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Origami in the Media

originally compiled by Janet Hamilton

[Janet Hamilton recently posted this list to the origami-l mailing list. I've re-organized the list and have included it here, with her permission. Any additions to this list should be sent to me. --JW]


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  • In Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan, page 69:
    Gilbert blithely dismissed these concerns. He said Paris had told him plenty about Gunther and among the things he'd confided was that Gunther was all bark and no bite, a "paper tiger." I replied that I'd seen his fangs at close range and they hadn't looked like origami to me.

  • The boy with paper wings by Susan Lowell

  • In Terry Pratchett's new book, Interesting Times, there is an evil war-lord called Lord Hong who was good at everything, including origami. At one scene, he interrogated one of his guards who failed in some mission. While he was speaking to the guard he was folding some model. At the end of the interrogation,
    He folded the last crease and opened his hands, putting the little paper decoration on the lacquered table beside him.
    Herb and the guard stared at it.
    'Guard...take him away,' said Lord Hong.
    It was a marvellously constructed paper figure of a man. But there didn't seem to have been enough paper for a head.

  • Vancouver science-fiction author William Gibson seems to be a great fan of origami:
  • From Neuromancer:
    • Beneath a green t-shirt, he discovered a flat, origami-wrapped package, recycled Japanese paper. [chap. 3]
    • Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of paler gray. Expanding - And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. [chap.3]
    • Something white tumbled to the floor; Case stooped and picked it up. An origami crane. [chap. 12]
    • But the paneled room folded itself through a dozen impossible angles, tumbling away into cyberspace like an origami crane. [chap.14]
  • From the story "The Gernsback Continuum" in the collection Burning Chrome: I nearly wrecked the car on a stretch of overpass near Disneyland, when the road fanned out like an origami trick and left me swerving through a dozen minilanes of whizzing chrome teardrops with shark fins.

  • From Grave sur chrome: "La matrice se replie autour de moi comme un pliage japonais." "The matrix is folding itself around me like a japanese fold."

  • From Count Zero: It was wrapped in a single sheet of handmade paper, dark gray, folded and tucked in that mysterious Japanese way that required neither glue nor string, but she knew that once she'd opened it, she'd never get it folded again. [chap. 5]
  • Anne McCaffrey has a series of science fiction/fantasy books that begins with The Rowan, followed by Damia, Damia's Children, and Lyon's Pride. The character Afra Lyon is, in addition to being a powerful Psi, an origami Adept (he's the one who made the "anatomically correct" bull, and later, on request, a matching cow). (I believe that was in "Damia," to be specific.)

  • On p. 203 of MISSEE LEE:
    Peggy folded the paper and cut it square with her scoutknife. The she folded in the corners so that it became a smaller square. The she folded again. It turned into a hat, a double-ended boat, a salt cellar.

    "Bother," said Peggy. "I've forgotten how."

    "No, you haven't," said Nancy. "Go on. You fold and fold and then unfold and cut bits out."

    "It's not a very good one," said Peggy a few minutes later.

  • Sci-Fi book - Paper Grail by James P. Blaylock

  • In North of Montana by April Smith, the narrator is an FBI agent who notes: "My work often requires me to make this type of construction, a model of human behavior, like the origami polyhedron that hangs on a string off Special Agent Michelle Nishimura's desk lamp. I have watched her make the most amazing things out of paper, complex folds executed in sequence, the pure logic of the design giving strength to the most fragile of materials."

  • In the book Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, there is reference to an origami chicken which "pecked" when the tail was moved.

  • There is a detective in Kathleen Kurtz's SciFi series which she co-authors with Deborah Turner Harris. The series is called The Adept, and the Scots police detective is always making origami. In one book, someone took a piece of origami he made and utilized it to attract some really negative energy to him, causing him some major problems. He is even attacked at one point by an ensorcelled origami lynx! (The Adept: The Lodge of the Lynx) The series is set in England/Ireland/Scotland, current day, and seems to involve interaction with various groups that are "spiritual" offshoots of the Nazi's in their more mystical incarnation.

  • A cute short story about a woman who learns to fold origami from apologies that she collects through life. "Offerings", by Marlene Buono, appeared in the book, Flash Fiction edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka, - ISBN 0-393-30883-9

  • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

  • From Bruce Sterling's Islands in the Net:
    Then she saw something opening in the sky, something shredding and popping and, finally, unfolding stiffly like an origami swan.
  • From Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash:
    Sometimes, she worries about her mother, then she hardens her heart and thinks maybe the whole thing will be good for her. Shake her up a little. After Dad left, she just folded up into herself like an origami bird thrown into a fire.

  • From Douglas Adams's Mostly Harmless:
    She shone the torch on [the black disk].

    As she did so, cracks began to appear along its apparently featureless surface. Random backed away nervously, but then saw that the thing, whatever it was, was merely unfolding itself.

    The process was wonderfully beautiful. It was extraordinarily elaborate, but also simple and elegant. It was like a piece of self-opening origami, or a rosebud blooming into a rose in just a few seconds.

  • In one of the Trek novels, maybe The Wrath of Khan, Spock buys a gift for Jim, and has it packaged in an origami box.

  • On page 13 of Harlan Ellison's book The City on the Edge of Forever (which goes into enormous detail about Harlan's problems with Gene Roddenberry over the script for one of the most famous/beloved Star Trek episodes, and provides the original script for those interested), the author presents the following line: "Writers, no less than sculptors, ballerinas, workers in origami, have a way of deluding themselves as to the value of their work. To quote John Steinbeck: 'The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold this illusion even when he knows it is not true.'"

comics/cartoons in print

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  • The January 22 Austin American-Statesman newspaper contained a "political" cartoon referencing ORIGAMI. There's a small cottage with children playing out back on a slide. The cottage has a sign saying HILLARY'S IT TAKES A VILLAGE CHILD CARE. A likeness of Hillary Clinton is standing at the door of the cottage waving to a mother taking her child home. The child is saying, "And we made origami out of some old files." He is holding a crane that says Whitewater and Rose Law on the wings. This cartoon is by Signe Wilkinson.

  • In the first issue of the Sandman Mystery Theatre published by Vertigo (a DC imprint), the main character, Wesley Dodds, folds a number of different animals and leaves them all over the place.


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  • A group of Tokugawan assassins used to leave an origami cat in the sleeping chambers of their victims.

  • Origamitsuki or Oritsuki: The actual term refers to an "official" appraisal of the artist and origins of a painting, a calligraphy scroll or a sword, so it is a bit different than o-sumitsuki, which usually refers to the 'credentials' of a person. It has its origins with documents certified by the method in which they're folded (orikata); folding something in such a way that it cannot be unfolded without further creases. This goes back to a Chinese tradition (maybe Japanese) of presenting graduation certificates folded in a way which could not be unfolded without adding extra creases. The theory behind this was that it would prevent forgeries.

magazines & newspapers

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  • The June 3, 1996 issue of Forbes has an Eddie Bauer ad with a diagram for a paper airplane (Figs 1 and 2). Figs 3 and 4 are other completed planes.

  • July 1995 issue of Threads magazine has a folding paper article by Glenda Scott.

  • From Bruce Sterling's article "War is Virtual Hell", in WIRED magazine, volume 1, number 1:
    Let's have a speculative look at the 21st-century USA. Amber waves of grain and all that. Peaceful place; scarcely resembles a military superpower at all. Hardly any missile silos, hardly any tanks, hardly any concertina wire. Until the Americans need it. Then the whole massive, lethal superstructure come unfolding out of 21st-century cyberspace like some impossible fluid origami trick.

  • The cover of the July/August 1996 (V 21 Is. 1) issue of Koi USA features Michael LaFosse's koi (from the Koi and Sea Turtle video).

  • Check out page 84 in the current issue of Metropolis (10/96?). There is an ad for a line of clothes that can be folded in many ways to vary their appearance...and it is named Origami. Actually, the hype goes "Origami: the ultimate convertible", and the ad itself is meant to be cut from the page and folded so that the graphics line up and make more sense.

  • Today's 10/30 Wall Street Journal has a Hewlett Packard ad listing things employees do to kill time. One fairly far down the list is "Turning bellybutton lint into origami". [Reported by Rodney Grantham on ORIGAMI-L on 96/10/31]

  • The December 1994 issue of ON SPEC: The Canadian Magazine of Speculative Fiction features a short story entitled, 'Paper'. In the words of author, Marcel Gagne, "It's a modern fantasy about a boy who learns the magic (and the dangers!) of origami." [Reported by Marcel Gagne by e-mail on 97/1/06]

  • The March 1997 edition of National Geographic Magazine has an article called "The Magic of Paper". The article is somewhat disappointing in that it deals mostly with the ecological aspects of deforestation and paper production. There is a little information on paper history, but virtually nothing on paper arts.

    Origami is mentioned once, and there is a picture of a monument in Hiroshima draped with strings of cranes.

    Some other notable pictures: A shinto priest purifying a car with a harai-gushi, paper funeral items in China, Mexican papel picado art. [Reported by Janet Hamilton on ORIGAMI-L on 97/2/17]


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  • One of the Power Rangers Zord toys (Shogun Zord) has a plastic origami crane for a helmet.

  • Here's an item from the September 30 NY Times Patents column, by Teresa Riordan:
    Have Business Card, Will Tee Off

    Robert J. Veylupek and George Wallace Jr. of Las Vegas, Nevada have patented a "combination business card golf tee". The golf tee is formed when a perforated tab is locked into an opening at one end of the card. "The tee comprises the card in an arched form, with the ends of the card acting as legs for the tee, and the absence of the body portion of the tab forming a saddle elevated above the ground into which the ball may be placed," the patent states. Patent# 5,503,396

  • Several days ago, I got a piece of promotional material in the mail and it reads like this:
    "If an Origami artist can make 800 shapes from one piece of paper, why do telemarketing companies keep coming back with one idea every time?"
    The cover of this three part folded card stock has a crane folded from green wavy striped paper. The inside highlights three critical areas of expertise which are supposed to apply to Origami as well as the touted company's services, they are: Design, Test, and Solve. Accompanying the headings for these three areas are...folding diagrams! How cool is that? [Reported by Steve Woodmansee on ORIGAMI-L on 97/2/25]


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  • Edward James Olmos' character in the movie Bladerunner left origami everywhere. He was a good guy.

  • Plain Clothes

  • If Lucy Fell: There is an Origami Swan in the movie. It is only shown briefly, but it is in the movie at two separate times.

  • In the film Hardboiled (directed by John Woo, starring Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung), the character Alan, played by Tony Leung plays a cop who's gone undercover as a gang member. He folds a crane for every person he's had to kill, and has them hanging in his boat. He also "sends" a crane to the cop he teams up with (CYF's character) as a signal at one point. The cranes also figure in the very last scene of the film.

  • Robot Jox has a Japanese scientist who makes and leaves little origami models lying around.

  • James and the Giant Peach uses origami as part of the movie. James is "trapped" with two mean aunts and wants to go to New York from England. Alone in his room one night he draws a picture of New York on an old bag of potato chips (crisps?) (found paper!) and then folds it into a waterbomb-base balloon. Using a candle from an old birthday cake he rigs it into a hot-air balloon and sends it out his window. Oh yes, he is singing a song the whole time. Later the balloon shows up again and is involved with how the peach gets so big and he becomes animated.

  • Fist of Legend, starring Li Lian-Jie (his American name is Jet Li), has a scene where his Japanese wife is folding traditional cranes. She makes several and leaves them on the table.

  • In Top Gun, doesn't Maverick (Tom Cruise) leave a folded airplane on the pillow of his instructor in the morning? Haven't seen the movie for a long time, but if I remember correctly, she unfolds it and there is a note written on it.

  • In The Associate (a recent release in the US), actress Whoopi Goldberg wears a pin that looks like two fans glued together in an attractive manner. The pin appears in only one or two scenes (I think), so you must be quick if you want to see it! [Reported by Jennifer Andre on ORIGAMI-L on 96/10/30] Not only does Whoopi wear the folded fans, she later works her way through a rolodex, crumpling them and tossing them into the trash one by one. Eventually she folds a paper airplane out of one of them and sails it to the trash (it missed). A bit of a stretch, but still notable (great movie too!). [Reported by Steve Woodmansee on ORIGAMI-L on 96/10/30]


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  • A folksong, "Cranes over Hiroshima", by Fred Small, appears in the cassette No Limit, from Rounder Records. It was published in 1987, but may have been re-released on Compact Disc fairly recently. I promised to relate the count given in this song, it's 644 -- "'Til the morning her stumbling fingers can't fold anymore". The song ends with a repeated chorus of the words that are apparently inscribed at base of the monument: "This is our cry / This is our prayer / Peace in the world".

    "Cranes over Hiroshima,
    white and red and gold.
    They flicker in the sunlight
    like a million vanished souls.
    I will fold these cranes of paper
    to a thousand, one by one,
    and I'll fly away when I'm done."

    The address is:
    Rounder Records
    One Camp Street
    Cambridge, MA 02140
    - or -
    Flying Fish Records
    12304 W Schubert
    Chicago, IL, 60614
    312) 528-5455

  • From Nick Robinson: A few years ago I had a track on an LP called 736.9, the Dewey decimal code for origami here in Britainland.

  • From Jay Ansill: Some of you know that I am a musician and that I put out a CD a few years ago called ORIGAMI. (I play the Celtic harp, violin, mandolin and guitar, and write music for these and other instruments).


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  • For those interested, the transcript of the Engines of Our Ingenuity episode on origami is now on the web (actually gopher) at http://www.kuhf.uh.edu/engines/engines.html. Select 'transcripts', and then choose the link to episode #1110.


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  • "A Computational Algorithm for Origami Design" appears in the Proceedings of the 1996 Annual Symposium on Computational Geometry, sponsored by the Society for Computational Geometry (SCG).

  • The second column on origami polyhedra appeared in the September issue of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. This one was about some Archimedean polyhedra while the first one, in July, was about the Platonic polyhedra. This article makes an argument about how models are important in developing a 3D intuition, which is important if you want to design computer graphics. Andrew Glassner of Microsoft is the writer.


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  • Three Spanish stamps (the same one different price) which have a paper airplane printed.

  • The September 30 issue of the Stamp Collector newspaper has an article titled "Japanese origami makes unique first-day covers". It describes the work of Michigan artist Hideaki Nakano, who creates first day covers in origami. The items pictured are:
    • a sailboat, with a stamp showing a skipjack sailboat, comemmorating the Constitution Bicentennial in 1988
    • a whale, with a stamp showing a whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan, also for the Constitution Bicentennial Philadelphia's Independence Hall, with a stamp showing same, also for the Constitution Bicentennial
    • a koala head, for an Australia Bicentennial stamp
    • a frigate, made of three envelopes with 8.4 cents stamps printed on, each showing the US frigate Constitution. The envelopes are arranged so one cancellation covers all three stamps!

    Nakano won an American First Day Cover Society best esoteric cover award for a first-day cover of a 32 cents Liberty bell stamped envelope. Nakano can be reached at 630 Merrick Ave 603, Detroit, MI, 48202


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  • The Marshall on ABC - The bad guys hide-out had several origami models decorating the walls including an eagle, crane, and what looked like some form of primate in the 4 seconds it was on the screen (made by Joseph Wu).

  • Sitcom Ned and Stacy - Ned folds Stacy's check into a crane because he doesn't believe the check is any good.

  • X-Files episode "Born Again". It was originally broadcast in the US the 29 of April 1994. A man is reincarnated in an 8 year old child and he folds many origami models - he planned to make all the animals in the Noah's ark picture he had on his wall. Apparently the fact that the little girl knew how to fold complex models was a clue to help them believe that she was the reincarnation of a murdered policeman, who happened to be an ardent paperfolder. The policeman wanted to fold every animal in a painting of Noah's Ark, and he was killed before he got to the giraffe, the last animal he was to fold. The girl then folded a giraffe, left in on the doorstep of the policeman's widow, rang the doorbell and ran off, leaving the widow to find the giraffe.

  • Pinky and the Brain episode: Brain showed Pinky how to make a flapping bird to keep him busy. It reappears a few more times. Pinky's preferred papers are newsprint and large government checks. This particular episode leads to the all-time greatest origami "excuse". When Pinky first tries to fold a bird, he ends up with a crumpled ball. Brain chastises him and Pinky protests that it *is* a bird, "it's a *round* bird".

  • A cable tv show called Nation Within featured the Golden Venture refugees.

  • The other night the origami crane appeared in a segue for Home Improvement. Hands rapidly folded black paper with white fold lines into a crane, which flapped away on its own. In another episode, there was a scene segue with a blueprinted diagram of the famous crane, which folded itself into the traditional model and sailed off down a stream, taking the screen contents with it.

  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Last night they had some napkin folding in the story. Sabrina and her friend are in their high school Home Economics class. The much-too-perky teacher is all excited that they are going to learn napkin folding. She starts them out with the "bishop's miter." The dim, but dreamy-looking, football player comes over to Sabrina and her friend and says that he can't figure out the bishop's miter, but, holding out a crumpled wad, he made a snowball (failed origami in an origami sighting!). At the end of the scene the teacher approaches Sabrina to see how she is doing. Using her magic, she quickly spiral folds her red napkin into a rose. 2. Later in the show, Sabrina's friend and the football player are at the pizza parlor trying to get to know each other. The friend is disappointed that they have almost nothing in common. She makes a last stab at impressing the guy by whipping up a crane (or swan) with pleated wings out of her napkin. She offers it to the football player who is oblivious to what she has made. He says thanks, grabs the napkin, and wipes his mouth with it.

  • During the opening credits to a show about household topics, a 30-40 second intro shows a busy mom rushing through the house, making breakfast, vacuuming, etc. Eventually, she grabs a piece of paper from the kitchen counter and on her way through the house (in rapid motion no less) folds it into an Origami swan which she sails into a baby's playpen to stop it from crying.

  • In the premiere of the TV show The Pretender, 1996 season, the figure of Onesius, the greek god of retribution, was folded by Steve Matheson. The show was filmed in Toronto in March, 1996. Onesius is actually the product of the scriptwriter's imagination but they did want an Icarus type figure with downswept wings. The design (with some personal alterations by Steve) is by Gabriel Alvarez's El Libro de las Parajitas de Papel. [Also appearing as Dadelus in Jay Ansill's book, Mythical Beings. --JW]

  • Origami was used in the cartoon, Earthworm Jim. A monster was attacking Jim. He grabbed a piece of newspaper and folded a rocket(?) which he threw at the monster. The rocket stuck in the moster's chest and made it fall down. To quote Earthworm Jim, "It's a good thing the average person doesn't realize the awesome destructive power of origami."

  • Origami models were used in an episode of the TV show The Equalizer. It was an episode with a hostage situation. I think that episode was called "Breakpoint", but I haven't been able to confirm that yet.

  • In an episode of Northern Exposure called "The Wedding", which first aired on May 11, 1992, the church decorations for a wedding included a 1000 cranes hung from the ceiling. The characters of Adam and Eve were getting married, Marilyn was shown making the cranes.

  • On Saturday mornings there is a real people show called Fudge. It about a boy and his younger brother (Fudge). The older brother had to spend a week with a kindergarten buddy. The older kids were not looking forward to this. They all were given a picture that their buddy had drawn. One girl only had a piece of paper that was unfolded. She made the statement her buddy "must not be very artistic". To end this story her buddy is another girl that tells her it is origami and it must have come unfolded. So the younger girl shows the older one origami for the week. It was the traditonal swan. The older girl really enjoy origami and is showing everone what she learned to make.

  • An NBC station identification spot in which the NBC "folded" itself into a peacock, possibly intended to look like origami.

  • Since we all love hearing about the latest public place where origami raises it's reverse-folded head, I just got done doing Statistics homework in front of NBC's "Suddenly Susan," in which, towards the end, one of her bored co-workers folds a Chinese restaurant place-mat into a flapping bird (which didn't quite seem to flap all that well, but the folds were impeccable)! [Reported by Jerry Harris on ORIGAMI-L on 96/10/31]

  • On this past week's episode of The Naked Truth, the character played by Tea Leone finds out that she is really 1 year older than she thought, and is about to turn 30, not 29. She rapidly goes through her life list of things she wanted to accomplish before turning 30, trying to squeeze them into the remaining few days before her birthday. One of the items on the list was "learn origami", and she produces a model (I don't remember what it was), that is shown on screen. [Reported by Janet Hamilton on ORIGAMI-L on 97/2/16]

  • Commercial in the U.S. for Hershey's Nuggets chocolate candy. The commercial involved the foil wrapper coming off the candy and folding itself into a peacock, a brontosaurus (or something: yes, Jerry Harris and others, I know the current term is Apatosaurus, but I couldn't verify if the head was right), and finally a frog. [Reported by Kevin Kinney on ORIGAMI-L on 97/2/24]

    Has anyone else seen the new hershey's nugget tv commerical? The commercial uses the hershey's nugget gold wrapper and it folds itself into a peacock, a dinosaur and a couple of other things that I can't remember right now. [Reported by Jack Thomas Weres on ORIGAMI-L on 97/2/24]

Information supplied by Janet Hamilton on October 17, 1995.
Last updated on February 28, 1997.

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