Tadahito Mochinaga

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Tadahito Mochinaga
Born(1919-03-03)March 3, 1919
Nishikichō, Tokyo, Japan
DiedApril 1, 1999(1999-04-01) (aged 80)
Tokyo, Japan
Years active1938–1992

Tadahito "Tad" Mochinaga(持永 只仁,Mochinaga Tadahito, March 3, 1919 April 1, 1999) was a pioneer Japanese stop-motion animator. [1] Having done many stop motion films/shorts in Japan, he is best known as the animator for Rankin/Bass' "Animagic" productions at his MOM Studio in Tokyo throughout the 1960s. He did this work in association with American director Arthur Rankin, Jr. who wrote and designed the productions before sending them to Japan for animation.

Japanese people ethnic group native to Japan

Japanese people are a nation and an ethnic group that is native to Japan and makes up 98.5% of the total population of the country. Worldwide, approximately 129 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 125 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live outside Japan are referred to as nikkeijin(日系人), the Japanese diaspora. The term ethnic Japanese is often used to refer to Japanese people, as well as to more specific ethnic groups in some contexts, such as Yamato people and Ryukyuan people. Japanese are one of the largest ethnic groups in the world.

Rankin/Bass Productions former production company known mainly for animated holiday specials

Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. was an American production company, known for its seasonal television specials, particularly its work in stop motion animation. Rankin/Bass stop-motion features are recognizable by their visual style of doll-like characters with spheroid body parts, and ubiquitous powdery snow using an animation technique called "Animagic". Often, traditional cel animation scenes of falling snow would be projected over the action to create the effect of a snowfall.

Tokyo Metropolis in Kantō

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis, one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, has served as the Japanese capital since 1869. As of 2014, the Greater Tokyo Area ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The urban area houses the seat of the Emperor of Japan, of the Japanese government and of the National Diet. Tokyo forms part of the Kantō region on the southeastern side of Japan's main island, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo was formerly named Edo when Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters in 1603. It became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. Tokyo Metropolis formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is often referred to as a city but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo.


In 1945, Mochinaga traveled to Xinjing in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo set up in occupied China, to work at the Manchukuo Film Association. He stayed in China after the war and from 1950, he spent three years in Shanghai working on such films as Thank You, Kitty . He is perhaps the only major artist of the era to have worked in both Chinese and Japanese animation industries.

Changchun Prefecture-level & Sub-provincial city in Jilin, Peoples Republic of China

Changchun is the capital and largest city of Jilin Province. Lying in the center of the Songliao Plain, Changchun is administered as a sub-provincial city, comprising 7 districts, 1 county and 2 county-level cities. According to the 2010 census of China, Changchun had a total population of 7,674,439 under its jurisdiction. The city's urbanized area, comprising 5 districts and 4 development areas, had a population of 3,815,270 in 2010 as the Shuangyang and Jiutai districts are not urbanized yet. It is the biggest city in Northeast China, as well as the 9th biggest city in China.

Manchukuo former Japan puppet state in China

Manchukuo was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded as a republic, but in 1934 it became a constitutional monarchy. It had limited international recognition and was under the de facto control of Japan.

Manchukuo Film Association

Manchukuo Film Association Ltd., also known as the "Manchuria Film Production", was a Japanese film production company in Manchukuo in the 1930s and 1940s.


Mochinaga began his animation career in the middle of WWII Japan. During this time, he was the assistant of Seo Mitsuyo on Momotarō's Sea Eagles , an animated propaganda film depicting the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Mochinaga was officially in charge of backgrounds and visual effects. Most Japanese children at this time were taken on official school trips to watch the film. Mochinaga was not particularly happy about this. He wrote in his memoirs:

Mitsuyo Seo was a Japanese animator, screenwriter and director of animated films who played a central role in the development of Japanese anime. He was born in Himeji, Hyōgo Prefecture.

Momotarō no Umiwashi is an animated Japanese propaganda film produced in 1942 by Geijutsu Eigasha and released March 25, 1943. Running at 37 minutes, it was close to being feature-length, but it was not the first animated feature film in Asia; that honor goes to China's 1941 Princess Iron Fan, which was 73 minutes long. A DVD version without English subtitles was released in Japan by Kinokuniya Shoten in 2004; one with subtitles was released in the United States by Zakka Films in 2009.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii

The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack, also known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor, led to the United States' formal entry into World War II. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.

"I heard that many youths volunteered for the flying corps and that while they were on duty they died on air raids. I wonder whether the film we made influenced their decision to volunteer... I thought, in the future I only wished to make a film that would benefit the young, difficult though that might be." [2]

Shortly after the release of Momotarō's Sea Eagles , Mochinaga was put in charge of Fuku-Chan's Submarine despite his own protests that he was too inexperienced. Due to the fact that much of his staff was drafted to the military and lack of supplies and funds, Fuku-Chan's Submarine was barely finished and released in 1944.

Exhausted, Mochinaga returned home to find it destroyed in a bombing raid. Foreseeing the end of the war and fearing the inevitable American occupation of Japan that might involve purging propagandists as well as food shortages, Mochinaga fled with his pregnant wife to Japan-occupied Manchuria where they both had family. There, he got a job at Man-Ei as a graphic artist. Less than a month after moving to Manchuria, Japan surrendered.

Occupation of Japan

The Allied occupation of Japan at the end of World War II was led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, with support from the British Commonwealth. Unlike in the occupation of Germany, the Soviet Union was allowed little to no influence over Japan. This foreign presence marks the only time in Japan's history that it has been occupied by a foreign power. The country became a parliamentary democracy that recalled "New Deal" priorities of the 1930s by Roosevelt. The occupation, codenamed Operation Blacklist, was ended by the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, and effective from April 28, 1952, after which Japan's sovereignty – with the exception, until 1972, of the Ryukyu Islands – was fully restored.

Japanese invasion of Manchuria part of the Second Sino-Japanese War

The Japanese invasion of Manchuria began on 19 September 1931, when the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria immediately following the Mukden Incident. After the war, the Japanese established the puppet state of Manchukuo. Their occupation lasted until the Soviet Union and Mongolia launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation in 1945.

Manchuria geographic region in Northeast Asia

Manchuria is a name first used in the 17th century by Japanese people to refer to a large geographic region in Northeast Asia. Depending on the context, Manchuria can either refer to a region that falls entirely within the People's Republic of China or a larger region divided between China and Russia. "Manchuria" is widely used outside China to denote the geographical and historical region. This region is the traditional homeland of the Xianbei, Khitan, and Jurchen peoples, who built several states within the area historically.

Fearing what would happen now that the Japanese army had fled, the Japanese workers attempted to flee but were captured by the Soviet army. Fortunately for Mochinaga, he was rehired at the now rebranded Northeast Film Studio. While there, he was given papers identifying him as a Chinese film worker and the Soviets did not seem to consider that a Japanese National could be a film worker in China. He was then given the job of subtitling Soviet films for Chinese, Korean, and Japanese markets. While there, he was able to pull other Japanese refugees into the company and get them work, including Oshiro Noboru.

Mochinaga soon found himself in another war zone as the Chinese National and Communist armies battled for dominance over Manchuria. After he and his staff were captured trying to flee to Hao Gang, he had to confess to being Japanese. However, lucky for him, he happened to be captured by the Eighth Route Army, a Prisoner of War-friendly organization.

In 1946, the frontline of China's Civil War moved further south, allowing Japanese nationals to finally return home. However, Mochinaga chose to stay. There, he avoided censorship by concentration on map graphics and subtitles. During this time, there was only an estimated 20,000 feet of unexposed film left in China. Mochinaga (and all chinese filmmakers at the time) had to be very careful with the amount of film they used. Mochinaga was forced to mix his own homemade paints from what he could scavenge.

Mochinaga was assigned the task of animating a propaganda comic drawn by Hua Junwu. In order to save the paints, he built puppets and to save film, he shot it frame-by-frame instead of live. This was a resounding success as many in the region fondly remembered going to puppet shows. Thus, Mochinaga accidentally popularized stop motion in China.

Mochinaga continued to work as a successful animator and filmmaker in China for the next decade, finally returning to his home country in 1954, four years before the massive famines in 1958. [3]


Rankin/Bass Productions

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  1. Du, Daisy Yan (May 2012). "Mochinaga Tadahito and Animated Filmmaking in Postwar China, 1945-1953," in On the Move: The Trans/national Animated Film in 1940s-1970s China. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  2. Mochinaga, Tadahito (2006). Animēshon Nitchū kōryūki: Mochinaga Tadahito jiden. Tokyo: Tōhō Shoten. p. 95. ISBN   978-4-497-20606-0.
  3. Clements, Jonathan (2016). "3". Anime: A History. London: Palgrave. pp. 62–72. ISBN   978-1-84457-390-5.