by Chris MaGee
Less than two weeks ago news of a new project from Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi) and Shunji Iwai (SWallowtail Butterfly, All about Lily Chou-Chou) hit the web. It was announced that the two filmmakers, who had previously discussed working on the long-ruminating film "Bandage" about a rock band in the 90s, would now be working on a 50-minute animated film titled "Baton" for the 150th anniversary of the founding of Yokohama. A teaser image was released, but that was about it. No plot details were disclosed and no voice talent was announced. Well, today all that has changed.
In a press conference held on Thursday in Japan (which is yesterday with the time difference) Kitamura and Iwai took to the stage with two of the film's stars, Aya Ueto (middle left) and Hayato Ichihara (middle right). The two actors, Ueto who worked with Kitamura on "Azumi" and Ishihara who worked with Iwai on "All about Lily Chou-Chou", will not only be lending their voices to the project, but will be rotoscoped, the same technique recently used by Richard Linklater in his 2006 Philip K. Dick adaptation "A Scanner Darkly". The rest of the cast will be rounded out by Ren Osugi, Takashi Naito, Mura Mi, and Tatsuya Fujiwara.
Director Kitamura and producer Iwai explained that "Baton" won't be a single 50-minute film, but instead will be broken up into a trilogy of 20-minute films that will be screened at the Theater Future on the bay in Yokohama from April 28th to September 27th, and that the films will be set on a future Earth in which the two main characters, Apollo and Michal, will live side by side with intelligent robots. You can actually take a peek at tiny image of the concept art for the characters at the website for the Yokohama 150th anniversary celebrations here.
It also turns out that "Baton" is a bit of a homecoming for the two filmmakers. Iwai is a graduate of the Faculty of Education Department of Art of Yokohama National University, and Kitamura joked with reporters that after all he put Yokohama through making "Godzilla: Final Wars" that it was about time he gave back to the city.
Thanks to Variety Japan for all the details on this and the photo above.