Interview with Nintendo Animator Yoichi Kotabe

Hidden Talent All Around the World

Iwata Now I’d like to ask everyone about how they think use of Ugomemo will spread. What do you think, Koizumi-san?

Koizumi In my first year in the department of media arts at university, there was a class in which everyone had to direct their own film. Students who wanted to be screenwriters or cameramen, everyone, had to make film on eight-millimeter as a director. Eight-millimeter film for three minutes.

Iwata Each student took on the role of director and made a three-minute film.

Koizumi Right. I thought doing that was a really good assignment. Everyone would like to make a film, but hardly anyone ever has the chance. But now that anyone can easily make animation with Ugomemo, unexpected people now will be able to display unexpected talent. I hope Ugomemo spurs them to do so.

Iwata As if Ugomemo has uncovered hidden talent?

Koizumi Exactly. Someone at the Tokyo office who wasn’t a designer or programmer made something incredible on it. When I saw it, I thought, “Aha!”

Iwata Kotabe-san, the animation that users have made with Ugomemo can be sent to the Internet and shared with others. People with hidden talent all over the world are being given an equal chance to share their work globally.

Kotabe That’s exciting!

Koizumi I’m excited, too!

Iwata What do you think, Miyamoto-san?

Miyamoto I’m of a like mind with Koizumi-san, but…I think I’m going to use this opportunity to do some PR for Wii Music. (laughs)

Everyone (laughs)

Miyamoto Wii Music is very similar to Flipnote. For a long time Nintendo has worked on developing games like editing tools. I think the ultimate video game is a computer-aided design tool. I’ve always said that if we had the perfect tool to, for example, allow you to draw a picture however you wanted, it would be the most enjoyable software, but it was very hard to achieve.

Iwata It was too expensive or it was difficult to use, so the burden placed on users was too great.

Miyamoto It’s one theme we have continued to approach as we have made games all these years. In 2008 we completed Flipnote and Wii Music. I hope people will someday come forward who say they wanted to become musicians because of Wii Music or creators because of Flipnote. In that light, I feel like the year 2008 marks a new era.

Iwata Band Brothers DX is a little different type of game, but you can share your music with others.

Miyamoto Indeed, 2008 was a bountiful year! It is often said that those kinds of projects don’t go that well, but I have a feeling they will go well in the very near future, like in the year 2009 and 2010.

Iwata Also, Made In Ore is coming out in 2009. (Made in Ore (Japanese title): DS software scheduled for release in Japan in 2009. Software that allows players to make and play the microgames appearing in the WarioWare series.)

Miyamoto I want each player to use such games to make forms of play specific to him- or herself. Back in the days when, as Kotabe-san experienced, people would scoff at drawing manga, I started a manga club in junior high school. Our slogan was “Better at Art than the Art Club.” (laughs)

Everyone (laughs)

Miyamoto But the truth was, we were better than the art club! And we got better grades in Art than they did.

Iwata You overturned the existing authority and tried to make it to recognize you!

Miyamoto In the same way, I hope Flipnote will usher in a new era.

Iwata Kotabe-san, seen from the viewpoint of your life spent mastering the art of animation, what do you think when you see something like Flipnote suddenly appear?

Kotabe As I mentioned before, it’s very approachable, which I think is incredible. Even drawing flipbook animation was, until today, reserved for children who were better at drawing. However, with the DS, anyone can churn out some drawings and get them moving. Also, I think there are many ways to use it. For shiritori-anime, for example. (Shiritori is a word game where the players say a word that begins with the last Japanese letter of the previous word)

Iwata Shiritori-anime?

Kotabe I’ve heard they actually do this at animation schools. You start with a circle, for example, work it through a number of changes, and then end with a circle. If everyone makes something that starts with a circle and ends with a circle, then all their creations can be linked.

Iwata I see. It’s like shiritori because the endings and beginnings link up.

Miyamoto You can edit them together into one animation.

Koizumi In Version 2 we’re going to include a function that allows memos to be lined up and played for consecutive viewing up to 30 minutes.

Iwata In other words, you can hook up works by multiple creators into one continuous animation lasting 30 minutes.

Miyamoto We need to provide a starting form.

Koizumi We’ll do that in Version 2 also.

Miyamoto I’m excited about it.

Koizumi Me too! (laughs)

Kotabe Earlier, Koizumi-san mentioned uncovering hidden talent, but I think Flipnote can be a fun tool for professionals, too.

Iwata It would be great if when this software goes out into the world, the number of people who draw animation would increase. I also strongly hope that-as Miyamoto-san mentioned-Flipnote spurs people to become animators, video and film creators and video-game makers. Kotabe-san, thank you for this memorable conversation today.