Tonko House’s Educational Class Act

Zoe Hewitt

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In addition to producing content, Tonko House has an eye on what comes next, creating a series of educational efforts that are extensive for a company still in its relative infancy. The company’s first project as a fully formed studio was an online computer-painting course designed to share skills its artists — headed by co-founders Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi — honed over years of study and on-the-job experience. Tonko has since continued to produce other educational YouTube videos.

Kondo and Tsutsumi also worked with a San Francisco school district to develop an education program based on the lessons presented in their Oscar-nominated short film, 2014’s “The Dam Keeper.” The program examines all aspects of bullying — not just in a classroom, but throughout society — as bystanders can be just as culpable as the bullies themselves.

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“What we sought to do — and our mark for success — really was, can we create a conversation between people who watch the film?” Kondo says. “Would a child walk out of that screening asking what happened there, or why is the world like this?”

Another project was a crowdfunded fresh take on the film-festival concept. Tonko curated a series of more than 20 animated short films from around the world and a variety of sources, including both well-established studios such as Pixar and up-and-comers. Festivalgoers could attend animation workshops and other community events over a one-month period in Tokyo. It served as a celebration of animation and those who love it.

Most recently, Tonko House launched a family art-education project in South Korea. Visitors were encouraged to express themselves by drawing on the installation’s walls as a means of self-expression. “We’re always seeking to balance a level of entertainment with a level of awareness,” Kondo says. “The goal isn’t to sermonize right from wrong, but to inspire conversation at every level.”

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