Photos of Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya, showcasing its wonderful impressionist and expressionist watercolor art style. As someone who has worked in watercolors, I'm greatly impressed at seeing this painterly design on the big screen. What happened to animation diversity in the West? Why aren't we creating something like this? Wouldn't you love to see Pixar make a hand-drawn feature film that looked like this? Of course, you would.
This may sound paradoxical to most Western animators, but I think Takahata's unique perspective - he was never trained as an animator - allows him the freedom to experiment with form. He doesn't have to stick to a singular drawing technique, but can move freely between realism and surrealism, impressionist landscapes and expressionist character movements. He can contrast the outer world of forest, trees and cities with the inner world of minds and repressed emotions. This variety is essential for his depiction of psychological realism in animation. How do you show a person's inner soul when using drawings, and not actors? This is the challenge that awaits all painters and illustrators.
Kazuo Oga, Studio Ghibli's master landscape painter, served as Art Director for Princess Kaguya. His brilliance with pencil and paintbrush are on full display. I'm a great fan of the watercolor look pioneered by My Neighbors the Yamadas, and Ghibli short films like Dore Dore no Uta and Ghiblies Episode 2. This is an art style that reaches back to ancient Japan, drawing on the vast cultural tradition of scroll paintings (Takahata wrote a book on "12th Century Manga" a decade ago). Quite impressive.