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Taipei International Book Exhibition
Meet and Greet with Goro Miyazaki

by Chih-Chieh Chang,

Earlier in the year, Goro Miyazaki, director of Gedo Senki (Tales from Earthsea) and son of legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki, visited the Taiwan International Book Exhibition. Audience members were able to get a glimpse into the mind of this up and coming director.

Note: audience questions are bolded.

Host: Producer Toshio Suzuki was not satisfied with your storyboarding and lent you “storyboard examples from two great Ghibli directors.” Was Mr. Hayao Miyazaki one of them?

Miyazaki: That's correct.

Host: So even though your father said he didn't support you directing anime movies, he still lent his storyboards to you. Second question: it is quite difficult for us with little experience to draw storyboards, yet you could draw them even though it was your first time directing. How did you do that? Was it because of your experience in architecture, or because you were influenced by your father since early childhood?

Miyazaki: Starting from early childhood, I never stop sketching. In the architecture industry, we have to draw finished conceptual designs in sketches, in addition to blueprints. Although I have never been trained with animation techniques academically, I can draw most sketches without much difficulty. The other of the two “great Ghibli directors” is Mr. Isao Takahata, who has very limited drawings on his storyboards – a human face was simply a circle with two dots, but he specified positions of characters and camera angles with great details. He told me it would be fine even if I couldn't draw well; I was quite relieved. In fact, I felt myself greatly improving after I kept drawing throughout the production phase. I told myself, “I'm such a good illustrator now!” The animation staff all stared at me after hearing those words.

Host: This is an inspirational story, particularly to younger audiences here—one can make masterpieces with simple drawings like circles and dots. However, your answer inspired me to ask another question: Mr. Suzuki instructed you on how to draw storyboards, Mr. Suzuki told you about director Takahata... Where was director Miyazaki? He must have known the film was being produced. Did he provide any support or give you any opinions or suggestions?

Miyazaki: When I had finished about 80% of the storyboards for the movie, he summoned me to meet him and asked, “Have you been concentrating on this movie or not?” I replied, “Of course I have!” with the same volume. We didn't talk after that until near the end of last year, after one and a half years had passed. He kind of hindered my operations in many ways.

Host: Such as?

Miyazaki: Without my knowledge, he summoned the animation team and told them “you have been working behind schedule and will never be able to catch the premiere, so why not just drop it and hold a strike?” He kept suggesting that the animation staff quit working on the project; I didn't know it until much later. As a father, he never supported me becoming an anime director like him, and that's probably the reason he is always in my way. However, as a creator, it is natural to slow down the progress of your opponent with every possible mean.

Host: It is tough being a father—helping you with his storyboarding, while stimulating you with hardships.

Miyazaki: Those were two sides of the same matter. However, I believe he had been stimulated by my project. Right now, he is preparing the next Ghibli movie, and in the past, he was very slow at drawing storyboards and could never catch the schedule, but this time, he is much faster than his old self. From what I've learned, the storyboards are about to be completed.

Host: Like father, like son. Both of you directed your first film at 39, and both faced lots of difficulties. What is your most and least favorite part of this lengthy production phase?

Miyazaki: The voice acting part, post-production, and the music part are the most interesting ones during their execution. Before a movie has finished, I already have a set of images of how the animation will look in my mind, so that part is rather predictable. However, voice acting can have unexpected effects, and that's really fascinating. The most difficult part was persuading the animation staff that Goro Miyazaki would become the director of the film.

Host: The insert song and the ending theme, performed by the female lead telling the loneliness of her heart, are extremely beautiful. You wrote the lyrics for both. Do you have an interest in lyrics writing?

Miyazaki: I'd never written lyrics formally before, but I like to parody popular songs by rewriting their lyrics, and that might help. In fact, Mr. Suzuki gave me the idea of lyrics writing. In the animation industry, the originality is highly regarded, but in fact, there's nothing in the world that is completely original. If you can adapt a good creation successfully, then it would be another good creation as well. Mr. Suzuki also showed me some of his favorite poems, and after seeing them, I put my feelings about the movie into the lyrics of those songs.

Host: After the movie premiered in Japan, you told the Japanese media that you would have failed if you directed it earlier, like in your 20s. Why do you think you would've failed? Would it be applicable to young aspiring creators? What's the relationship between age and creation?

Miyazaki: If I directed it in my 20s, my goal would have been to be Hayao Miyazaki and nothing else. Although catching him is still my goal, because he's such a great person, having additional experiences like my university major (forestry / agronomy) and being a museum curator helps me review myself more objectively, and they provided many ideas for me during the production of this movie. It is important to have walked in those indirect paths before directing.

Host: Thank you so much. Now it's time for the audience to ask questions.

In your opinion, how do your rate director Hayao Miyazaki, as a father and as a director?

Miyazaki: A goose egg as a father and 100% as a director. Why a goose egg as a father? He has always been a workaholic and was almost never found at home, leaving very little time left for my mother and me. I think she endured many difficulties compared with most housewives. For the same reason, his hardworking and talent have created so many excellent titles, so I gave him 100% as a director. Furthermore, during the production phase of any Ghibli movie, both he and Mr. Takahata are demons.

Two questions: You said you two didn't talk for a year and a half until the end of last year; who initiated the conversation? Also, how would you compare Gedo Senki and your father's first movie, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro?

Miyazaki: My mother called me and asked me to go home and have a family reunion dinner before the eve of last year. I couldn't remember who started the conversation first, but it was rather awkward for both of us. As for comparing the two movies: I can't think of any point where my movie can top his. It was his first feature-length movie, but its completeness was very high and I consider it one of his best, so it would be very difficult to top. Furthermore, I don't think I can judge my own work objectively.

Host: Instead of comparing the qualities of the two movies, let's discuss their styles instead. What is the difference in pacing, tempo, artistic presentation?

Miyazaki: In Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, both the direction and the story are very standard as an anime movie should be. I wanted to add something different into my Gedo Senki and make it different, such as adding what's happening around youngsters nowadays; it was something that only I could do.

Please tell us how you felt when you attended Venice International Film Festival, and any plans for your next movie.

Miyazaki: When I went to Venice, I kept thinking, “is my movie good enough to attend this historic movie festival?” Even now, I still feel a little bit embarrassed about attending the festival. However, I felt very grateful because the festival enabled Italian youths to enjoy the movie that many Japanese youths enjoyed. I have to be much more careful, strict, and hardworking for the next film, for while the first movie can be driven purely by passion alone, the same manner can't be applied to the second movie. I am still somewhat hesitant about whether to have a second movie or not.

The animations made by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are mainly done in 2-D, while most animation studios in the West have adapted 3-D. Will it be possible for Ghibli to adapt to 3-D in the future?

Miyazaki: Ghibli will not abandon 2-D animation while the “three old men” (Miyazaki, Suzuki, Takahata) are still alive. I'm not very sure about Mr. Suzuki, but the other two will fight till the very end; after all, they have spent over forty years perfecting 2-D animation. Meanwhile, the era that “3-D is the new kid on the block” is long gone, and 2-D is in no way inferior to 3-D. They are just different ways of presentation; some are more suitable with 2-D and others more suitable with 3-D. However, it is an undeniable fact that less and less people are devoting themselves on drawing 2-D animation, even in Japan.

Composer Joe Hisaishi is a long time collaborator of Hayao Miyazaki. How do you feel about him, and will you cooperate with him in the future?

Miyazaki: Mr. Hisaishi has been working with my father for a long time, but to me, he is not an easy person to work with, for both he and my father are old, and while two old men can work together with ease, I like having a more youthful working force. In the end, I chose Tamiya Terashima for Gedo Senki, who is less stubborn and more willing to take advice from the director.

Voice actors give animation characters lives. How did you choose the cast from so many seiyuu in Japan?

Miyazaki: Although there are so many voice actors in Japan, I don't know a single one, for my previous occupations were not related to voice acting at all. I learned their names mostly by coincidence; for example, Mr. Suzuki introduced Mr. Junichi Okada (as Prince Arren) after visiting his radio show. Other casts were chosen from some agencies we have always been collaborated with; the sample pool was relatively small.

Is there any work you would like to adapt into an animated movie?

Miyazaki:Of course I have some of my favorite works, but I am not certain if they are suitable to be adapted into anime movies, so right now the answer is “no.”

What should I do in order to land a job at Studio Ghibli? I'm afraid they might not accept foreigners easily.

Miyazaki: Not at all. There are Italians and Hong Kongese working at Studio Ghibli, and they all approached Ghibli on their own, saying, “I want to work here.” Your professional skills are important, but it really depends on your determination. However, since Ghibli has a schedule of one movie every two years, there isn't much time to train its animators, so I'll give you a tip—work in other studios and establish your fame and experience, then submit your resume, or maybe Ghibli will approach you instead. For example, Mr. Akihiko Yamashita and Mr. Takeshi Inamura are neither “Ghiblies”—animators trained by Ghibli; not to mention, Mr. Inamura approached Ghibli once before, but was turned down. He went to work for other companies before Ghibli hired him back.

You mentioned that there were many ideas and suggestions before the film was produced. Now that the movie has been finalized and premiered, how many and which of them have been materialized?

Miyazaki: About 80% of the ideas were not used, but some of the most basic and important elements like, “what is this movie about?” have been incorporated.

Host: Thank you so much for coming here to talk with us!

Miyazaki: Thank you all for coming. If you have a chance to visit Japan, be sure to visit Ghibli Museum!

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