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My Life as an
Anime Expert

Sadao Miyamoto, Hirokazu Kosaka, Fred Ladd and Fred Patten.
Animator/artist Sadao Miyamoto, exhibit curator Hirokazu Kosaka, Fred Ladd and Fred Patten with a birthday cake for Astro Boy.

At Sunday's opening of the Postwar Japanese Anime/Manga Exhibit at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles, Fred Ladd kept introducing me as the world's greatest expert on Japanese animation. Ladd himself is something of a hallowed icon in the world of anime, having been a pioneer in the U.S. distribution of such TV series as Astro Boy, whose birthday the event was celebrating. This honor, though seems rather strange to me.

My reputation stems from an interview I did with Ladd for the August 1996 issue of Animation World Magazine, which focused on anime. At the time, my knowledge of Japanese animation was modest and certainly not encyclopedic; for instance, I was more likely to associate Osamu Tezuka with his hilarious personal films, such as Jumping, than with Astro Boy. However, I was aware enough of the anime's importance to see the need for a special issue.

Most of my writings on Japanese animation have always been as part of stories I did for Animation Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and The Animation Report about what was happening in the Pacific Rim, or to browbeat Hollywood for its limited view of animation.

By the time of the Ladd interview, I did have the privilege of knowing two real experts, Fred Patten and Jerry Beck. For instance, I recall Patten, who is a pioneering anime scholar, telling back in the 1980s about his role in the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, which would get together to screen and discuss videotapes imported from Japan. (Sunday, he told me the group is still active, but they now only screen commercially available anime.)

I also recall Beck's enthusiasm about his plans to distribute Japanese animated movies on the cheap; his plans, with the help of Carl Macek, later came to fruition under the Streamline Pictures banner (which Patten also became involved in). I especially recall his hilarious stories of what happened when he screened Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira for Hollywood executives; he noted, for instance, they would first get excited about it, but then realize they couldn't release such a violent film because it's a cartoon! And it was to both of them I often turned when I needed expert opinion. (Patten was the one gave me the idea to interview Ladd in the first place.)

While I was pleased with my interview with Ladd, little did I realize how strongly it would resonate in the anime community. In fact, I have probably gotten more response over the years from it than almost anything else I've ever written. (That it is on the web certainly helps, as does the fact that Ladd has a prominent link to it on his Gigantor site.)

In any case, if you are in the L.A. area on May 4th and want to test my expertise in this area, come on down to the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, where Fred Ladd has induced me to chair a panel discussion, so you can see for yourself.

Meanwhile in Silverlake
Cathy Hill and Mark Kausler
Cathy Hill and Mark Kausler.

Bob Kurtz and Libby SimonAfter leaving Little Tokyo, I dropped in at Libby's Vintage Home & Garden, in Silverlake. This charming boutique run by ex-producer Libby Simon, whose credits include the original Ren & Stimpy Show and pictured here with filmmaker Bob Kurtz)was having the opening of a joint show of paintings by ace animator Mark Kausler and his partner (and cartoonist) Cathy Hill. It was a pleasant contrast to the hubbub at the Japanese Center and thought I would like to share a few images.

— Harvey Deneroff
April 9, 2003

2003 by Harvey Deneroff


 

 

 

 

 

     

Fred Ladd and Harvey Deneroff. Fred Ladd and Harvey Deneroff.

Sadao Miyamoto signing autographs.
Sadao Miyamoto signing autographs for his fans. A display of art work was part of the exhibit. (Come to think of it, I also did an interview with Miyamoto for Animation World Magazine about his memories of filmmaker Renzo Kinoshita, both of whom worked as animators on the original Astro Boy series.)