FUTAKU Studios Founder, Michael Fukunaga on Illuminating the Intersection of Art, Animation, and Innovation. In an exclusive interview & conversation with Art Legal, Michael Fukunaga, the visionary guiding Futaku Studios, offered deeper insights into the studio's trajectory, inspirations, and influential collaborations.
Fukunaga's childhood was immersed in anime and was deeply tied to his family's legacy, particularly their founding of Funimation in 1994. This background propelled him to lead Futaku Studios, steering a global team of animators, character designers, and digital artists toward realizing shared visions through vibrant animations.
ART LEGAL: How did your interest in Anime Develop and do you create animations yourself?
Fukunaga: “I grew up with anime. My family founded an anime distribution company called Funimation in 1994. I felt attached to the stories told through anime and fascinated by the industry around it. I am the Writer and Director for the animations that FUTAKU produces. FUTAKU consists of talented animators, character designers, and digital artists from all over the world. Each animation is a collective effort between inspired artists and visionaries.”
ART LEGAL: You have aimations for pro teams like the Yankees and major musician like KISS (Kissmania). Tell us a little about FUTAKU Studios and the artists and animators you work with.
Fukunaga: “FUTAKU is a boutique animation services studio. The studio services diverse groups of clients, professional athletes, celebrity musicians, and international production houses. Our animators are incredibly talented and diverse, hailing from creative centers all over the world, with many from New York City, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Chicago, Las Vegas, Austin, and Dallas.”
Art Legal: Do you see a crossover between the traditional arts market and animation?
Fukunaga: “Yes, I don't see a difference between the two markets nowadays. Techniques and artistic styles once exclusive to traditional art mediums, such as painting, drawing, and sculpture, are now being translated and adapted into the digital landscape of animation. Simultaneously, the art market has always had an affinity for nostalgia and analogue formats. Animators often draw inspiration from traditional art forms, incorporating elements of classical artistry, color theory, and composition into their animated creations. This fusion brings a rich and varied visual language to animated storytelling, elevating its depth and appeal. Art Collectors, while distinct, are often collectors of animation stills and other high value collectables – digital and physical.”
Futaku's Diverse Appeal and Collaborative Dynamics
Fukunaga emphasized Futaku's wide-ranging clientele, spanning pro athletes, sports teams and venues, renowned musicians, and international production houses. He highlighted the studio's rich diversity, drawing talent from cosmopolitan hubs like New York City, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Dallas, contributing to the studio's kaleidoscopic creative tapestry.
Art Legal: What kind of clients have you worked with?
Fukunaga: “I've worked with creative clients. They come to the studio with a vision, and FUTAKU helps bring that vision into fruition.”
Regarding the integration of traditional art markets with animation, Fukunaga remarked, "There's an organic overlap between these spheres now." This seamless fusion allows for a more fluid and innovative approach to creative expression, blurring the lines between conventional art forms and animated storytelling.
Inspirational Icons and Collaborative Artistry
Influenced by revered directors like the creator of Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro as well as Cowbow Bebop and Samurai Champloo, Fukunaga shared his top inspirations.
Art Legal: Do you have a favorite artist or genre of art?
Fukunaga: “My inspirations as a Director are Shinichiro Watanabe and Hayao Miyasaki”
Sneak Peek into Futaku's Upcoming Releases
Providing a glimpse into forthcoming releases, Fukunaga unveiled an array of pieces, each carrying its distinctive narrative essence. He highlighted characters like JL, paying homage to Jourdan Lewis, and BeAfro, reflecting Nigerian-inspired artwork, showcasing the studio's eclectic and diverse artistic range.
Fukunaga: “JL is inspired by Jourdan Lewis, Cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys. Jourdan Lewis owns a company that mentors young athletes called the Jourdan Lewis Foundation. JL was created to be a mascot for his foundation and pay homage to Jourdan Lewis' admiration of Dragon Ball.
BeAfro is an ancient Nigerian warrior from the Igbo Nation. BeAfro is also a multi-media company owned by Cincinnati Bengals Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. BeAfro hosts events and creates content that brings people together through Nigerian-inspired artwork.
The skaters are FUTAKU's models. They will be featured FUTAKU's apparel releases. All of the FUTAKU branded apparel they wear are available at Futakustudios.com/shop.”
Reflecting on his favorite piece, Fukunaga humbly expressed the difficulty in singling out one. "Every creation represents a unique journey," he explained, "and each holds a special place for different reasons."
Invitation to Explore Futaku's Creative Universe
Art Legal encourages enthusiasts to delve deeper into FUTAKU's captivating artworks and animations. Fukunaga echoed this sentiment, urging audiences to follow @futakustudios on social media and explore their portfolio on Futakustudios.com and soon to be available pieces on artlegal.com and to bear witness firsthand to the studio's immersive creative ventures.
Shaping the Future of Art and Animation
The alliance between Art Legal and Futaku Studios signifies an exciting confluence of art, animation, and accessibility. Futaku's vibrant creations showcased on Art Legal's platform offer enthusiasts the chance to acquire these unique pieces. With options for both purchase and commissioning projects, Art Legal becomes a conduit for enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the world of innovative animations and original artworks crafted by Futaku Studios.
FUTAKU Studios has teamed up with Art Legal LLC to release a special edition of rare pre-production illustrations, animation stills, color scripts, and completed works, making them available to collectors and anime and art enthusiast for the first time ever.
FUTAKU Studios is a boutique animation services studio founded in Dallas, Texas. FUTAKU specializes in licensing pre-existing intellectual properties to be reimagined into Japanese-inspired animation. Athletes, musicians, actors, and entertainment studios alike utilize FUTAKU Studios in all phases of pre-production, production, and post-production.
Founder and CEO Mike Fukunaga is best known for launching new Japanese anime in US markets and is considered a pioneer in fusing Japanese entertainment with American pop culture. Fukunaga and the FUTAKU team leverage their passion for anime and industry relationships to produce the highest caliber Japanese-inspired animation through FUTAKU Studios.
As this symbiotic partnership between Art Legal and Futaku Studios continues to evolve, it not only transforms the artistic landscape but also enhances global access to groundbreaking art and animations, inviting enthusiasts worldwide to partake in this immersive realm of creativity.