Gabriel Ponniah, Editor In Chief
ATX Screen Scene
From Japan comes the artistic medium of Emakimono: a narrative painting rendered in inked images and calligraphy across a long, horizontal scroll. As far back as the 8th century, artists told beautiful tales on silk handscrolls, sometimes looking to nature for inspiration. It’s one such scroll from the late-12th to-early-13th century which inspired veteran animator and Academy Award Nominee Koji Yamamura as he created this nursery rhyme, Polar Bear Bears Boredom.
The film consists of a single shot, slowly scrolling across a marine landscape. Along the way, the rhyme introduces us to a fine stable of creatures and their distinguishing, often alliterative traits: the whale is wonderful, the seal is sleepy, the manatee and mama-bear marry again—and so on. The inspiration for the piece bears the title “Bird and Beast Character Caricature,” and Yamamura’s playful descriptors here connect with the caricature tradition of the late Heian and early Kamakura periods. Underscoring the film’s oceanographic journey is a jaunty tune featuring a lively group reading of the central poem. It’s a delightful concept which possesses the subtle intricacy of rhyming in both English and Japanese.
The seven minute short unfurls with all the languid energy of its titular character, content to delight in the stylized ocean world, allowing the animators’ craftsmanship room to breathe. While it’s perfectly suited to engage the imagination and senses of young children, the project’s culturally resonant execution is enough to capture the interest of more mature viewers as well.