Joanna Buttercase

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

“Am I strange? … Sure”

So yesterday I made a voyage down to London for a screening of a BTS documentary of director Hayao Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli. Filmed as the production of his final film ‘The Wind Rises’ was underway, the documentary has very limited screenings in the UK, and being that Miyazaki was actually the first directors name I ever knew, and I am a HUGE fan of Howls Moving Castle / Totoro / Kiki / all things Studio Ghibli, I really wanted to give this a watch!


– I have definitely got a strong interest in animation, and it was amazing seeing how Ghibli animations are brought to life

I found it very interesting that Miyazaki never ever writes a script, and only creates a storyboard (which might explain the fact that the films are always absolutely faultlessly visually stunning!) The production team also gets to work before the storyboard is ever finished, so they don’t always know how the story is going to turn out. 


– Miyazaki actually does do drawings for the film! Despite having a team of 100 people or more

* Side note / interesting little story *  In  The Wind Rises, only he was able to draw the ‘Zero’ planes; he had a fascination with them as a child, and his father used to sell parts of planes to the military. Miyazaki talked a great deal about his inner conflict over his love of the planes but his opposition to war. 

The point with the planes, was that despite the whole film (The Wind Rises) being ‘anti-war’ Miyazaki had an attachment to the Zeros, and so he wanted them to fly in the film the way he saw them in his head. He made the point that its not always about what they’re really like, its about how you would want them to be. This is something which seemed to summarise the pull of animation for me, and seemingly for Miyazaki. 


–  Anything you can imagine, and anything you can want to see, you can make it happen in animation.

Just towards the end of the film, Miyazaki is about to go into the press conference where he will he officially announce his retirement, he spends a long time looking out the window across the city. He beckons the camera over and points out details such as an open rooftop, an old telephone wire, and how the seemingly normal can be taken as inspiration for the extraordinary, through animation you can bring magic to a seemingly ordinary town. (They showed little clips of his films to illustrate the point; Howl walking through the sky to landing on a roof, the bizarre cat bus from Totoro running across telephone wires, Kiki flying through a crowded city square on her broom with Jiji…)


– Not everything needs dialogue, sometimes there is nothing that needs to be said

Miyazaki and his right hand assistant have a (very funny) discussion about the ending of Kikis delivery service, where she asks him “Why can Jiji not speak any more?” (Jiji is a talking cat) and Miyazaki’s response is “What would you want him to say?”. He points out that most things you can come up with as the final dialogue for Jiji in that scene would make you dislike him “You would say, shut up cat!”. This really interested me; the idea that having a character become silent only for the reason that no speech would be good enough. It seems obvious when laid out like that but its something I wouldn’t really have thought about – I would probably just tirelessly rewrite the dialogue until it was just about good enough!

– Miyazaki keeps to a set schedule ‘like clockwork’ be it a daily one or the film schedule overall

A fair amount of discussion in the film was around the man who ‘discovered’ Hayao Miyazaki,  Isao Takahata, who has since become a ‘friendly rival’. The two were set to release a final film each on the same day, and a lot was said about how unreliable Takahata was with scheduling, which seemed to cast an overall doubtfulness over him, despite his obvious talent and capabilities. (It was clear how much respect for Takahata everyone who spoke of him had, though.)



– Maybe I should try animation ?!

My technical skills are not really there, but I love the freedom for imagination it brings, and it would be a great way to collaborate with illustrators/animators etc 

– Know your audience

Miyazaki calls Porco Rosso ‘stupid’ because he forgot who he was making films for (children) 

– Pay attention to detail

There is a scene in which Miyazaki demonstrates that the character in The Wind Rises would not stand fully upright after bowing because this would be considered rude; such a tiny detail but so telling. 

– Who you work with is as important as what you work on!

Miyazakis producer has been the same since the start of Studio Ghibli and he seems to know and understand everything about Miyazakis mindset in making the films, which he then communicates during press conference’s etc, he represents the films in the right way. 




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This entry was posted on November 14, 2014 by in Research, Year 3 PPP.
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