By IAN FAILES
Michael AriasAward-winning filmmaker Michael Arias enjoys a colorful career, spanning the worlds of live-action storytelling, visual effects, computer graphics, and anime, the unique realm of Japanese traditional animation.
He got his start at Dream Quest Images, working as a camera assistant on the motion control stages of such effects-heavy films as The Abyss and Total Recall. In 1990 Michael was asked by VFX godfather Douglas Trumbull to program ride vehicle motion for Back To The Future, The Ride, a milestone in immersive entertainment. He then moved to Tokyo for stints at postproduction behemoth Imagica and game giant Sega, after which he returned to the U.S. to co-found effects boutique Syzygy Digital Cinema, creators of digital sequences for the likes of David Cronenberg, the Coen Brothers, and Spike Lee.
Next, at CG innovator Softimage, Michael developed and patented tools for combining traditional animation and computer graphics, working closely with Studio Ghibli to add a distinct visual flavor to Miyazaki’s masterpieces The Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. In 2000 Michael accepted an invitation from the Wachowski siblings and producer Joel Silver to produce the Matrix-inspired anthology The Animatrix, which subsequently broke home-video sales records and won numerous awards.
In 2006, following up on the success of Animatrix, Michael made his feature directing debut with Tekkonkinkreet, shown at the Berlinale and awarded Japan’s Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. In 2009, Michael directed Heaven’s Door, his first live-action feature.
In the years hence, Michael has continued to split his time between traditional and digital animation, and live-action filmmaking. He is an active member of the Visual Effects Society, and has also co-authored papers for and, at one time or other, served as guest editor, presenter, panelist, and juror, for ACM/SIGGRAPH. He is a frequent writer and commentator on Japanese culture, film, animation, and manga.
In 2015 Michael made his return to anime with the dark sci-fi thriller Harmony (co-directed with Takashi Nakamura), and in 2018 finished directing live-action series Tokyo Alien Bros. for Nippon Television.
He is currently at work on his next feature film.