An Interview with Belle Virtual World Designer Eric Wong
Date: 2022 June 29 19:48
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The amazing anime movie Belle arrives on home video this week (from Monday 27 June 2022). To celebrate its release we contacted Eric Wong, the designer of Belle’s virtual world “U.” Wong, a full-time architect, was asked by Oscar-nominated, visionary director Mamoru Hosada to create the virtual world “U” that provides the backdrop for the film Belle. Wong sketches her luminous “Yu” world during her daily commute, creating a labyrinthine wonder to this time-re-imagined of the classic Beauty and the Beast story, the story of Suzu, a country girl who lives in a virtual world. The music becomes a sensation. The mesmerizing avatar of “Yu” with Belle.
thank you good people anime ltd We were able to ask Eric a few questions about what it takes to create a virtual world while still present in the real world.
How did director Mamoru Hosoda approach you?
The first communication I got from Director Mamoru Hosoda was in November 2019. The director personally found my work online and asked Digital Frontier to contact me via email, in fact, at the time the request came through my junk mail! After presenting a concept art pack for what the world of ‘U’ could be, Digital Frontier put me in direct contact with director Hosoda, who I’ve been happy to work with, on a weekly basis throughout 2020. Pack sharing.
What was your brief?
I initially received a brief synopsis from Studio Chizu with ‘Yu’, which was simply described as “a vast virtual world… with over 5 billion users”. It was later with the entire script, from which I extracted some key spatial words like “a floating mysterious metropolis … [with] Geometric lights and twinkling lights from skyscrapers to imagine the world of ‘U'”.
Have you seen any of his work before working on Belle?
I grew up watching director Hosoda’s works from the virtual world of Digimon: The Movie and Summer Wars Through the Beautiful and Heartwarming Wolf Children and Mirai. I never would have thought that studying architecture would open up opportunities to work on the animations I watched growing up.
You worked on sketches during your daily commute, does anything in travel inspire you to the world of U?
The world of ‘U’ went through several iterations, with the first version of the world conceived as a U-shaped city, this later evolved into an architectural totem reminiscent of the virtual world of Summer Wars (2009). The version of ‘U’ as we know it now is a modified system composed of skyscrapers and parks to create a linear city that continuously expands as the user base grows. This single line also metaphorically represents the river that Suzu always passes through in the real world. There is also a subtle allusion and homage to the opening scene of Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006).
Did you put anything different from London there?
The world of ‘U’ is a diverse and global platform in which geometric forms and modified tectonics are used to express a universal and ever-expanding digital world. While there is nothing more apparent in London, my architectural background of living, reading and working in such a melting pot and multi-cultural city has influence.
How does U’s World compare to your previous works like Harmony?
I remember during one of our weekly design catchups the director was asked, “Which film did you enjoy making the most and which film did you find the most challenging?”. His answer was “it’s always the next, in which case, it’s the one (Belle)”. I want to echo his sentiment equally and say that Belle felt like a natural progression to me, a new challenge and an exciting endeavor I never thought I would get the opportunity to be a part of.
Was it different to working remotely?
From online communication and connection, breaking down international barriers through global solidarity during challenging and difficult times, Belle’s key themes are wonderfully suited to working remotely. Undoubtedly, remote working is an opportunity to work with people from all over the world and the pandemic has accelerated this online remote-working culture and the opportunities it offers.
How did it feel to see your work at Belle?
It was undoubtedly a surreal moment. Seeing the first teaser trailer for Belle all the work of designing World of You seemed so real, but it was upon seeing the second trailer that I remember so clearly. It was the beginning of spring, London was still in lockdown and I was browsing my phone one late evening before bed when I stumbled upon a 70 second clip. The trailer begins with Ludwig Forsel’s suspenseful musical score with the beautiful voice of Kaho Nakamura. As the many cut scenes move between the real world and the digital world, the pause came, the gorgeous unfold and slow panning scene of Suzu facing Yu’s vast world, tears me down. It was at that moment that I really understood what we were working in.
Would you like to do more work in anime?
It is always exciting to start a new architectural and creative endeavor, so if given the opportunity, I would welcome it.
What projects are you working on next?
I am currently teaching architecture at the university level and doing my PhD with the major subjects of architectural representation and speculation.
This e-mail was conducted over e-mail with Eric Wong.
Thanks to Eric Wong for giving such wonderful answers to our questions. thanks go anime ltd To help us arrange the interview.
If you’re curious and want to know more about Belle, why not read our Belle Review,
Source: Otaku News