Sky Blue (2005)

Directed by: Moon Sang Kim
Screenplay by: Moon Sang Kim, Jun Young Park, Sunmin Park

U.S. Opening Date: February 18, 2005

What if a movie is stylistically the same as anime, but wasn’t made in Japan? What would it be called then? (Besides Titan AE?) What if it was made in another Asian country instead? Would it be anime then?

Anyway, that’s probably what people would be debating with the U.S. release of the 2003 Korean flick Wonderful Days, which would get a limited release as Sky Blue.

Reviews have it that it provides some sumptuous eye candy, but is lacking in the plot department – which makes it an all-new complaint when it comes to anime, doesn’t it (note the sarcasm)? Or is it anime in the first place?

Plot Summary for Sky Blue (2005):

Would you know the color “sky blue” if you had never seen the sky in your life?

SKY BLUE is a love story set against the forces of destruction, a dystopian vision of Earth’s destiny, yet ultimately a reminder of our hope for the future.

In the year 2140, mankind's reckless exploitation of the environment has sparked a planet-wide catastrophe that has shielded the sun from view and all but ended human civilization on earth. Only a small number of elites possessing power and technology have been able to thrive, building a magnificent, organic city named ECOBAN. Ecoban the city grows by itself like a living plant, utilizing its Delos System to transform carbon compounds into useable energy. JAY is a 19-year-old female trooper of Ecoban who guards the city against the incursions of outsiders.

Thousands of refugees have come to Ecoban seeking asylum, but the elites have barred their entry to the city and forced them to settle in the surrounding Wasteland. The refugees have become Ecoban’s workers, known as the “Diggers,” and are forced to mine the Wasteland for the carbonite needed to feed Ecoban.

On patrol in the Wasteland one day, Jay witnesses a gigantic industrial accident orchestrated by Ecoban's corrupt leaders against the refugees. Upon seeing this act of cruelty, Jay’s loyalty is put to the test. When she then encounters her childhood sweetheart SHUA leading a rebellion against Ecoban, Jay must make the ultimate choice – whether to live for duty, or very possibly die for love.

Shua goes to warn a group of Digger freedom fighters that his incursion into Ecoban may lead to retaliatory strikes by Ecoban. Despite Shua’s warnings, the rebels put their plan into action -- but it turns out to be a deadly trap that leads the Ecoban troops to the headquarters of the resistance. Later that night, Jay flees Ecoban to be with Shua.

Joining forces in rebellion, Jay and Shua risk their own chance at happiness for the chance that the clouds may clear, and the people of Earth might see the blue sky for the first time in their lives.




Trivia about Sky Blue:

• Origins in Korea
Although the production originated in Korea, it was always the intention of the filmmakers to create two distinct versions of the film – one for the Korean market and one English-language version for international audiences. SKY BLUE is the English-language version of the Korean title “Wonderful Days” by director Moon Sang Kim. In SKY BLUE, the original version has been re-voiced and re-edited, and additional sound and music scoring has been added. SKY BLUE received its North American premiere at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and has since traveled to numerous Festivals around the globe including Venice, London, Tokyo, Rio, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Currently, both versions are available to screen to all audiences in all countries.

• Storyboard & Design
The storyboard was meticulously worked for several years prior to principal production commenced in 2001 order to ensure an accurate intent of the director’s vision. The finished storyboard was then put together into an animatic to smooth out and perfect points of continuity. After having decided on character designs each scene was worked on extensively to find what background and props would fit best. Every nuance in word pronunciation and angle had to be in conjunction with mouth shape and movement. Design plans for every background and prop Design is not an art, but a science.

• Image board
The atmosphere, lighting and color of a particular spot was captured using the storyboard and the background design as a basis. How are shadows in the morning and at night different? What feelings do a wall splashed with water and a building immersed in fog convey? These are the questions that were addressed in this stage.

• Miniature Production
No matter how many detailed layers an animation uses there is always the natural two dimensional barriers that filmed miniatures allow by giving a new sense of depth and substance that is impossible to achieve with 2D alone. Over thirty of Korea’s top miniature and model artists were recruited to work for ten months.

• Preparing to film the miniatures
The staff’s crew when making the miniatures was only the tip of the iceberg compared to the preparation stages of the actual filming. Because the whole purpose behind using miniatures was to create a realistic sense of depth and space, it was important to construct life-like airflow and light during filming.

The concept of the movie was to combine 2D and 3D animation along with miniatures and live action. To capture the miniature sequences on film, the animators used The Sony HDW-F900, a cutting-edge digital camera still in its prototype stages which was used in the making of “Star Wars: Episode 2” by Lucas Films. There are only seven models in the world. After making the proper arrangements, the lighting director and cinematographer conducted a week’s worth of test in the U.S. The proper lens for filming miniatures needed to have a narrow aperture and be able to focus on near objects and further background elements at the same time. To achieve this the production employed a Frazier Lens developed by Panavision. The Frazier Lens, which had been used on “Star Wars: Episode 2” and was credited for a Technical Achievement Oscar, was used on the film for the only second time ever. However a significant obstacle in the filming of “Star Wars: Episode 2” also greeted the production team -- the Motion Control System.

The team needed both a motion controller that could accurately manipulate the lens and the camera itself. In order to combine different layers, the same scene had to be filmed layer by layer, repeatedly, without error. This was beyond human ability. Milo, a highly advanced motion controller robot, was brought up for the task. However Milo’s fingers could not withstand the weight of the camera. In the end, the staff removed Milo’s digits and reinstalled the computer. The next pressing issue was that one person could not simultaneously operate both the Frazier Lens and the camera’s motion controller. Milo and the Frazier operating system ran under different software, and their motors were also different, making it impossible for the two to exchange signals. To solve this problem, Panavision sent a technician to create a special board that Milo and the Frazier could communicate through.

A series of experiments were conducted to study the effects of different lighting on the colors of the final image. At Panavision studios in Los Angeles, staff members filmed various objects under different lights and at different exposures. This was compiled on an HD tape and sent to headquarters in Korea, where the animators made sure the colors came out the way they wished. Still unsure, the tape was tested again at Imagica in Japan to fine-tune the camera settings.


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