Lasseter-San, Arigato (synopsis - Page 1)
Note: Much of the narration takes place in the first-person. I have assumed throughout that it is written from the perspective of Toshio Suzuki (producer at Studio Ghibli).
1. Thank You, Lasseter-san
The opening shot reveals John Lasseter, surrounded by Pixar staff in a dark theatre. He is entranced by what will later be revealed as a special showing of Mei and the Kittenbus (Mei to Konekobasu), a short film normally shown to the public exclusively at the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.
A short introduction by Suzuki is displayed, explaining that the documentary was originally made as a present for John Lasseter, to thank him for helping with the release of Spirited Away in North America. The staff at Studio Ghibli pressed for its public release and John Lasseter agreed.
Suzuki points out that some of it may not make sense to those not originally present, much like a private diary.
2. September 7, 2002: Toronto Film Festival
Suzuki notes that the first time they were at the Toronto Film Festival (for Princess Mononoke), they did not have John Lasseter with them.
Lasseter is shown meeting Miyazaki and Suzuki (and the rest of the entourage) in a hotel lobby. He is highly enthusiastic about seeing Miyazaki again, as he notes with mock boredom that he has met Suzuki many times already [presumably for more business-related meetings].
Miyazaki thanks Lasseter for his effort in flying out for the movie, saying he didn't even want to travel from Japan for his own movie! Lasseter hints at some surprises in store when Miyazaki visits his home.
Lasseter offers some advice on handling the arduous round of press interviews, warning that this is the hardest task of any director. Miyazaki jokes that this is a producer's job!
A photographer tries to get Miyazaki to pose casually, with his feet up on a chair. Suzuki notes the culture-shock and how uncomfortable Miyazaki appears.
The scene moves to a restaurant where the team are having lunch.
Lasseter tells them his hopes for the campaign; that it would start small, and grow by word-of-mouth. He hopes that for those whose first Ghibli film is Spirited Away, a good initial impression will make them more receptive to future video releases. He describes it as the first step to world domination :-) He hopes that by keeping the release small, it would seem more special to those who do discover it, and they would be more inclined to tell their friends about it. He fears the phenomenon of a huge marketing blitz that generates large first-weekend returns for a film, but which diminishes to almost nothing after a week.
He tells them that he observed his family watching a pre-release version of the film at home. Miyazaki asks a question about what happens when people don't like the same things he likes in his films. Lasseter responds that he then realises that his execution has been poor. Miyazaki jokes that Lasseter is too modest - Miyazaki would say, "You are all wrong, and I am right!" More seriously, Miyazaki notes that sometimes, by the time he has finished persuading his staff that his own way is better, he realises that their way is actually better and has a sudden change of heart.
Miyazaki and Lasseter discuss the process of developing the storyline for a film. Miyazaki says that while he relates a developing story, he realises the gaps as he goes along. Lasseter contrasts this with the more collaborative, co-operative style of working style at Pixar, noting that a story segment can be re-worked up to 30 times before it is ever animated. Miyazaki says that once production has begun, everyone is so busy that they have no time to consider any new ideas that he discovers, and then he feels lonely and frustrated. He feels there must be a "best" method, but whether that would produce the perfect movie is another question. He feels that the structural problems with Laputa could have been solved if it had been another hour longer, but he is happy that the film that was eventually made was as good as it could have been within 2 hours. Lasseter describes the way his films are partitioned into discrete sequences, which occasionally leads to a disjointed feel when they are initially merged together. He suggests that it is better to develop the film's ending early on, so that the earlier storyline of the film can be made with the final product in mind.