Production I.G> WORK LIST> Oblivion Island> SPECIAL FEATURE> Interview with Ren Ishimori and Ryo Hirata (1)

Interview with Ren Ishimori and Ryo Hirata (1)

Ren Ishimori (left)
Born in Tokyo in 1978. After graduating from the Tokyo University of the Arts, he became a freelance artist, specializing in three-dimensional modeling, and later joined Production I.G as clay modeler. For Oblivion Island, he contributed not only the island inhabitants' designs, but also vehicles, props and objects appearing on the island.

Ryo Hirata (right)
Born in Osaka Prefecture in 1977. While studying at the Kyoto Seika University he worked for the graphics development of videogames at Intelligent Systems, a company he joined after graduation. Freelancer since 2006, he's been working as character designer in several video games, such as Fire Emblem (2003), Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (2004), Famicom Wars DS (2005) and Theme Park DS (2007). For Production I.G he worked as character designer in the music clip for KinKi Kids member Tsuyoshi Domoto's solo single Kurikaesu Haru (2008) and Kazuchika Kise's directorial debut, Drawer Hobs (2011).


First of all, could you tell us how did share your roles as character designers for this movie?
Hirata: At first Ishimori and I discussed how to approach this movie, and each of us came up with several ideas. While doing so, it became almost natural to split the design work according to the two different worlds appearing in the movie, also in consideration of each one's personal skills. So I took care of the human characters, like Haruka's family and Miho, and Ishimori designed the islanders. I love his characters. Those creatures obviously do not exist, but at the same time he made them look real and convincing.

This movie is not based on any existing work. How did you decide the looks of the various characters?
Hirata: Well, we had a lot of meetings for sure.

Ishimori: We started to work when the script was not complete yet. All we had was a story plot, and based on that we had to decide the style of everything. I was overwhelmed by the huge number of characters I was supposed to design, but I guess that was also the fun part of the project. But one thing still impressed in my memory is the totally insane number of design proposals I submitted. I don't even know myself how many drafts I made (lol)

Hirata: Indeed. But rather than "I don't even know how many" I'd rather say, we couldn't even remember how many! (lol)

Ishimori: There was no initial concept design for the islanders to work on, so we had to start totally from scratch. And when I say from scratch, I mean that at that stage we had to decide if we wanted something human-like, or not human at all, or what else. So I started drawing a design proposal after another, that were all discarded one after another until I came up with the right one.

Sato-san had decided that rather than a Star Wars-like multi racial melting pot, he wanted one race with its own culture and society, so we had to decide what that race should look like. And since the story was related to foxes, eventually we developed these fox-like creatures, as we did not want just to put speaking foxes in another world.

Teo's mask (worn by Haruka, on the left) and the gate keeper (on the right) are examples of every day objects turned into fashion items by the islanders, the former being a bike saddle and the latter a kettle.

The islanders also wear very elaborate... clothes, if they can be called so.
Ishimori: Oh, sure. For the islanders' outfits, I took inspiration from the story concept, and I had them wear real objects, in a fashion completely different from the original purpose, as the islanders do not know what the original use is. So the Elder Soldier Brother is wearing a hairdryer on his head, and the Younger Soldier Brother is wearing a pair of high-heel shoes. Teo's mask is a bike saddle. The gate keeper's mask is a kettle worn upside-down. Actually I thought the characters' shapes first, and then I looked for object that could fit in that shape.

(1 - to be continued)