Akihiro Nishino and Yusuke Hirota are the story/script writer and director, respectively, of the animated film Poupelle of Chimney Town. Here, in an interview with Awards Daily, Nishino and Hirota talk about the inspirations for the original book and the interesting concepts it tackles. Hirota also digs into the creative animated process as a first time director. Plus, they reveal the source of a song featured in the film that gets really stuck in your head!
Awards Daily: Yusuke Hirota, you start the film with quite the world wind of activity and color throwing us into the world, in a very stimulating and unique start. How was that decided on? Is it similar in the book?
Yusuke Hirota: The film needed to show the scale of this story. This is not a picture book, but a movie. The dance sequence was born out of the idea that the best way to let the audience know about this world is to express it in a fun way, using music such as in a musical, rather than using explanatory dialogues and scene descriptions. Chimney Town is always full of smoke, and without any changes, the scenery would just be smoky and very dull. However, the people of this town are trying to enjoy their daily lives with ingenuity. The energy of that kind of lifestyle was necessary for the foundation of the story, so I made the buildings and lanterns colorful.
AD: When Lubicchi is trying to save Poupelle his running down through the buildings reminded me of a video game. Where did that idea come from?
Yusuke Hirota: Apart from the main storyline, this scene had two other purposes. I wanted to convey Lubicchi’s desperation in a cute and comical way, and I also wanted to explain the complex and haphazard construction of Chimney Town in a way that was easy to understand. I came up with this idea because I thought that by intentionally using retro and familiar expressions in a 3DCG work, I could create a sense of nostalgia and freshness, and give children and adults alike a sense of familiarity with this story and world.
AD: What was the inspiration to have HYDE perform the Halloween song in the film? It is a random aside and yet makes a strong impact. It got stuck in my head, I should tell you, and I ended up searching YouTube for it.
Akihiro Nishino: The song was not written for the film, it was one of his original songs, but I personally really liked it, so I asked HYDE for permission to use the song and he rewrote it for the film.
AD: I read you (Akihiro Nishino) always meant for Poupelle of Chimney Town to be a movie as well as a book. How did that affect your writing of the book and the screenplay?
Akihiro Nishino: Since the “amount of the story that can be told” in a “picture book” and a “movie” is different, I focused only on the “main character” in the picture book and the “people surrounding the main character” in the film. As a result, the story in the picture book is “the story of the main characters going to see the stars,” and the story in the film is “the story of the main characters showing everyone in town the stars.”
AD: How did you two come together to work on this project and what was the experience like? How did you both decide on the look of the film compared to the book?
Yusuke Hirota: STUDIO 4℃, where I work, got an offer of making this movie, and I was asked by our company producer, Tanaka, to be involved in the film production. Mr. Nishino is a famous comedian who is well known in Japan, but when I first met him, my impression was that he was very creative, and unlike the face I know so well from TV, but he was very enthusiastic which made me want to work with him.
Mr. Nishino told me that there was originally a screenplay and that the picture book was an excerpt from it. In the beginning, we had frequent meetings to discuss various ideas and brush up on the original story for the film. In relation to the design, instead of simply adapting a picture book into a film, we decided to keep the concept and rethink the size of the town and the origins of civilization. The process was required for me to create characters, scenes, and stories that were not found in the picture book.
Akihiro Nishino: I’ve always been a fan of STUDIO 4°C, the animation studio that Director Hirota works for, so I offered them this project making a film out of my picture book. This film isn’t set in a real-life town, but in a fictional town called “Chimney Town,” so I had several discussions about it with Director Hirota, starting from the creation of the town’s culture, customs, and rules.
AD: What was the inspiration for Poupelle’s design and character to be a trash man?
Akihiro Nishino: Whether it was a toy, an accessory, or a piece of furniture, it was “originally a very cherished item” that became “garbage” the moment it was thrown away. Garbage man is a collection of “things that everyone used to cherish a long time ago.” “Garbage man” was born as the embodiment of a dream that everyone else had abandoned.
AD: Yusuke Hirota this was your first time directing. Has this been something you have wanted to do for a while and what was it like for you?
Yusuke Hirota: Directing a film has been a dream of mine for many years, ever since I entered the animation industry. Moreover, I’m very grateful for this opportunity because I’ve always wanted to use full 3DCG when making a film. I have been involved in productions as a CGI Director, but thinking about one section and thinking about the whole work are two completely different things. Every day was a learning experience for me, and I grew as I went along in the production of my work. At the same time, I realized once again that a film is really made with the help of many staff members.
AD: Where did the idea of the evil central bank and wanting a disposable currency come from? It was so random at the moment made me laugh but made me curious as well.
Akihiro Nishino: Rotting money (depreciating money) was modeled after the local currency that was actually used in the town of “Wörgl” in Austria between 1932 and 1933. With this currency, “Wörgl” succeeded in rebuilding its economy, and I thought it was very interesting to think about “the state of money,” so I included it in my work.
AD: Anything else you want our readers to know about Poupelle?
Akihiro Nishino: “A world covered in black smoke and unable to look up” is exactly where we are today during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that this story about searching for the stars in a world covered in smoke will serve as encouragement to those who are trying their best during this pandemic.
Yusuke Hirota: When I made this film, I wanted to carefully depict the bonds of family and friendship. Because it’s the feelings we have for our parents, for our children, for our friends, and for those we love that make up this story. These are universal themes, and they are also themes that I will continue to cherish. I hope that this film will reach many people. And I would be happy if they enjoyed it.