When you want to make anime the old-fashioned way, there’s no better place to go for help than Hayao Miyazaki’s studio.

We realize that Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, the fourth and final Rebuild of Evangelion film that caps the entire Evangelion franchise, isn’t available outside of Japan yet. That’s why we kept our review of the movie spoiler-free, and we’ll be doing the same today with this behind-the-scenes clip from the making of Thrice Upon a Time.

Without giving any narrative secrets away, we can say that at some point in the movie, creator Hideaki Anno and his staff at Studio Khara wanted to animate a sequence the old-fashioned way. Instead of using digital drawing pads, they decided to produce physical drawings, then photograph the cels frame-by-frame using an animation shooting table.

One problem: Studio Khara doesn’t have a shooting table, since they were founded in 2006, well after the industry as a whole switched over to digital. But you know who does still have one? The old-school, old-guard artists at Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, so Khara took their artwork and timing notes over to Ghibli and borrowed the machine to help make Thrice Upon a Time.

The video shows the technician first laying down the background art, then layering the various cels for protagonist Shinji. And yes, that’s cels, plural, as his face/hair and body/clothing are separate pieces of art, since they move independently of each other.

Between each layer, the technician cleans off the artwork with a soft glove and duster, ensuring that not a speck of dirt or other debris is left behind to screw up the shot.

The meticulous attention to detail is in keeping with both Anno’s and Miyazaki’s reputations as anime creators with unparalleled levels of dedication to their craft, and the video has elicited comments such as:

“Keeping one of these machines around and in working order – I’d expect no less from Ghibli.”
“That’s Old Man Miyazaki’s studio for you. They take care of their tools.”
“When I saw Thrice Upon a Time in the theater, I felt like there was something nostalgic about the animation in that scene. So this was the reason!”
“Shooting animation like this is pretty much a lost art nowadays.”

Studio Khara’s tweet mentions that this shooting table is the one and only one that Ghibli has left, hammering home how animation production has pretty much moved on from these techniques. Still, they haven’t completely vanished just yet, and who knows, maybe if Anno ever gets to direct that live-action Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind movie he wants to, he’ll find a place in the script for an animated sequence and get to use Ghibli’s shooting table once again.

Source: Twitter/@khara_inc2 via Hachima Kiko
Images: Twitter/@khara_inc2
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