Conan: The Boy in Future (FAQ)
Q: What is Conan?
Mirai Shonen Conan (Future Boy Conan) is the first TV series Miyazaki directed (produced at Nippon Animation, which is known for their high quality animation series such as "Heidi"). The story is about a boy, Conan, and a girl, Lana, and takes place 20 years after World War III. The basic premise is quite similar to "Laputa": Lana has been pursued by the people of Industria, since she is the only one who could find her grandfather, Dr. Lao, who holds a key to the lost Solar Energy. Conan, a boy with incredible strength and a golden heart, helps Lana.
It was aired on Japanese Public TV, NHK, in 1978. It was the first time NHK (which is known to be snobby) aired an animated TV series. You could say that they chose the best guy for the job.
We can see many of the Miyazaki elements in this TV series. A girl and a boy who have strong and healthy minds, adults who help them, air battle scenes, hope for the future, the recovery of nature after the devastation of World War III, villains who turn good, etc, reappear and are developed further in Miyazaki's later works (most notably, Laputa).
Q: Is it based on a book?
Yes. It's based (very loosely) on The Incredible Tide by Alexander Key. It is rather difficult to find this book today.
The basic premise is same, but the story in the anime is mostly Miyazaki's original. In the book, Conan is 14 (in the anime he is 11), and doesn't have superhuman strength like Conan in the anime does. Miyazaki said he didn't like the book very much. When the project was brought to him, he made sure that he could change the story however he wanted.
Q: When does the story take place?
20 years after World War III, which took place in 2008.
Q: What is "Pata Pata"?
"Pata Pata" (Flop, Flop) is an intermission eyecatch. Usually, a Japanese TV anime episode is divided in two parts to have commercials inserted in between. At the end of part A and the beginning of part B, there is usually an eyecatch to tell viewers of the beginning and the end of the intermission. Since "Conan" was aired on NHK, which is commercial free, there was no need for an eyecatch, but since Miyazaki was used to making episodes with commercials, he made an eyecatch to be inserted between the A and B parts, so that he could "pace himself," so to speak.
"Pata Pata" is made of three boards. On each board, a head, torso, and legs of some character are drawn, and the boards flip flop randomly. Sometimes a "correct" character appears in the end, but sometimes it ends up as a mixture of characters (such as Conan's head with Lana's torso).
Patapata is inclded in the Conan CD-ROM.
Q: Was Takahata involved in it?
Yes. He directed episodes 9 and 10, and wrote storyboards for episodes 7, 9, 10, 13, and 20. Since this was the first time Miyazaki ever directed a TV series, Miyazaki says that it was really hard. He says that the help from Takahata was "like a rain in the desert".