Sam Koji Hale &  MIGHTY PUG STUDIO
 
About Sam Koji Hale and “Yamasong”:
 
“[Sam Koji Hale is] a rising creative force in the field of puppet films.”
-FIRSTWORKS, Rhode Island School of Design
 
“Yamsong: Visually stunning, this combination of puppetry and digital wizardry has to be seen to be believed.  Think Monkey’s Journey to the West meets The Dark Crystal.”
- ANIMATIONIDEAS.COM
 
“The future of filmmaking, particularly puppet filmmaking, is YAMASONG. It is the combination of vast and epic storytelling, the highest quality sculpting and artful manipulation of the puppets creating a gripping performance, then taken and polished, tuned, even enhanced digitally allowing for a world that Jim Henson at the time of ‘The Dark Crystal’ could only dream of.”
- Josiah Golojuh, GRAPHATION Festival Co-Founder
 
“A welcome mythic adventure...much like a Neil Gaiman film.”
-ARTSMASH RI Online Review
 
“The combination of stop-motion, live-action puppetry and CGI animation... works perfectly together! I was sometimes reminded of Strings and other times Mirrormask... but all in all the universe and it's inhabitants you've created are as unique as The Dark Crystal or Lavender Castle. And all that in such a short film! I would love to see a feature length film in this style. The world you've created has so much potential and almost breathes mystery and magic, waiting to be discovered further!”
-Sjoerd Klinkenberg, Graphic Designer, The Netherlands
 
Artist: Sam Koji Hale
 
Background: Director, Sculptor, Illustrator and Designer classically trained at Academy of Art University in San Francisco
 
 
Awards/Recognition:
 
2013 Atlanta Film Festival, “Yamasong” short film, Official Selection to Academy-qualifying film festival
 
2011 Graphation Film Festival, Los Angeles
“Yamasong” short film
Written & Directed by
Sam K. Hale
Nominated for Achievement in Puppetry
 
2010 Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival
“Yamasong” short film
Winner Best Animated Film & First Place Animated Fantasy Short
 
2010 World Music and Independent Film Festival
“Yamasong” short film
Nominated Best Screenplay and Best Original Sound
 
2008 Arlyn Award Society
“The Fox Lantern”
Commendation for Design
in Puppet Theatre
 
2004 PSW Regional Emmy “Ahoy, Capt. Sid!”
Nominated in Art Direction & Animation
“Yamasong” was inspired by the music of L.A. percussion band On Ensemble, and executive produced
by Heather Henson’s IBEX Inc.  It was co-produced by Chiodo Brothers Productions & Lodger Films,
Inc.
 
“Yamasong” employs Japanese-inspired tabletop puppets shot on greenscreen and composited into
real and CG environments.  It also has stop-motion animated elements, pixellation and computer
animated sequences seamlessly blended for an awe-inspiring visual experience.
 
Contact me with any comments or questions at samkojihale@gmail.com
 
All the best in your creative endeavors!
 
Sam Koji Hale
Award-winning short film “Yamasong”:
 
“Yamasong” premiered in 2010 at Dragon-Con Independent Film Festival, garnering first prize in the Animated Fantasy Short category and going on to win Best Animated Short of the whole festival!  The short film was written and directed by me and executive produced by Heather Henson.  It has screened in more than thirty film festivals internationally including in France, Australia, Canada and the Czech Republic.    
 
The DVD is now available and includes over 40 minutes of content (the original short film and trailer, interviews with the filmmaker, the band, commentary tracks and behind the scenes footage).  Contact me for DVDs at samkojihale@gmail.com.
 
 
Watch the “Yamasong” trailer below:
August 17, 2012: It’s been a busy summer finishing up art directing on Cartoon Network’s new hit show “Annoying Orange” and then moving to guest teaching animation at California State Summer School for the Arts, hosted by CalArts.  I followed that with a few days of puppet filmmaking in Portland before returning to L.A. to prepare for a flurry of activity at Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival (the two year anniversary of my short film winning Best Animated Film at D*Con)!  
 
This time around I’ll be participating on panels about puppet filmmaking, screening the latest volume of Heather Henson’s Handmade Puppet Dreams, premiering our newest commissioned film “Narrative of Victor Karloch” by director Kevin McTurk and doing a sculpting demo in Creative Paperclay!  If you’re in Atlanta at the end of this month, come join the festivities at Dragon*Con!!
 
 
Prepping a stop-motion puppet for still photography used in the pet adoption book “Forever Home” by author Larry Kay.
 
December 7, 2012: Wow!  Much has been happening these past months.  I spent a good amount of the fall producing puppet short films and supporting our IBEX film projects at various events around the country.  
 
We went to Atlanta for Dragon*Con in September to support our new IBEX film “Narrative of Victor Karloch”, which ended up repeating the double-award success of “Yamasong,” receiving first prize for “Horror Short Film” and WINNING “Best Short Film” of the festival!!  I’m so proud of our filmmaker Kevin McTurk and his success!
 
We also had an amazing display of our IBEX puppets there, which I can say from personal testimony, blew visitors away with their beauty and magnificence.  I also taught a workshop on Creative Paperclay sculpture, which was packed a half hour before I even started!  They were turning people away at the door, which means next year WE’LL NEED A BIGGER ROOM!
 
In November it was Brooklyn, New York to support “Narrative of Victor Karloch” as well as a couple other wonderful puppet films we’d “discovered” called “Cicada Princess” and “Josephine & The Roach.”  It was great to represent both IBEX and West Coast filmmakers at the Jim Henson Foundation Puppets on Film Festival, hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  
 
I spent a number of weekends in Portland filming two projects, our next IBEX film “The Power of Tensley” by director Matty Sidle and “Crane and Tortoise” by Dragon Art Studio.  Looking forward to returning to the Pacific Northwest for more films in the future!
 
And in my sparse free time, I worked on puppets for my Kickstarter campaign (launching early next year).  There is an elegant heroin in long blue robes and a spectacular armored man with mechanical wings.  The film is called “Monster of the Sky” and I can’t wait to launch the campaign (and then MAKE the film!).  It’ll feel good to put on my director’s hat again...
 
March 8, 2013: I am happy to report that my Kickstarter campaign was a HUGE success, raising 117% of my intended goal!  It was humbling to get support from both friends and strangers from the other side of the planet!  For those of you who missed the campaign, click this link for “Monster of the Sky”.
 
I am in full swing now planning my budget, organizing logistics for Kickstarter rewards, searching for a suitable studio space to host the project and talking to artists to build my team!  I’m thrilled to bring back some of my key artists from “Yamasong” plus bring on new talent that I’ve met and worked with in the meantime.  This is all very exciting!  I can’t wait to share more news in the months to come...
“Monster of the Sky”
puppet costume
“ Monster of the Sky” troika of characters
Concept Art: Meeting at the Well