From Up On Poppy Hill

Daniel Boulos
Assistant Professor of Animation, Academy for Creative Media

What is your official title/occupation?

Assistant professor of animation, Academy for Creative Media, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Also, owner of Wiki Wiki Cartoons (animation studio in Honolulu from 2000 to present).


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Daniel Boulos

Where and with whom did you see the movie? I saw From Up on Poppy Hill with my wife, Gina, and my son Joshua at Consolidated Theaters in the Kahala Mall.

Overall, what did you think? From Up on Poppy Hill is a heartwarming animated film from Studio Ghibli. It was completely engaging and kept us enchanted with its amazing attention to detail and its nostalgic depictions of daily life in post-war Japan.

Without giving away the ending, what was one of your favorite scenes? Toward the final third of the film is a tearful scene between Umi and her mother, who had just returned from America. The emotions were heartfelt and the scene was elegant in its simplicity. Though other parts of the film contained more breathtaking backgrounds or intense animation sequences, the scene in the mother’s bedroom was crucial to the film. It is not easy to make emotions come through in hand-drawn animation, but the Studio Ghibli artists did a superb job.

On a scale of one to four stars, what would you rate this film? ★★★★. With its terrific character animation, along with the artistry of the backgrounds and design work, the story written by Hayao Miyazaki deserves four stars on its own.

What did you think of the cinematography? In an age of computer-generated animation, it was a treat to see such wonderful hand-painted backgrounds reminiscent of another era in animation in the United States. In animated films, the cinematography is a result of the painted cels and background art that populate a film. These elements create the pure illusion that is “cinematography” in traditional animation. From Up on Poppy Hill is full of many excellent examples of screen composition, taking great care with its use of color and shape.

Was the message/theme clear? This film was basically a love story at heart. Steeped deep in the family challenges that were common to families in post-war Japan, the film is life-affirming and inspiring.

Did it remind you of any other work in film? With its thoughtful portrayals of daily activities strewn throughout the story, the style of filmmaking brought to mind the similarities with films from Yasujiro Ozu. The careful portrayal of the story through the eyes of a young girl just beginning to find her own voice, this movie hearkens to similar sensibilities in such Miyazaki greats as Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

To whom would you recommend this movie? My 13 year-old son enjoyed this film as much as my wife and I, but it is definitely for a slightly older audience. This would be perfect for children 9 and older, and adults, as well.

Would you buy this movie when it comes out on DVD? I would buy this film when it comes out on DVD. It seems that traditional 2-D animation stands the test of time much better than its 3-D computer-animated counterpart. I am proud to have several Miyazaki films on my shelf already.

What’s your favorite movie snack? I prefer Raisinets, although my son and wife love the Peanut M&Ms.

On a different note, what’s new with you? Continuing with characters developed by my company, Wiki Wiki Cartoons, I am currently in production on a 20-minute animated film titled The Amazing Mr. Chim. This film is an animated (fictional) account of a monkey that is the most powerful entertainment executive in Hollywood. Combining many styles of animation, this film is most clearly defined by its Disney-style 2-D full animation scenes. Requiring approximately two more years of production before it is complete, there have been discussions about financing of the project, as well as developing a medium-sized animation production studio here in Honolulu to complete the film and develop several other projects.

I also currently head the animation program for the Academy of Creative Media at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, where we teach 2-D and 3-D animation techniques and filmmaking.