Getting to Know Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿)

This March, Celestial Movies, Starhub Channel 868, will be paying tribute to famous Japanese manga artist and film director Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿) by screening a wide selection of his works:

I. Celestial Sunday (Every Sunday at 9PM)

4/3 My Neighbor Totoro
11/3 Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea

II. Celestial Miyazaki Festival (From March 12 – 17 at 9PM)

12/3 Grave of the Fireflies
13/3 My Neighbor Totoro
14/3 Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind
15/3 Kiki’s Delivery Service
16/3 Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea
17/3 Laputa: Castle In The Sky

Through a career that has spanned nearly fifty years, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of animated feature films including Grave of the Fireflies, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea and Laputa: Castle In The Sky just to name a few.

Stills from various animated feature films by Hayao Miyazaki
Stills from various animated feature films by Hayao Miyazaki

Both Rachel and I are big fans of Hayao Miyazaki. We have watched all of his animated films and owns a few of his DVD box sets, various illustrations and commemorative picture books, Studio Ghibli merchandises, collectibles and more.

Grave of the Fireflies remain one of my all-time favourite films. It moved me to tears the first time I watched it and still touches me when I watched it again for a few more times. 

Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki

What goes in the mind of Miyazki behind some of the famous animated films that he has created? 

Below is an interview transcript with Hayao Miyazaki provided by Celestial Movies: 

Q: Why do you insist on using a pencil to draw your animated characters and backgrounds?
A: Computer graphics are very impressive, but I think animation needs the pencil, needs a man’s hands drawing.

Q: There is a total of 140 staff at the Ghibli studios, any of them tried to use computer graphics?
A: None of them was tempted by computer graphics. Those who don’t use pencils shouldn’t belong to our studio.

Q: How do you create women characters like Sosuke’s mother Lisa from Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea?
A: I create women characters by observing the female staff in my studio. There are many samples around me because half of my staff are women. But they do not realize it is them in the film because I use their essence and not their physique or faces. Usually I’ll choose faces that are easier to draw.

Q: You are sensitive towards the female psyche and you are insightful towards children. You seem to understand their attitude towards fear and loss and their recognition of mortality. Do you know a bit of psychology?
A: I’ve never studied psychology. I get all this just by reading books in general, and by observing people – especially children. I love children. We have a Ghibli-created nursery school near my office. There is a garden whereby we let the children do things that the usual nursery schools would never let kids do. For example, we have a pond for them to fall into, rocks to trip them over. We make slopes to make them fall and there are even trees for them to climb onto!

Q: There is an important message in Ponyo on the Cliff By The Sea. You are bemoaning about the pollution of Japan’s natural resources. Are you angry with the many aspects of modern life?
A: I wish the world would change, for instance, the population of Tokyo should be 10 per cent of what it is now. If you go to the other cities they’re very under populated. It’s like everyone has gathered to make a living in Tokyo. This is a very big issue Japan has to solve. And also, I think Tokyo is going to sink under water soon. All those stupid high-rise buildings will sink and maybe all the traffic will be gone. Everything will be peaceful and quiet. As for the theme of garbage and pollution in Ponyo, it’s too boring just to put a message across about that. It’s better to volunteer yourself to pick up all the garbage than to complain about it. Actually, i go to the river situated near my house every morning, just to do some cleaning. It’s my pastime.

Q: What is your ambition for now?
A: I will continue to create films, but my ambition for now is to teach and raise a whole new generation of animators who still use a pencil to draw. I think I can only continue being a director,” he says, “but as a studio, we want to use new directors and younger directors because we’ll disappear if we keep relying on old people. Eighteen months ago, my first grandson, named Mao, was born. The first thing I said to him was: “Grab the pencil!”.

Q: Why did you refused to license your characters to be included in video games?
A: I don’t like games. You’re robbing the precious time of children to be children. They need to be in touch with the real world more.

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