Hayao Miyazaki Biography and Interview

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    Hayao MiyazakiIn an era of high-tech wizardry, the anim auteur makes magic the old wayBy Tim MorrisonEdited from: http://www.time.com/time/asia/2006/heroes/at_miyazaki.html

    For more than 20 years, the Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki has beencrafting films more lusciously illustrated and rapturously imaginative than almostanything else on the silver screenfull of spirits, walking castles, flying machines, cat

    buses and owl-raccoons called totoros (which only children can see). A fearsomely hands-on artist who does everything from scriptwriting to storyboard sketching to correctingmany of the final frames of his movies by hand, Miyazaki is Walt Disney, StevenSpielberg and Orson Welles combined, with a dash of Claude Monet in his sumptuouslandscapes and more than a smidgen of Roald Dahl in his sly, sophisticated understandingof children.

    Miyazaki was not the founding father of Japanese animation. Its first master wasOsamu Tezuka, creator of iconic characters like Astro Boy; it was Tezuka who pioneered

    the "big eyes" style of Japanese illustration and inspired every spiky-haired hero who ever took up arms against a giant robot. But more than that of any other director, Miyazaki'sname and that of his animation house Studio Ghibli have become synonymous withJapanese animation. "He's a wonderfully creative storyteller who has somehow found away to tell the stories that he wants, and that puts him in an incredibly small bracket of writer-directors worldwide," says Jonathan Clements, co-author of The Anime

    Encyclopedia . "All the smaller in that his works are also blockbuster successes." Princess Mononoke , an ecological fable set in Japan's distant past, was the country's top-grossingmovie until Titanic eclipsed it in 1997; Miyazaki reclaimed the title in 2001 with theOscar-winning Spirited Away the tale of a 10-year-old's quest to deliver her parentsfrom a spell that has turned them into pigs. Like many of Miyazaki's films it's a

    rumination on the importance of self-reliance, selflessness and the challenge of growingup. This thematic richness is key, says Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki: "Our filmsare the result of serious and earnest consideration of what kind of films should be madefor children."

    What makes Miyazaki's movies all the more remarkable is that in an era wheneach computer-animated feature from the likes of Pixar and Disney is more kinetic thanthe lastCars! Toys! Fish!he continues to handcraft a world of Zen-like stillness and

    beauty: water dripping on mossy rocks, or a train gliding over the sea in twilight. Thedramatic punch is delivered not with a showstopping musical number or high-techwizardry but with simple, stunning imagery that still takes your breath away.

    Midnight Eye Interview: Hayao MiyazakiEdited from: http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/hayao_miyazaki.shtml

    There is little doubt about Hayao Miyazaki's status as Japan's premiere animator.After such devastating successes as Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke, not even thelure of early retirement could keep the most famous founding father of Studio Ghiblifrom delivering what would become the most successful film of all time in Japan:

    http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/porcross.shtmlhttp://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/porcross.shtml
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    Spirited Away (Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi).

    The interview below is a report of the debate / press conference Miyazaki gave in Paris inlate December 2001, on the occasion of Spirited Away 's first European screening at theanimation festival Nouvelles images du Japon (during which the French government

    bestowed on him the title of 'Officier des Arts et des Lettres'). It contains questions fromvarious people, including my own.

    Is it true that your films are all made without a script?Thats true. I dont have the story finished and ready when we start work on a

    film. I usually dont have the time. So the story develops when I start drawingstoryboards. The production starts very soon thereafter, while the storyboards are stilldeveloping. We never know where the story will go but we just keeping working on thefilm as it develops. Its a dangerous way to make an animation film and I would like it to

    be different, but unfortunately, thats the way I work and everyone else is kind of forcedto subject themselves to it.

    But for that to work I can imagine it would be essential to have a lot of empathywith your characters.

    What matters most is not my empathy with the characters, but the intended lengthof the film. How long should we make the film? Should it be three hours long or four?Thats the big problem. I often argue about this with my producer and he usually asks meif I would like to extend the production schedule by an extra year. In fact, he has nointention of giving me an extra year, but he just says it to scare me and make me return tomy work. I really dont want to be a slave to my work by working a year longer than italready takes, so after he says this I usually return to work with more concentration and ata much faster pace. Another principle I adhere to when directing, is that I make good use

    of everything my staff creates. Even if they make foregrounds that dont quite fit with my backgrounds, I never waste it and try to find the best use for it.

    Spirited Away s lead character Chihiro seems to be a different type of heroine thanthe female leads in your previous films. She is less obviously heroic, and we dont getto know much about her motivation or background.

    I havent chosen to just make the character of Chihiro like this, its because thereare many young girls in Japan right now who are like that. They are more and moreinsensitive to the efforts that their parents are making to keep them happy. Theres ascene in which Chihiro doesnt react when her father calls her name. Its only after thesecond time he calls that she replies. Many of my staff told me to make it three timesinstead of two, because thats what many girls are like these days. They dontimmediately react to the call of the parents. What made me decide to make this film wasthe visualizing that there are no films made for that age group of ten-year old girls. It wasthrough observing the daughter of a friend that I visualize there were no films out therefor her, no films that directly spoke to her. Certainly, girls like her see films that containcharacters their age, but they cant identify with them, because they are imaginarycharacters that dont resemble them at all.

    With Spirited Away I wanted to say to them dont worry, it will be alright in the

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    end, there will be something for you, not just in cinema, but also in everyday life. For that it was necessary to have a heroine who was an ordinary girl, not someone who couldfly or do something impossible. Just a girl you can encounter everywhere in Japan. Everytime I wrote or drew something concerning the character of Chihiro and her actions, Iasked myself the question whether my friends daughter or her friends would be capable

    of doing it. That was my criteria for every scene in which I gave Chihiro another task or challenge. Because its through surmounting these challenges that this little Japanese girl becomes a capable person. It took me three years to make this film, so now my friendsdaughter is thirteen years old rather than ten, but she still loved the film and that made mevery happy.

    Since you say you dont know what the ending of a story will be when you startdrawing storyboards, is there a certain method or order you adhere to in order toarrive at the storys conclusion?

    Yes, there is an internal order, the demands of the story itself, which lead me tothe conclusion. There are 1415 different shots in Spirited Away . When starting the

    project, I had envisioned about 1200, but the film told me no, it had to be more than 1200.Its not me who makes the film. The film makes itself and I have no choice but to follow.

    We can see several recurring themes in your work that are again present in Spirited Away , specifically the theme of nostalgia. How do you see this film in relation to yourprevious work?

    Thats a difficult question. I believe nostalgia has many appearances and that itsnot just the privilege of adults. An adult can feel nostalgia for a specific time in their lives, but I think children too can have nostalgia. Its one of mankinds most sharedemotions. Its one of the things that makes us human and because if that its difficult todefine. Even though we use it in Japan, the word nostalgia is not a Japanese word.

    The fact that I can understand that film even though I dont speak a foreign languagemeans that nostalgia is something we all share. When you live, you lose things. Its a factof life. So its natural for everyone to have nostalgia.

    What strikes me about Spirited Away compared to your previous films is a realfreedom of the author. A feeling that you can take the film and the story anywhereyou wish, independent of logic, even.

    Logic is using the front part of the brain, thats all. But you cant make a film withlogic. Or if you look at it differently, everybody can make a film with logic. But my wayis to not use logic. I try to dig deep into the well of my subconscious. At a certainmoment in that process, the lid is opened and very different ideas and visions areliberated. With those I can start making a film. But maybe its better that you dont openthat lid completely, because if you release your subconscious it becomes really hard tolive a social or family life.

    I believe the human brain knows and perceives more than we ourselves visually.The front of my brain doesnt send me any signals that I should handle a scene in acertain way for the sake of the audience. For instance, what for me constitutes the end of the film, is the scene in which Chihiro takes the train all by herself. Thats where the filmends for me. I remember the first time I took the train alone and what my feelings were at

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    the time. To bring those feelings across in the scene, it was important to not have a viewthrough the window of the train, like mountains or a forest. Most people who canremember the first time they took the train all by themselves, remember absolutelynothing of the landscapes outside the train because they are so focused on the ride itself.So to express that, there had to be no view from the train. But I had created the conditions

    for it in the previous scenes, when it rains and the landscape is covered by water as aresult. But I did that without knowing the reason for it until I arrived at the scene with thetrain, at which moment I said to myself How lucky that I made this an ocean (laughs).There are more profound things than simply logic that guide the creation of the story.

    Other than some Japanese animation we get to see on this side of the world, yourfilms always express a sense of positivity, hope and a belief in the goodness of man.Is this something you consciously add to your films?

    In fact, I am a pessimist. But when Im making a film, I dont want to transfer my pessimism onto children. I keep it at bay. I dont believe that adults should impose their vision of the world on children, children are very much capable of forming their own

    visions. Theres no need to force our own visions onto them.But still there are millions of adults that watch your films and who get a lot of enjoyment out of your work.

    That gives me a lot of pleasure, of course. Simply put, I think that a film which ismade specifically for children and made with a lot of devotion, can also please adults.The opposite is not always true. The single difference between films for children and films for adults is that in films for children, there is always the option to start again, tocreate a new beginning. In films for adults, there are no ways to change things. Whathappened, happened.

    Do you believe in the necessity of fantasy in telling childrens stories?I believe that fantasy in the meaning of imagination is very important. Weshouldnt stick too close to everyday reality but give room to the reality of the heart, of the mind and of the imagination. Those things can help us in life. But we have to becautious in using this word fantasy. In Japan, the word fantasy these days is applied toeverything from TV shows to video games, like virtual reality. But virtual reality is adenial of reality. We need to be open to the powers of imagination, which bringssomething useful to reality. Virtual reality can imprison people. Its a dilemma I strugglewith in my work, that balance between imaginary worlds and virtual worlds.

    In both Spirited Away and Porco Rosso there are people who are transformed intopigs. Where does this fascination with pigs come from?

    Thats because theyre much easier to draw than camels or giraffes (laughs). Ithink they fit very well with what I wanted to say. The behaviour of pigs is very similar tohuman behaviour. I really like pigs at heart, for their strengths as well as their weaknesses. We look like pigs, with our round bellies. Theyre close to us.

    What about the scene with the putrid river god? Does it have a base in Japanesemythology?

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    No, it doesnt come from mythology, but from my own experience. There is ariver close to where I live in the countryside. When they cleaned the river we got to seewhat was at the bottom of it, which was truly putrid. Now theyve managed to clean upthe river, the fish are slowly returning to it, so all is not lost. But the smell of what theydug up was really awful. Everyone had just been throwing stuff into that river over the

    years, so it was an absolute mess.

    Do your films have one pivotal scene that is representative for the entire film?Because Im a person who starts work without clear knowledge of a storyline,

    every single scene is a pivotal scene. In the scene in which the parents are transformedinto pigs, thats the pivotal scene of that moment in the film. But after that its the nextscene which is most important and so on. In the scene where Chihiro cries, I wanted thetears to be very big, like geysers. But I didnt succeed in visualizing the scene exactly as Ihad imagined it. So there are no central scenes, because the creation of each scene bringsits own problems which have their effect on the scenes that follow.

    But there are two scenes in Spirited Away that could be considered symbolic for

    the film. One is the first scene in the back of the car, where she is really a vulnerable littlegirl, and the other is the final scene, where shes full of life and has faced the wholeworld. Those are two portraits of Chihiro which show the development of her character.

    Where do your influences lie as far as other films and directors go?We were formed by the films and filmmakers of the 1950s. At that time I started

    watchin...