Globus Film Series - Dawn of Japanese Animation

For Immediate Release

Japan Society Presents 38 Animated Films From the 1920s-40s Screened with Live Narration

Globus Film Series
Dawn of Japanese Animation

Wednesday-Saturday, February 13-16, 2008, at Japan Society

New York, NY, January 11, 2008 -- Japan Society’s Film Program presents Dawn of Japanese Animation, featuring 38 animated films from the 1920s-40s, many of which are presented for the first time in the U.S. Introducing American audiences to Japan’s unique screening style katsuben (live narration performance for silent films), Dawn of Japanese Animation recreates the environment in which pre-World War II animated silent films were once presented in Japan. Many of the silent films are accompanied live by Japan's premiere benshi (narrator) Midori Sawato in Japanese. Narrated films include English subtitles, and many of the films feature music recently added to the films. Dawn of Japanese Animation takes place, February 13-16 at Japan Society, with a special launch screening reception February 13.

Spanning 4 days under 4 different themes, Dawn of Japanese Animation combines a series of animated films with a significant silent live-action film of the same era. "Chambara Action & Adventure" (February 13) presents 12 eclectic chambara (sword-fighting) shorts followed by the live-action film Fighting in Ashura (dir.Takashi Yashiro) starring Japan’s legendary action star Hideto Hayabusa. "Horror & Comedy" (February 14) features six animations of battles, folk-loric monsters and imaginative creatures, plus the masterpiece live-action Kid Commotion by the “king-of-slapstick” director Torajiro Saito. "Propaganda" (February 15) encompasses eleven shorts reflecting war-time propaganda and national sentiment, followed by a propagandistic live-action Mother of the Nation (Shiro Nakagawa) set in Manchuria. "Music & Dance" (February 16) showcases ten music and dance-infused animated films, including the rare live-action musical Singing Lovebirds (Masahiro Makino). The series culminates with a special screening of Orochi (Buntaro Futagawa), considered the all-time signature chambara film and featuring a live benshi performance in English by NY-based actor/theater director Leon Ingulsrud.

The history of Japanese animated films, popularly known today as anime, goes back nearly 100 years--before Astro Boy and Speed Racer--when it was simply called manga eiga (manga films). Evolving from visual forms such as manga and kamishibai (picture card storytelling), Japan's animated films freely mixed folktales and stories with modern Western elements. Drawing upon myriad influences, Japanese animated films of the 1920s-40s created a fantastical world where characters resembling icons such as Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop play chambara (sword fight) in samurai outfits.

Tickets to daily screenings are $10/$7 Japan Society members and seniors/$4.50 students, except tickets for the February 13 launch screening with reception are $15/$12 members, students & seniors.

Full schedule and further details appear on the following pages.

Dawn of Japanese Animation Schedule of Events

All film dialogue and narration is in Japanese with English subtitles except for Orochi. All films are 16mm or digital video in black & white, unless otherwise noted. Some scenes in these films may be of low image and sound quality due to the age of the prints. Programs are subject to change.

* Accompanied with live
benshi narration.
** Presented with music recently added to the film.

Wednesday, February 13 at 7:00 pm
Among 12 short films, ghost ships, sword fights and sunken treasures playfully fill Over a Drink and Hyoe and Heibe's Tengu Hunt, and a monkey reigns in the animal kingdom with his sumo skills in Animal Sumo. The shorts are followed by the live action film with legendary action star Hideto Hayabusa, Fighting in Ashura Town. This Dawn of Japanese Animation series launch screening and reception is $15 general/ $12 members.

Animated short films (in chronological order):
The Tiny One Makes It Big 1929, 1'06". Creator unknown.**
*The Bat 1930, 10'27". By Yasuji Murata.**
Animal Sumo 1931, 43". Creator unknown.**
*The Plane Cabby's Lucky Day 1932, 10’14". By Teizo Kato.**
Hyoe and Heibe's Tengu Hunt 1934, 8'16". By Noburo Oyama.
Ta-chan's Underwater Adventure 1935, 1'11". By Kenzo Masaoka.**
Ninja Fireball in Edo 1935, 1'08". By Yoshi Tanaka.**
*Hatanosuke Takes Down the Inazuma Gang Year n/a, 1'34". Creator unknown.**
*Over a Drink 1936, 10’29”. By Yasuji Murata.**
*Taro’s Early Training Days 1936, 5’26”. By Atsushi Suzuki.**
The Duckling Saves the Day Year n/a, 1'08". Creator unknown.**
The Underwater Tyrant Year n/a, 1'07". Creator unknown.**

Live-action film:
*Fighting in Ashura Town 1938, 36 min. Directed by Takeshi Yashiro.**
In this comical and action-packed adventure film, down-and-out news reporter Hayato and photographer Debuyama go on a top-secret assignment that could save their careers. When the mission turns into a murder-kidnapping case, they vow to solve it on their own.

Thursday, February 14 at 7:00pm

Beware the one-eyed Cyclops and the long-necked goblin hunting down samurai in Hatanosuke and the Haunted House and Taro's Monster Hunt. A drunk fishmonger fights a giant octopus in Sanko and the Octopus: A Fight Over a Fortune. More animations are followed by the live action Kid Commotion, directed by the king of slapstick Torajiro Saito.

Animated short films (in chronological order):
*Our Baseball Match 1931, 9'32, black & beige. By Yasuji Murata.**
*Sanko and the Octopus: A Fight Over a Fortune 1933, 15'49". By Yasuji Murata.**
Dekobo the Big Head's Road Trip Year n/a, 1'08". Creator unknown.
Danemon's Monster Hunt at Shojoji 1935, 8'43". By Yoshitaro Kataoka.
*Hatanosuke and the Haunted House Year n/a, 1'17". Creator unknown.**
Taro's Monster Hunt 1936, 5'12". By Hiromasa Suzuki.

Live-action film:
*Kid Commotion 1935, 34 min. Directed by Torajiro Saito.**
The Fukudas have a mountain of debt, 6 children, with their seventh ready to burst into the world at any moment. When Mrs. Fukuda goes into labor, it is up to her frantic husband to raise enough money to hire a midwife—for this, he will do whatever it takes.

Friday, February 15 at 7:00 pm

"Japan Undefeated!" "Populate Japan!" "Run, Japan, Run!" From the 1930s through the 40s, animated films such as Animal Village in Trouble, Mabo's Big Race and Momotaro series emphasized war propaganda, national policy and Japan's rigorous campaign to host the 1940 Olympics. This collection of shorts is followed by the live-action propaganda film Mother of the Nation, set in Manchuria (a part of China occupied by Japan from1931-1945).

Animated short films (in chronological order):
The National Anthem Kimigayo 1931, 3'05". By Noburo Ofuji.**
*Momotaro's Sky Adventure 1931, 10'27". By Yasuji Murata.**
Momotaro's Underwater Adventure 1932, 1'49". By Yasuji Murata.**
*Corporal Norakuro 1934, 10'34". By Yasuji Murata.**
*2nd Lieutenant Norakuro Sunday Magic Year n/a, 1'42". Creator unknown.**
Sankichi the Monkey: The Storm Troopers 1934, 2'36". By Mitsuyo Seo.**
The Monkey Fleet 1936, 1'08". By Manzo Miyashita.**
Mabo's Big Race 1936, 1’34”. Creator unknown.**
Sankichi the Monkey: The Air Combat 1942, 3'08". By Yoshitaro Kataoka.**
Dankichi on a Tropical Island Year n/a, 1'08". Creator unknown.**
The Animal Village in Trouble Year n/a, 8'41". By Sanae Yamamoto.

Live-action film:
*Mother of the Nation 1936, 21 min. Directed by Shiro Nakagawa.**
Respected school teacher Shimako and her husband are sent to Manchuria as guards to the railway. Discovering that anti-Japan guerillas plan to attack their train station, Shimako and several men are determined to fight back.

Saturday, February 16 at 5:00 pm
In The Black Cat, vaudeville-esque characters sing to popular songs of the era, and in the comic period piece The Bear Dodger, characters of the Edo period sing a Western-style operetta. These and several more animated films are followed by the rare live-action musical Singing Lovebirds.

Animated short films (in chronological order):
The Black Cat 1929, 2'55". By Noburo Ofuji.
The Stolen Lump 1929, 10'25", black & beige. By Yasuji Murata.**
Harvest Festival 1930, 2'28". By Noburo Ofuji.
Taro Urashima 1931, 1'10". By Manzo Miyashita.**
The Unlucky Butterfly 1931, 8'28". Creator unknown.
Home Alone Mice 1931, 1'08". By Ikuo Oishi.
Spring Song 1931, 3'01", black & pink. By Noburo Ofuji.**
Belly Drum Dance at Shojoji Year n/a, 1'11". By Ikuo Oishi.
The Bear Dodger 1948, 9'29". By Noburo Ofuji.

Live-action film:
Singing Lovebirds 1939, 69 min. Directed by Masahiro Makino.**
In this very rare samurai musical, Oharu is in love with her poor neighbor Reizaburo from afar, but is instead bullied into marriage to an arrogant lord when her father is unable to pay his debts.

Saturday, February 16 at 7:30pm
*With live benshi performance in English

Orochi 1925, 75 min., 16mm, b&w. Directed by Buntaro Futagawa. Starring Tsumasaburo Bando.
In this legendary silent chambara film, an innocent samurai is falsely accused of a crime. The epic story culminates with a historical blowout sword-fight. Presented with live benshi narration in English by NY-based actor/writer, Leon Ingulsrud.


About Midori Sawato
Native to Tokyo, Midori Sawato graduated from the Department of Philosophy, Hosei University, and studied under the late Shunsui Matsuda (Japan’s prominent benshi narration advocate, performing and extensively promoting the benshi tradition after the end of the silent film era). Debuting in 1973, Sawato has received numerous awards for her vast contributions toward promoting katsuben (live narration performance for silent films) as a modern form of entertainment both in Japan, and overseas. Her vast repertoire of over 500 silent films includes a wide variety of genres. She is the author of Katsudo Benshi: Sekai o Kakeru (Film Benshi Across the World).

About Leon Ingulsrud
Leon Ingulsrud is a theatre actor, director and teacher. Born and raised in Japan, Mr. Ingulsrud earned an MFA in Directing from Columbia University, and helped found the SITI Company with Anne Bogart. Directing credits include Alice in Wonderland, Slide Thing, Blue Eyed Boy, Endgame, The Hairy Ape, Hanjo, Macbeth, Martini Ceremony, Medea, Angel/Babel, Short Stories, Epitaph for the Whales, The Sea, The Grapes of Wrath, The Tempest, Death of a Salesman and three productions of Moby Dick. Mr. Ingulsrud has taught acting in workshops, conservatories and universities throughout the world including such institutions as The Julliard School, Trinity College Dublin, NYU, Fordham University and Bard College. Mr. Ingulsrud currently resides in New York City.

About Japan Society's Film Program
Japan Society Film Program offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Launching the annual JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film in July 2007, the Film Program has included retrospectives of seminal directors, thematic series and special screenings of international, and U.S. and NY premieres. Several original film series curated by Japan Society have traveled to other U.S. venues in tours organized by the Film Program. The Film Program has provided English subtitles for films which have never been screened outside of Japan. Accompanying lectures help place the films in their aesthetic and social contexts, and filmmakers often introduce and discuss their work.

From its first film screening in 1922 (a four-reel film of the crown prince's 1921 visit to Europe) to the 2006 premiere screening of Drawing Restraint 9, hosted by visual artist Matthew Barney and collaborator Björk, Film Program highlights have also included, Kurosawa: A Retrospective (1981); A Tribute to Toshiro Mifune (1984); Anime: The History of Japanese Animated Films (1999); and Critic’s Choice: Susan Sontag on Japanese Film, Parts I & II (2003 and 2004).

About Japan Society
Founded in 1907 by prominent New York City business people and philanthropists, Japan Society has evolved over 100 years into an internationally recognized nonprofit organization presenting a full range of programs within arts and culture, business, education, and public policy. Through over 100 events annually, the Society creates rich encounters and exchanges that offer opportunities to experience Japanese culture; foster sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia; and improve access to information on Japan.

Japan Society celebrates the 100th Anniversary of its founding with Japan100: Celebrating a Century, an unprecedented array of high-profile programming in 2007-08. The celebration occurs throughout New York City and in Japan with further national and international exposure through traveling exhibitions, performing arts tours, symposia, fellowships, and exchanges. Visit for more information.


Tickets & Further Information
The Globus Film Series Dawn of Japanese Animation runs February 13-16, 2008. Tickets for February 13 launch screening and reception are $15/$12 members, students & seniors; tickets for all the other screenings are $10/$7 members & seniors/$4.50 students. Tickets are available online at or by calling at 212-715-1258.

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between First and Second Avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd St.) For more information, visit or call 212-832-1155.

DAWN OF ANIMATION is made possible through the generous support of The Globus Family. Additional support is provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency. The Special Student Discount is made possible by The Globus Family. Special thanks to Matsuda Film Production and Digital Meme for their assistance in selecting films and subtitling films in English.

# # #

For further information, images and screeners, please refer to:

Aya Akeura
Japan Society
T: 212-715-1292
F: (212) 715-1262

Kuniko Shiobara
Japan Society
T: 212-715-1249
F: (212) 715-1262

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