Could you tell us about your background?

MORIMOTO-SAN: I worked as an animator for ten years, since I was 20, but have recently shifted over to directing – when I turned 30 I felt more like following the path of director than animator. Since I started directing, I have been with this studio [Studio 4°C].

MATRIX: For those who are not familiar with your work, what would you tell them to seek out?

MORIMOTO-SAN: I directed the first episode of Memories in 1995, and Noiseman Sound Insect in 1997. I’ve also directed several music clips and TV commercials.

MATRIX: Being able to do both direct and animate, does it help or make your job harder?

MORIMOTO-SAN: It’s difficult for me to do both directing and animating sometimes. Often it feels better to not draw and have other animators do it, but since I can do both I still find myself doing both on some productions. I can’t say I prefer illustrating over directing; both have the same appeal to me.

At times I feel like there are two of me – director and animator – and there are personality conflicts between the two. I’ll focus in as an animator on a project, then the director in me will surface, or the reverse will happen and the animator in me will interfere with the director side. It’s hard to harmonize the two, especially on this production [BEYOND].

MATRIX: Is this a difficult project?

MORIMOTO-SAN: It’s taking more time to finish than I expected, because I am not as fast a director as some other directors. I’m working on the key animation right now.

MATRIX: What was the inspiration for the design of BEYOND?

MORIMOTO-SAN: There are two approaches that I’m applying in this production. With one I’m trying to keep the style I developed when I was young. We’ve filmed some of the scenes in that style, and have been referring to footage we filmed so the animation feels more realistic, and we can keep the character movement very smooth. We filmed one of the main female characters so we could reference that footage. My main role on this film is as the Director, but I am helping with the key animations part of it. Of course, there are many key animators, and many are designing the characters, I’m just helping out.

MATRIX: Do you use computers for your animation?

MORIMOTO-SAN: I haven’t used computers very much on this production. The only parts we’ve created on the computer are the parts that no one would use them for. I haven’t applied any new computer techniques to this production because I haven’t seen any need. The scene of the rats being exterminated might be one of the scenes where computers are used, that and maybe one other scene. The story is simple enough that there are not many scenes where computer animation should be used.

MATRIX: How many people are working on BEYOND?

MORIMOTO-SAN: There are ten key animators, and on computer graphics there are three people. Counting everyone, there might be as many as thirty people involved, including people doing backgrounds and other things.

MATRIX: Your studio here in Tokyo is a bit tight for space; how much time do you spend here?

MORIMOTO-SAN: Maybe 16 hours a day, I spend most of the day here at the studio. I have to be here this many hours because it’s getting busier and busier, towards the end of the production.

MATRIX: What was your reaction when you were asked to work on THE ANIMATRIX?

MORIMOTO-SAN: I was very happy. First of all, I liked the motion picture very much, especially aspects of the different world and time and space, and that there is a reality different from what we see. So I got very excited, but at the same time I wondered, since THE MATRIX film is so perfect, how am I going to make it work in an animation? Creating the scenario (the first part), took a long time. Since my story was totally original, once I finished writing I had other people read it so they could give me their opinion on the scenario. That led to more ideas, so I rewrote it again and again and again. That was the hard part. There were many elements I really wanted to animate from the original scenario that were not approved, but now I am happy as some of those ideas are being kept. The overall quality and originality of the film is quite high, although it is a little different from my original idea.

MATRIX: Describe how this process was different than your experience working on [Katsuhiro Otomo’s] Memories?

MORIMOTO-SAN: When I was working on Memories, Otomo-san and I worked together; and as questions came up he was always near; it made the production much easier.

MATRIX: Is the animation community here in Japan tight knit?

MORIMOTO-SAN: Whenever a new production comes up, and the style that is going to be used is decided, all the people who are interested and have the same taste get together. Communication is always very smooth in this community because everyone has the same taste and attitude about the film. Right now everyone is enjoying getting involved in making THE ANIMATRIX.

MATRIX: Are you looking forward to THE MATRIX RELOADED and REVOLUTIONS?

MORIMOTO-SAN: Of course!

MATRIX: I thought so! Thank you, Morimoto-san.

Interview by REDPILL

Translated by Isako Shibata

July 2002