INTRODUCTION TO JAPANESE CHIRASHI AND MOVIE PROGRAMMES
Summary. Japanese aesthetics and artistry definitely show themselves in beautiful items printed to promote The Lord of the Rings Movie Trilogy. Chirashi are rare paper items that are initially available at movie theatres in Japan before and/or during the time a film is in release there. They are produced in relatively small quantities and distributed only for a limited period of time. They typically demonstrate very high-level design and quality printing, in a wide range of sizes and styles. Many for The Lord of the Rings feature unusual illustrations (such as character maps that show how various characters relate to one another, and visual timelines or maps to show where the members of the Fellowship are located, once it has divided). Many of these collectible pieces of LOTR memorabilia are so beautiful, they should be framed!
Three Characteristics of Chirashi
What makes chirashi so collectible? Their rarity, their quality, their variety – and sometimes for the other information or products they refer to.
RARITY. Chirashi are “ephemera” – perishable paper items that are initially available at movie theatres in Japan before and/or during the time a film is in release there. That factors into their rarity, as they are produced in relatively small quantities and distributed only for a limited period of time.
QUALITY. Most materials labeled “chirashi” demonstrate high-level design and quality printing. The front or cover design typically includes poster artwork or photographs from the film, but often feature a variation of the standard images used in other world regions. This might mean different combinations of what are the usual images used elsewhere, or alternative color schemes. At any rate, the artwork is not only well done, but often, surprisingly different and definitely frameworthy! The backs of flyers or ads often contain details about the movie’s plot, cast, crew, behind-the-scenes production. Or they may advertise tie-in products, contests, or specific theatre chains.
VARIETY. Chirashi come in different sizes and folding or binding styles, from what we in the U.S. might call small “ad slicks” or “handbills,” to postcard and bookmark sizes, to single-sheet flyers/mini-posters and multi-page brochures, to the ingenious accordion fold official movie guides, to promotional magazines and booklets, to newspapers and posters, to the largest and most elaborate – the movie programme.
The kinds of paper and printing styles differ also. Most chirashi are printed on glossy paper, which gives them a quality and sheen that adds to their beauty. (A problem, though, is that glossy paper easily picks up fingerprints.) However, not all items in the chirashi family are printed on slick paper. Sometimes there are multipage newspapers, printed on matte-stock paper (not low-quality newsprint paper). Sometimes a newspaper-like piece is printed on both sides of oversized glossy sheets that are as big as a poster, and then folded down to newspaper size.
Moving Up From Chirashi to Programmes
The largest and most elaborate members of the chirashi family are the movie programmes (or, in American English, programs). The quality of design and printing is exceptionally high in these programmes, and they are sold in theatres. These usually range from 12 to 60 pages in length, often on A4 size paper or even slightly larger (as were all three Lord of the Rings movie programmes). These typically feature full-page photographs, and many smaller photos interspersed throughout. Those are typically printed on high-gloss paper to increase the quality of the photo reproduction, sometimes even on a heavier cardstock instead of magazine-type paper. Some programmes have a section that is primarily text, with extensive information about the movie’s plot, cast, crew, trivia, other production notes, etc. And this may be printed on textured paper and mostly without photos.
If there are tie-in products created for fans of the film, those will be highlighted in one or more page spreads. This was the case for The Lord of the Rings, which had a huge number of licensed partner products worldwide. Many items were unique to Japan – some relatively common and inexpensive, others very high-end and costly. For instance, the accordion-fold Movie Guides for each LOTR film show products ranging from inexpensive items for ¥500 (approximately $6.35 in October 2012) to a premium items for ¥20,000 (approximately $255) to ¥22,000 (approximately $280):
- The Fellowship of the Ring: Mallorn leaf pin (¥500). The One Ring replica (¥20,000).
- The Two Towers: Sheet of stickers (¥500). Charm bracelet and pouch (¥20,000).
- The Return of the King: The One Ring, sinking into lava (¥500). Wooden music box; replica Coronation Crown of Elissar (¥22,000; ¥20,000).
It would seem that Japanese audiences are very interested in relationships and family trees. And so the chirashi accordion-fold movie guides and the larger movie programmes often contain one or more “character maps” to show how various characters are related to one another, either by race/culture, or by friendship or family. Instead of merely listing characters and describing them, it SHOWS how they are interrelated.
Also, almost always a map that shows where the plot takes various characters … an especially important feature for The Lord of the Rings, where the members of the Fellowship are sometimes split up among three or more places simultaneously.
Chirashi come in different sizes and styles, from what we in the U.S. might call small “ad slicks” or “handbills,” to postcard and bookmark sizes, to single-sheet flyers/mini-posters and multi-page brochures, to the ingenious accordion fold official movie guides, to promotional magazines and booklets, to newspapers and posters, to the largest and most elaborate – the movie programme.
- Ad slick
- Flyer (one-sheet, front/back) mini-poster
- Brochure (folded, not stapled or otherwise bound), pamphlet
- Official Movie Guide (accordion fold, “concertina fold”)
- Promotional magazine, various sizes
- Magazine reprints (cover and inside article)
- Poster (with Japanese script)