It took over a decade to come to fruition, but Takahide Hori’s labor of love, Junk Head, finally has a theatrical release, at least in Japan.
In 2009, Hori set out to make a film. He was working as an interior designer at the time, and had never made a movie. His lack of experience meant that he didn’t know that what he was about to attempt should have been impossible.
After four years of painstaking work, the 30-minute stop motion animation film, Junk Head 1, was complete. The film is comprised of tens of thousands of photographed frames, at 24 frames per second, all taken by Hori. He also created and position all the dolls. And wrote the music. And voiced the characters. He basically created the entire film by himself.
In the film, mankind has gained nearly eternal life through genetic manipulation, but has lost the ability to reproduce. Humans live on the surface, while artificial life forms known as Mulligans, intended as a labor force before they rebelled against man, control the underground. When a virus threatens the surface, they send one man underground to study the Mulligans and determine how they have become fertile. Of course, things don’t go according to plan.
Junk Head 1 was intended to be the first in a 10-part series, but Hori had trouble with funding. He eventually raised some money, and was able to expand the original short film into a 100-minute feature in 2017.
The full-length film, Junk Head, made the festival rounds for a few years winning Best Animated Feature Award at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada, and the Best Director of a New Wave Feature Award at the Fantastic Fest in the U.S. Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro tweeted about the film, “A one-man band work of deranged brilliance! Monumental will and imagination at work.” But even then, it was not given a theatrical release, or made available to watch online.
Finally, in 2021, Junk Head made its way to theaters in Japan with screenings across the country over several months. We can only hope that its popularity and the revenues gained through the release will convince the studio to allow the film to be seen more broadly around the world. And comments on the studio’s Twitter seem to point in that direction as well.
Until then, the original 30-minute short film is available on YouTube. Check it out, and then stay tuned here, or in our Discord, because we’ll definitely pass on any news of a full release as soon as we hear it.