiko Award
International Film Festival Berlin 1999
Official Selection: Panorama
Fantasporto Film Festival 1999
Best Animation, Jury’s Special Award
Mainichi Film Awards 1999
Best Animated Feature Film Award
• A LETTER TO MOMO (director, screenplay)
Selected Filmography with other roles
• BLACK MAGIC M-66 (directed by Shirow Masamune and Hiroyuki Kitakubo, 1987 / animation supervisor)
• AKIRA (directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988 / key animator)
• PATLABOR: THE MOVIE (directed by Mamoru Oshii, 1989 / key animator)
• MELOS (directed by Masaaki Osumi, 1992, character design, animation supervisor)
• PATLABOR 2: THE MOVIE (directed by Mamoru Oshii, 1993, assistant animation supervisor)
• MEMORIES (directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, 1995, key animator)
• GHOST IN THE SHELL (directed by Mamoru Oshii, 1995, character design, animation supervisor, layout artist)
• COWBOY BEBOP THE MOVIE: KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR (directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, 2001, opening credit
sequence director and key animator)
• GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE (directed by Mamoru Oshii, 2004, character designer, animation supervisor)
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR HIROYUKI OKIURA
Question: Where does the story of A LETTER TO MOMO come from?
Hiroyuki Okiura: I mixed three elements that were completely unrelated to each other. A person very close to me had a hard childhood as she lost her father, and I thought what a relief could be if our beloved ones watched over us and protect us while we are struggling down here. By that time, and I’m talking about seven years ago, I also started to get interested in antique illustrated books dedicated to Japanese goblins, of which we had a rich tradition here in Japan.
Finally, I’m a huge fan of KIN-DZA-DZA!, a Soviet film directed by Georgiy Daneliya. I was fascinated by this rather odd situation where these two men from Earth are forced by circumstances to interact with inhabitants from a different world, without being able to understand each other. They don’t really befriend with the aliens, but they are unable to remain emotionally uninvolved. I really liked that kind of situation, and I tried to replicate it in the relationship between Momo and the three goblins.
Question: Is the movie inspired by your personal experience at all?
Hiroyuki Okiura: I did take inspiration from things occurred around me. The three goblins, of course, are fictional! The location in the Seto Inland Sea area is something related to my childhood. Although I was born in Osaka, a branch of my family comes from Seto, and I used to spend my holidays there when I was a kid.
Shio island is fictional, but we took several elements from villages around the area and combined them together to create a realistic and convincing location. The straw boat festival comes from the Miyajima shrine, on an island off Hiroshima. It’s a festival where fathers pray for their children to grow strong and healthy, and started after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, as all families were worried about the future of their children.
Question: You worked a with Mamoru Oshii and made your director’s debut after his screenplay with a much darker movie entitled JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE. Why such a radical change of style?
Hiroyuki Okiura: I do like heartwarming and uplifting stories. I had always wanted to create a story that leaves you refreshed after the word, “the end,” and this movie could be as well described as a reaction to JIN-ROH. It’s not that I don’t like serious and dark stories, but I believe MOMO is the result of my desire to give shape to something I felt very personal and came from the deep of my heart.
Question: Is there any model for the main character, Momo?
Hiroyuki Okiura: There’s no specific model. I developed the character of Momo based on a few ingredients I had in mind: not necessarily a strong personality and slightly introverted, but a fair bit stubborn as well.
I also assumed that a kid of that age would act and have different facial expressions depending on the situation: when she is with her mother, with other children, with adult people she’s not really familiar with, etc. I tried to render subtle aspects of her personality that are not revealed by her words, but also through a variety of minimal gestures.
Question: Are the three goblins part of Japanese folklore or did you invent them?
Hiroyuki Okiura: The design for the three goblins is original. I took reference from existing old illustrations because I wanted them to be convincing. And then I arranged the designs to fit with the animation style. They came up quite spontaneously, though.
★ 34th Toronto International Film Festival 2011 / World Premiere
★ 27th Warsaw International Film Festival 2011 / International Competition European Premiere
★ 44th SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia 2011 / Official Competition
★ 16th Busan International Film Festival 2011 / Official Selection / Asian Premiere
★ 8th Dubai International Film Festival 2011 / Official Selection / Middle Eastern Premiere
★ 15th New York International Children’s Film Festival (2012) / Continental North American Premiere
★ 14th Future Film Festival (2012) / Italian Premiere
★ 11th AniFest 2012 / Feature Film Competition / Czech Premiere
★ 19th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film / AniMovie Competition / German Premiere
★ 36th Annecy International Animation Film Festival / Official Selection / French Premiere
★ 60th Melbourne International Film Festival / Official Selection / Australian Premiere
★ Excellence Prize, Animation Division, 15th Japan Media Arts Festival (2011).
★ Grand Prize for Best Feature Film, 15th New York International Children’s Film Festival
★ Platinum Grand Prize, 14th Future Film Festival (2012)
★ Best Feature Film Prize, 11th AniFest (2012)
★ Public Prize for Best Animated Feature Film, 16th Fantasia Film Festival
★ Feature Film Grand Prize and International Jury’s Special Prize, 20th Tokyo Kinder Film Festival (2012)
★ Jury Prize / 8th Mon Premier Festival (2012)
★ Best Animated Feature Film / 6th Asia Pacific Screen Awards (2012)
★ Prize of Excellence, Animation Category / 36th Japan Academy Prizes (2012)
Theatrical Release in Japan: April 21, 2012
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Momo Miyaura: Karen Miyama
Ikuko Miyaura: Yuka
Iwa: Toshiyuki Nishida
Kawa: Koichi Yamadera
Uncle: Yoshisada Sakaguchi
Auntie: Ikuko Tani
Koichi: Goki Ogawa
Kazuo Miyaura: Daizaburo Arakawa
Yota: Kota Fujii
Umi: Kazuki Hashimoto
Director / Screenplay / Storyboard: Hiroyuki Okiura
Producers: Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Hiroyuki Ikeda, Shigeru Watanabe, Kazuya Hamana
Co-Producers: Keiko Matsushita, Motoki Mukaichi, Mariko Noguchi, Arimasa Okada
Key Animation Supervisor: Masashi Ando
Additional Animation Supervisor: Toshiyuki Inoue
Art Director: Hiroshi Ono
Animation Director: Naoko Kusumi
Color Designer: Nobuko Mizuta
Art Designer: Takashi Watabe
Vehicle Designer: Toshio Kawaguchi
CG director: Kazuhiro Nishikawa
Director of Photography: Koji Tanaka
Film Editor: Junichi Uematsu
Music: Mina Kubota
Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi
Theme Song: “Uruwashi Mahoroba ~Utsukushiki Basho~” by Yuko Hara
Animation: Production I.G
Theatrical Distributor: Kadokawa Pictures
© 2012 “A Letter to Momo” Film Partners