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Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii demanded an ‘overflow of information’ in each frame

A new 4K release for its 25th anniversary digs into behind-the-scenes stories

Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

For all the bells and whistles that special effects studios could bring to the table, Hollywood’s live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell could only go so deep into the Japan of 2099 that Masamune Shirow brought to life in the pages of his manga.

But Mamoru Oshii, who directed the anime adaptation from 1995, wasn’t constrained by America’s appetite for realism, the often bubbly shine of CGI, or a timetable driven by a release date. The goal was to make every element explode off the animation cels — even the background art viewers might only catch out of the corner of their eyes. Oshii referred to the approach as an “overflow of information.”

In the above behind-the-scenes look feature, produced for a new 4K Ultra HD release timed to the 25th anniversary of the seminal cyberpunk film, animation historian and curator Stefan Riekeles explains how the typical practice of background art didn’t satisfy the director’s vision for just how aggressive the world of Ghost in the Shell needed to be. Artists would return from location scouting around Japan only to render streets, alleyways, and cityscapes that were too flat.

The images had to be exacerbated — more signage, more wear and tear, more everything — to pressurize the chase between Major Motoko Kusanagi and the “The Puppet Master.” The snippet from the larger mini-doc illuminates just how much the art changed from initial concept drawings to the finished product.

Ghost in the Shell has remained a viable property for 25 years, including a new incarnation that recently hit Netflix. But having remastered the 1995 feature in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and wrapping it all up in new artwork from pop illustrator Martin Ansin, Lionsgate hopes its new reissue of Ghost in the Shell will be definitive in the wake of any imitators. The package includes two new behind-the-scenes features: “Accessing Section 9: 25 Years into the Future” and “Landscapes & Dreamscapes – The Art and Architecture of Ghost in the Shell,” and hits shelves on Sept. 8.

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