To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Japanese version of the film “Cheburashka”, the “New Cheburashka Project”, which is based on the concept of “The World's Kindest World”, has been launched with the participation of the voice actors Kugimiya Rie and Sakurai Takahiro. In addition to this announcement, Kugimiya (voice of Cheburashka) and Sakurai (voice of Gena, a crocodile) have talked about the making of their roles and the behind-the-scenes stories of the dubbing session.
The “New Cheburashka Project” has been launched with the theme of “The World's Kindest World” to spread kindness in today's society where we are facing various problems such as the aggravation of environmental issues and regional conflicts, the increase of natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, the new coronavirus pandemic, and the lack of human relationships due to the digitization process.
Furthermore, it was announced that the first full CG short animation “Cheburashka – Tomodachi, Mitsuketa” (Cheburashka -I have made friends) will be released limited to online video as the first installment of the project from Apr. 22.
Set in a zoo, the story follows Cheburashka that meets Gena, a kind-hearted alligator, and together they will carry out a strategic plan to make Gena a popular figure in the zoo.
<The full interview is below>
Please tell us about your impressions of appearing in the new Cheburashka anime.
Kugimiya: I was really glad to be a part of this project. I felt so excited and happy, but it was very difficult to create this atmosphere during the recording session itself. 'I have to work harder'…. this was my thought.
Sakurai: I really feel the same way. I had watched the film at the cinema when I was young, but I never thought I would be able to be a part of it, so I was very happy. Kugimiya-san's “Cheb”… I'm going to call her Cheb (laugh), was really charming and heartwarming.
Which were some of the points that you were particular about in creating the roles of Cheburashka and Gena, and what did you come up with?
Kugimiya: I wanted to give a childlike impression to Cheburashka, but at the beginning of the dubbing session, they told me, 'You need to be more childish', so I tried to do that… But how can I make it look more childlike? That's all I was thinking about today (laugh).
Is your first experience to voice a character with childlike expressions?
Kugimiya: I've never received this kind of work before. When I heard about other people of being able to adjust their voice naturally to make it more childish or adultlike, I thought it was amazing. When it came to my turn, I found out that it was very difficult.
Sakurai's acting had a very warm feeling.
Sakurai: Thank you! The crocodile's big mouth was flickering in my head, I wanted to bring out the nuances of that mouth, but at the same time, I'd have ended up playing him with a more adult-ish voice if doing so… He would have become more like an old man… (laugh)
While voicing him, I thought about how I could keep the age of the crocodile and express the sadness and the ironic side of this unpopular animal which is a bit of a ferocious creature by nature.
Which was the most memorable scene in the anime?
Kugimiya: At the beginning, when I came out of the orange box and Gena asked me to be his friend… and I said I don't know what my name is. I had a great feeling and felt happy to meet him, even though I didn't know who he was. Gena's kindness and warmth, which are derived from his loneliness, made me feel like, “They finally met each other”.
It was like a parent giving a name to his child.
Kugimiya: Yes… It was like that. She didn't have a name! So he gave her one.
Sakurai: You're right (laugh)!
Kugimiya: I was a little child, so I didn't know much of myself! It's not that I didn't know how much my level of understanding was, but I didn't know in which way should I have expressed it and be happy about it (laughs). She is also so fluffy…….. I thought Gena was very kind to me when Gena said, “Here you go.” and pulled me up with his hands when I fell during the dance.
Sakurai: Cheburashka's idea of wearing a head mask to become popular was cute, and also Gena that carefully followed her instructions… Considering the age difference between them, they were like a parent and child, but I thought it was interesting that they had this sense of duo.
What kind of audience would you like to have for the anime?
Kugimiya: I think it's a very watchable anime, so I'd like everyone to see it, from children to adults and their grandparents… I think it's a work that anyone is able to enjoy, by giving you a sense of relief or perhaps a good feeling.
Sakurai: I think we have the same opinion about it… I'm sure that children and adults will enjoy the film in different ways, but for adults, the origin of Cheburashka's idea may surprise them… I think it can also be soothing, and cuteness is not the only attractive point of the film. I hope many people will watch it while being aware of this.
Cheburashka, “The World's Kindest World”. Is there any episode in which you have felt “kindness”?
Kugimiya: I was wondering how to answer this question, but today's recording really showed it… I'm sure everyone of the cast was nervous at the beginning, but after the work was over, everyone was smiling, and the sound director repeatedly said that they felt healed and gentle… I realized today that the people who are touched by this film become like it.
Sakurai: I rewatched the film today with a different feeling than when I went to see it before, and I came to the conclusion that the first film made in the 2000s had a more cool feeling, while this time it's warm and gentle… I really felt the power of this work today when the sound director said to me that he had kind feelings and that he was happy that we finally did it.
Please give us a final message.
Kugimiya: It's a really happy, fun, and kind work, so I would like many of you to watch it and feel these emotions. I'm looking forward to it!
Sakurai-san: I'm looking forward to the day when we'll be able to see more episodes inspired by this work, and also I'd really like to see Gena's private life… (laugh) and Cheburashka in all sorts of ways. I hope you'll enjoy the film!