Comic-Con '09: Capone Chats With The Mighty Hayao Miyazaki about his Latest, PONYO!!
Published at: Aug. 3, 2009, 5:09 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey folks. Capone in Chicago here, with another interview I picked up at Comic-Con this year. This particular talk came after Disney Animation Studios/Pixar's lengthy panel (hosted by John Lasseter), in which they previewed the TOY STORY 1 & 2 3-D double-bill trailer; some great stuff from TOY STORY 3 (also in 3-D), including the introduction of short film on a new character introduced in this film, Barbi's pal Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton). In the short "documentary" on Ken, he attempt to convince us that Ken is a doll for boys and not girls. It was a hilarious way to show us Keaton's enthusiastic approach to the character, and I can't wait to see the scene in which Ken realizes he's gay (assuming that scene is in TS3).
We also got to watch an entire musical number (centered around the song "Belle") from the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3-D reissue, set for release in February. One of the more impressive surprised of the panel was footage from a Disney animated special done for ABC and scheduled to run around the Christmas holiday. "Prep and Landing" is about an elite group of elves that break into homes and prepare each one for Santa's arrival. The sequence we were shown was hilarious, as the elves use high-tech gadgets to make sure all is right, including a device that trims the bottom of the tree to make sure the gifts fit and a temperature gauge to test the chill of the mild and the warmth of the cookies. This is one worth looking forward to.
The next to last film discussed was the first new traditionally animated feature film from Disney in quite some time, and the first full-blown musical the studio has done in about as long. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG takes the age-old "Frog Prince" story and transports it to New Orleans during the Jazz Age of the 1920s. We got to see an entire musical number, featuring Keith David as the villainous Dr. Facilier. All of the tunes are from Randy Newman, and the film is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker (co-directors of THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN, and HERCULES). What we saw was really strong stuff, so my hopes are high for this December 11 release.
The panel concluded with a rare stateside appearance of the man who animators in the world look to for inspiration, Hayao Miyazaki, the great Japanese artist, who at 68 years old, is still putting out the most relevant and creative works of anyone, anywhere. He still writes his films as storyboards, rather than scripts, and usually has no idea where his plots are going or what his characters are going to look like until he's actually drawing them. Seriously, most animation houses can't even fathom a human being that works this way, but that is how Miyazaki-san has always worked and will continue to do so until he simply can't. If you haven't ever seen one of his films, just pick one; they're all good--THE CASTLE of CAGLIOSTRO; NAUSICA; CASTLE IN THE SKY; MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO: PORCO ROSSO; KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE; PRINCESS MONONOKE; SPIRITED AWAY; and HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE.
I was fortunate to meet and interview some of my absolute favorite directors at this year's Comic-Con (including Peter Jackson, Tim Burton, and Chan-wook Park), but none meant more to me than Miyasaki. We spoke with the help of his very nice translator to this understated, quiet-spoken master of the pencil and ink. His new film is called PONYO, a sweet tale about a goldfish that wants to become human, and it's another magnificent and awe-inspiring visual feast that ought not to be missed. Please enjoy Miyasaki-san.
Capone: What did you think of the reaction--just to you coming on stage, first of all, and then to the film as well, the footage that you showed?
Hayao Miyazaki: Well, I know that the audience today are real fans, and the ones who are really pro-animation, so I don’t want to be too complacent, thinking that all the audiences will be like that.
Capone: [Laughs] It’s not like that wherever you go?
HM: I think it’s better if we don’t get too excited about that kind of reaction.
Years later, after somebody has seen one of my films, then I meet them, I feel it was really good that I made this film for that child--by then they’re not children anymore--but, I have that kind of reaction myself. So, that’s what supports me in terms of making my films.
Capone: Are the reactions of younger audiences to your films more important and fulfilling to you than those of people my age, for example?
HM: It’s hard to gauge people’s reactions. For example, I hear sometimes that a two-year-old sat through the film, the whole movie, and it’s unbelievable to me that a two-year-old could do that. But, what that means is hard to tell. Just the fact that a child was able to concentrate for that long doesn’t necessarily make it something that we can really count on or evaluate the film by. And, there are also parts of the films that make the adults watching happy, too, so you can’t just have that to rely on either. So, I try not to get distracted by what the audience feels in terms of influencing how I make movies or how I see my work.
Capone: You made a joke during the panel downstairs about not knowing where your inspiration comes from, which is exactly the right answer for a question like that. But, I am kind of curious about the birth of PONYO, as much as you are willing to disclose.
HM: The name, Ponyo, comes from sort of onomatopoetic…When you touch something, and it goes boing, poing, poinyo, poinyo…That kind of soft, squishy softness. I was thinking of making a completely different movie, and my concept was that I really wanted to show a stormy sea, and how a boat chases you on the sea. And, waves are higher than the house on a hillside, and I wasted a lot of time thinking of those things. Of course, those aspects didn’t make into the final film, but that was the kind of concept I had for this film.
Capone: Do you keep track of other current animators’ work? And, are you still impressed by, maybe, what your friends do at Pixar or Disney or any of the other animation houses around the world?
HM: No, actually, I don’t watch video or movies. I hardly watch any films or TV anymore. Before I came here, I was watching the Tour de France on television eagerly, but I had to stop that to come here. So, I was in the middle of that.
Capone: [laughs] That’s terrible!
Another interesting question that come up in the panel was about your usually having a very youthful protagonist and very often a female one. And, again, as much as you are willing to say, can you tell me why? I think it’s wonderful that you acknowledge that children often see the world in very different ways.
HM: Well, in my studio, we make films basically for children to watch. Sometimes, we kind of get a little bit off course on that, but we try to keep to that general principle, that we’re making films for children. Within that, sometimes what I see myself doing is thinking of a specific child that’s around me somehow…My own children, of course, are no longer children, but, let’s say, a 10-year-old, or if one of my staff members has a 2-year-old, then by the time this movie is finished, that child will be about 4 years old. So, maybe, that can be the first film that that child sees. So, we have that kind of idea that gets affected by the age of the children that seem to be the first target audience.
Actually, in this film, the person who is most like a main character is the little boy, Sosuke. And, it’s because he says he will protect Ponyo and works hard to do that…that the world doesn’t collapse, basically. And, he has many difficulties that are thrown at him, and he overcomes these difficulties, even though, as a boy, he doesn’t have a job yet. And, he’s not strong. But, he’s able to do what he promised to do. And, that’s the person who’s closest to the main character in the film.
It’s very hard to make this kind of anonymous boy be a main character. It’s a hundred times easier to make a girl be the main character. But, I think now is the time that I can finally make a movie that has a boy as a main character. So, I started thinking of that with this movie. But, I think it’s going to go further, maybe, in the future.
Capone: I was going to ask about that. Over the years, I've heard rumors that you've threatened to retire. And, then, a year or so passes, and we hear about a new movie being made. So, have you at this point decided that you’re going to keep working until you can’t work anymore?
HM: I’ve decided that it’s not a decision I can make by myself, whether I will continue to make films or not. It’s fated. And, if the conditions aren’t there for me to make a film, then I won’t make them. And, if they are, I will. But, now I’m putting a lot of effort in training and supporting unknown, young directors that could then make movies of their own.
Capone: That is wonderful news to hear. But, please, keep making movies of your own as well! Miyasaki-san, thank you so much.
HM: Thank you.
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