The Nemo Pilot (1984)
Courtesy of Google Video, the 1984 Nemo Pilot film. A masterpiece of animation, of action, and of movement, it represents everything that defines anime. There's probably only a handful of films or television shows that deserve to sit on that mantle.
The Little Nemo film project was extremely ambitious, a joint effort between the top animators from Japan and America. Production began in 1982, and a number of big names were courted, including Ray Bradbury, Gary Kurtz, Hayao Miyazaki, Osamu Dezaki, and Isao Takahata. Unfortunately, production was stalled as people walked away. Miyazaki, for instance, didn't want to make a movie in which everything was a dream, and Takahata wanted to tell a story about Nemo's growth into adulthood (much like Anne of Green Gables and Omohide Poro Poro).
Fortunately, in December of 1984, after six months of work, the first pilot appeared. Created by Yoshifumi Kondo (director), Kazuhide Tomonaga (animation director/e-konte/key animator), Nobuo Tomizawa (key animation), Kyoto Tanaka (key animation), and Nizo Yamamoto (art director). The pilot is essentially an extended chase sequence through a surrealist landscape of buildings and skyscrapers and waterfalls, drawn in full animation and shot in 70mm.
Sadly, despite the praises of the American side, the Nemo production stalled again, and by March, 1985, Kondo had left. Eventually, two more pilots would be created, and the project finally hobbled together in 1988, but with a much more typically bland and banal Disney style. Nemo was finally released to theatres in 1989, and was roundly dismissed by critics and the public.
The history of the movies is very often the history of artists frustrated in achieving their visions. Frustration by the suits, by the men with the money, who always second-guess anything that doesn't shamefully pander to their worst expectations of the public. The first Nemo is one of those great "what-if?" moments. You're amazed, endlessly thrilled at this three-minute self-contained universe; truly, whoever was in charge should have had the sense to get out of the way and let these brilliant artists follow their muse. Kondo and Tomonaga and crew poured everything they learned from Miyazaki's Future Boy Conan and Castle of Cagliostro, and at Telecom, the second Lupin III series, and then Sherlock Hound, which was really the one that most clearly predicts Nemo (one shot from Hound is riffed in the short).
And Nemo, of course, predicts the rise of Studio Ghibli; which brings us here to the present day.