|Details about Miyazaki
|People and works that influenced Miyazaki
Throughout his career, Miyazaki has expressed appreciation of or been influenced by a variety of people and works. The following are some of the significant ones:
Osamu TEZUKA -- At first, Miyazaki wanted to become a manga writer. Ever since his childhood, he loved Tezuka's manga. But one day, he realized that his manga were just an imitation of Tezuka, and he burned all the manga he had written. He says he struggled to write his own manga, but found that he couldn't. As for Tezuka as a creator of animation, Miyazaki is harder on him. He criticizes Tezuka's work as no good, and blames Tezuka for ruining the Japanese animation industry by dumping.
Hakujaden (Legend of the White Snake) -- Miyazaki saw this first Japanese animation feature film by Toei Doga when he was a high school senior. He was so moved by it, he says he couldn't stop crying the whole night. He confesses that he fell in love with the heroine, Pai-nyan. This film sparked his interest in animation. See his view.
Snezhnaya Koroleva (Snow Queen) -- A Russian animation film directed by Lev Atamanov, 1957. Miyazaki saw this film when he was unhappy about his job and wondering if he should continue working as an animator. Miyazaki was so moved by it, he "decided to continue working on animation with renewed determination". He says that he learned that characters in animation can act if they are animated well enough, and animation can move people as other media can do. We can see its influence on Horus, such as the design of the Forest King; and the two sides of Hilda.
La bergère et le ramoneur
(The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep) --
The French animation classic by Paul Grimault, 1952. This film
showed Miyazaki that animation can be targeted at adults. He
incorporated several ideas from this movie in his
Castle of Cagliostro,
such as trap doors, a room in a tower with an
elevator, the wedding of the tyrant and the heroine, the hero
crashing the wedding, etc.
Ramoneur was revised by Grimault and re-released in 1979 under the name Le roi et l'oiseau (The King and the Bird).
Yuri Norstein -- A Russian animation creator, who made Tale of Tales. Miyazaki's colleague, Isao Takahata, wrote a book about him.
Frédéric Back -- Miyazaki saw Crac! by this Canadian animator, when he was visiting the United States. He says that he was so blown away by it, that he got depressed by comparing it to what he was doing then. He wrote a liner note for the Japanese laserdisc of The Man Who Planted Trees, and in it, he said that he was truly impressed by how Back animated plants, something very difficult to do. Takahata wrote a book about the film The Man.
Disney -- It's a well known fact that he doesn't like Disney. However, he says he likes the early short films by Disney such as Silly Symphonies. It seems that he has a problem with the storytelling in Disney films.
Fleischer Brothers -- Miyazaki paid homage to their cartoons in Farewell Beloved Lupin and Porco Rosso.
Writers and Novelists -- Miyazaki loves and has been influenced by the works of Ryotaro SHIBA, Yoshie HOTAA, and Sasuke NAKAO.
Conversely, some world-renowned people also have expressed appreciation and admiration towards Miyazaki and his works.
He has a wife who was also an animator at Toei Doga, and two sons. Miyazaki's first son is a landscape designer, and he designed the garden on the rooftop of Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki's second son, Keisuke Miyazaki, made the woodcut print, "Craftsman Making a Violin in Prison", which Shizuku saw in the book in Whisper of the Heart. Miyazaki says that having children really changed his work. He said he had always tried to make his anime to please his children while they were growing up.
He has three brothers. He said that being a second son really affected how he thinks and acts.
His mother suffered from spinal tuberculosis for a long time. This affected his relationship with his mother, and Miyazaki says that this might have affected the relationship between Nausicaä and her mother in the manga. "Mother away from home because of sickness" was a motif used in Totoro.
He was born into an affluent family who owned a company which made wingtips for Zero fighters during the war. Miyazaki felt guilty about growing up comfortably under parents who made money from the war, while others suffered from it. This seems to have affected his ambivalent feelings towards war and weapons.
|Miyazaki's political beliefs
He was strongly influenced by Marxism. You have to understand that in Japan, the word "communism" isn't as demonized as in the US. Marxism as a theory to analyze society and history has been taught in universities. The Socialist Party had been the second largest party in Japan for a long time, and the Communist Party still holds seats in the Parliament. During the war, any political or labor movement was banned, and the communists were almost the only ones who vocally opposed the war. After the war, labor unions were allowed to be formed, and many of them were led by communists or communist sympathizers. Many were idealistic young people who believed in the future of "truly democratic Japan." Miyazaki was one of those young people, as was Takahata. (As the Russians say, "If you don't believe in Communism by the time you are 15, then you have no heart.")
Miyazaki was the chairman of the animator's union at Toei Doga. The early works in which Miyazaki was involved, such as Horus or Conan, show his political beliefs somewhat. He once said he wasn't even sure about making Nausicaä a princess, since that "makes her an elite class." Pom Poko was basically the story of how the liberal movements in post-war Japan failed, according to Miyazaki.
Around the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, Miyazaki came to the conclusion that Marxism (and Historical Materialism) is wrong, and he totally forsook it. He said that his realization had more to do with writing Nausicaä than the collapse of the communist bloc. (As Russians continue, "And if you still believe in Communism by the time you are 30, then you have no brain.") You can clearly see how this turnabout affected him in how he ended the manga Nausicaä.
|Common characteristics in Miyazaki's films
Why do his movies always have flying scenes?
Because he loves flying and airplanes, especially old airplanes. His family owned a company which produced wingtips for Zero fighters, and this probably had an influence on Miyazaki's love for planes. His manga, Zassou Note, is filled with such "favorites" of his.
Why are his movies always optimistic?
Because that's the kind of movie he wants to make. He says that he wants to make films that say "I wish that there were such people/things/a world," rather than "this is the way things are." He makes films for children and young people, and he thinks that it is important for them to see the world positively and have hope.
His manga, on the other hand, explores the darker side of human nature: violence, hatred, anger, greed, stupidity, war, and so forth. Still, his manga is optimistic in the sense that it shows his strong belief in human spirit and strong will to live.
Why do many of his movies have girls as leads?
It depends on which type of story he is trying to make. He has covered this question in some interviews.
Is Miyazaki obsessed with pigs?
Yes. He often draws himself as a pig. In his manga Zassou Note, many characters appear as pigs. In the picture below, Miyazaki is a mean-looking big pig, yelling at the poor animators who are working on Pom Poko to speed up their work.
|The future -- Is Miyazaki retiring?
Q: I heard that Miyazaki is retiring. Is this true?
At a press conference following the completion of Mononoke Hime, Miyazaki did say "I think that this (Mononoke Hime) will be the last (feature-length) movie that I make in this way." You have to understand what "this way" means.
Miyazaki is an animator, first and foremost. He personally checks almost all the key animation, and often redraws cels when he thinks they aren't good enough or characters aren't "acting right." This isn't the typical way in which a director works. (For example, Mamoru Oshii doesn't even check key animation. He has a technical director to do that. Takahata checks key animation, but he tells the key animators to redraw the cels.) However, Miyazaki feels that this is the only way for him to make the films he wants to make.
However, Miyazaki felt that he was getting too old. He says that his eyes aren't as good as they used to be, and his hands can no longer move so quickly. And he felt that spending every day for more than two years working on Mononoke Hime took too much out of him. Hence, he said that he wouldn't direct a film in that way anymore. (He also said that his career as an animator has ended.)
Of course, most journalists in Japan didn't bother to check what he meant by "in this way," so they just wrote big headlines like "Miyazaki announced retirement!" Since then, this news has taken on its own life.
Miyazaki also said that he is leaving Ghibli to make way for young people. However, he also stated that he "may assist in some capacity in the future," such as producing and writing scripts. Sadly, judging from his eulogy for Yoshifumi Kondo, it seems that he was planning to write and produce another film for Kondo to direct, as he did with Whisper of the Heart.
Miyazaki formally quit Ghibli on January 14th, 1998. He built a new studio, "Butaya" (Pig House), near Studio Ghibli as his "retirement place." However, on January 16th, 1999, Miyazaki "formally returned" to Studio Ghibli as Shocho (this title means roughly "the head of office").
In 2001, Miyazaki completed Spirited Away. At a press conference held after the completion of the film, Miyazaki stated that Spirited Away would be the last feature-length film he'll direct.
As with his "retirement" after Mononoke Hime, this one was short-lived; Miyazaki's took over the director's role on Howl's Moving Castle after the original director left the project.
Miyazaki was awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2005 Venice International Film Festvial. During the press conference he said, "I wasn't too excited [at first] because it seemed to be an award for old people. But I was told that people who are still active, like [Clint] Eastwood, have received it, so I [humbly] accepted it."
"I have such an insatiable desire [to continue producing films]," he added. "I want to create movies that inspire children."