04/01/2014 05:47 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Epic Sailor Moon Fan Tribute: Volunteers Re-Animate an Entire Episode

Moon Animate Make-Up! Screenshot - Clip by William Anugerah

The relentless rise of social media, online fandoms, and low-cost creative software has yielded a delicious abundance of fantastic fan collaborations, such as Star Wars Uncut, a project in which hundreds of Star Wars fans banded together to recreate Star Wars: A New Hope, 15 second clip by 15 second clip.

One of the latest in these creative collaborations is Moon Animate Make-Up!, a group animation collaboration to re-animate an episode of Sailor Moon shot-by-shot in each artist's personal style.

Headed up by producer and illustrator Kate Sullivan, this project (which has over 250 contributing animators) will release an entire re-created, twenty-two-minute episode, this summer. Leading up to the final product's debut, you can follow the re-created episode's progress on Tumblr and Facebook.

I spoke with Kate Sullivan to get some background on the project and the inspiration behind it. Though time-consuming, this undertaking has only deepened her appreciation of Sailor Moon and the art of animation.

Simone Collins (SC): What inspired you to start this project?

Kate Sullivan (KS): I went to art school for animation, but I've always had a passion for production management. Last year I participated in the Bartkira project and towards the end of last year, I thought about how cool it would be to run a project like that, but for animation. The idea of re-animating Sailor Moon was my next thought and I spent the rest of October putting the project together. One night I spent about eleven hours after work breaking down the episode shot-by-shot and cataloging characters, backgrounds, effects, props and time and that was before I opened Final Cut Pro.

Moon Animate Make-Up! Screenshot - Clip by Victor Courtright

SC: Why did you select Episode 38 of Season 1 to re-animate?

KS: I wanted an episode you could catch while channel surfing and still enjoy without needing an extensive knowledge of the series. It was one of the first episodes of Sailor Moon I saw, too. This is a great episode that features all five of the original Sailors, emphasizes their teamwork in dealing with the Negaverse, and while it's part of an ongoing story, you can still get the gist of what's going on. There are more stand-alone episodes like this in later seasons, but season one is a good place to start.

SC: Aside from Bill Plympton's Guard Dog Global Jam, do you know of any other projects in which artists have re-animated favorite shows or movies?

KS: Aside from Bartkira and Guard Dog Global Jam, there was a Star Wars fan project I heard about that had the same idea of each participant shooting their shot in their own style. I haven't watched it yet but I want to check it out.

SC: What is the current status of the project?

KS: As of late February, about 30 percent of the shots have been completed and turned in. I'm hoping to get another preview up soon.

Moon Animate Make-Up! Screenshot - Clip by Kelly Loftus

SC: What has surprised you most about the animations people have submitted?

KS: There's such an incredible range of styles from each artist! Animation is a lot of work to complete, so I'm amazed at what people have put together in their spare time for this project. I'm still floored by the enthusiasm of participating animators and fans watching the project in progress.

SC: I bet a lot of artists are disappointed that all the slots have been taken and submissions are closed. Any chance another similar collaboration might arise in the future?

KS: If any interested animators want to be considered for the waiting list, they can send a link to their reel to moonanimatemakeup [at] gmail [dot] com. I'd love to do a project like this again, maybe for a different TV series, but I've been brainstorming some original ideas too.

Moon Animate Make-Up! Screenshot - Clip by Chloe Pierce
SC: What about Sailor Moon makes it particularly fun to re-animate?

KS: I think Sailor Moon is a great series to animate because it's one of the best action series with a female hero and it's been such a huge influence on every magical series after it and even international cartoons. My jaw hit the floor when I found out how Natasha Allegri was influenced by Sailor Moon for the Fionna and Cake episode of 'Adventure Time'.

When I was preparing the episode, I cut up the episode shot-by-shot and exported them into individual files. It was the first time I really got a good look at how the series was made. For such a dynamic and detailed show, the animation is very limited and most of the story is told through dialogue and strong layouts. I loved discovering that and examining the mediums used to make it. You can see glue at the bottom of the last frame in each shot that shows where the shots were edited together.

I've been a fan for years and it was the first time I realized how much of the backgrounds used blues, purples, pinks, and greens, which compliment the primary palette of the Sailors' uniforms so well.

SC: Have you ever heard of similar collaborations being hassled by IP owners about copyright (even though it's pretty clear you are playing fair per Fair Use terms)?

KS: I haven't heard of that happening, but I'm pretty sure we're covered by Fair Use. No-one is being paid to do this, I'm running this project by myself for free, and this episode will be free to watch when it's done.

Sailor Moon Animate Screenshot - Clip by Makoto Koji

SC: Do you think IP owners might ever be game for letting artists market and sell collaborations like this? Or do you think artists would be less into these things if they were commercial ventures?

KS: I actually think artists might be more interested in these projects if they were commercial ventures. There is an enormous misconception that artists should work for "exposure" or "experience" and should not be paid like other tradesmen because "art is fun".

Art is an enormous amount of hard work and animation in particular requires software and expertise unlike most other professions. I think it's one of the reasons why recruiting took a little longer than other comic and illustration projects I've seen, because of the equipment needed to do this.

I absolutely respect if IP owners aren't down with this and would prefer we not profit off of their work because there were hundreds of animation artists who created the original Sailor Moon series on their own from Naoko Takeuchi's manga. It's one of the reasons why I'm hesitant to get into the legal and financial issues of creating original animation work from the manga.

Since this is a passion project and we're re-creating existing material, I'm fine with working for free on it and I'm fortunate to have so many animators participate who understand this is for fun. I'd love to do an original animation project, but since I would prefer it to be a commercial venture, I'd want my artists to be paid.