Takashi Murakami is famous for the fantastical, Anime-inspired creatures that populate his art, from the narcotically blissed-out flowers that have sprouted on collectors' walls around the world to the twin monsters that serve as mascots for his multimillion-dollar production company, Kaikai Kiki. Now, Murakami reveals that he is venturing into uncharted territory for a fine artist, attempting to bring these painterly creations to life through the magic of CGI — in a live-action monster movie, he says, "like 'Godzilla.'"
The comparison to that clunky cult 1954 film sells Murakami's directorial debut short. Using a cast of unknown actors and putting the film's sizable budget almost entirely into special effects, the artist has managed to create big-screen incarnations of his ravenous, curious creatures that maintain astonishing fidelity to their canvas versions. But like "Godzilla," which was born from the nuclear terror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki's aftermath, Murakami's film arises from a disaster: the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that rent his country asunder, killing thousands and displacing countless more (see Part 1 of our video interview with the artist, where he talks about his charity auction benefiting the earthquake victims).
Titled “Jellyfish Eyes,” the movie follows a young boy who after an earthquake has to move with his family to an "experimental city" where each child is paired with a small monster. The "angry feeling" of the children then gives these creatures great power, allowing them to grow from cuddly little companions to giant, omnivorous behemoths that tower over buildings and, in one especially gorgeous scene, tromp majestically through a misty forest. Havoc ensues.
"This is kind of for the kids," says Murakami, "so it looks really childish." The artist, however, has his sights set loftier than your average kids' entertainment. Looking back on the early shark-and-alien-driven films of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Murakami notes that, at first, "movie industry people laughed at the effect, but now this is a major thing, this kind of sci-fi computer graphic stuff. And I think in the art world the same thing will be soon."
Murakami hopes to release his film later this year. Watch an additional video of our interview with the artist below.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 2012 issue of Modern Painters magazine.