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Waiting for Miyazaki, or Thoughts on the state of animated movies.

There have been a great many animated films produced in the last 15 years. Many have been ordinary, but a surpringly large number have been good to wonderful. This article is an overview of these movies.

In the world of animation, once in a while see an animator or an animation studio going through a wonderful creative period. Over the last fifteen years, we have had three or four such hot patches. They do, I think, all owe a lot to the resurgence in animation that occurred due to the first of these, at Disney.

Until the late 1980s, Disney’s animation division had appeared to be in terminal decline. However, this somehow changed: Disney went through a stunning (but relatively brief) period of drawn animated musicals at the end of the 1980s and start of the 1990s, thanks to the wonderful musical work of Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin. In retrospect I think there were two great movies that came out of this, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, but these changed animation forever. The two Disney movies that followed these (and which were as anticipated as they were because of them) were more financially successful, but I don’t think they were quite as good. Aladdin was an Ashman/Menkin movie, but the influence of Robin Williams made it a little uneven, in my opinion. And, very sadly, Howard Ashman was dying when he wrote the music, and it is not as finished and polished as on the earlier movies. The Disney movie that followed that was The Lion King, which had its music written by Elton John and Tim Rice, and although I think this movie is nicely made, it lacks the style of the earlier ones. After that, Disney’s drawn animation went into a steep decline, from which it has not recovered. (Just out of interest – the music and choreography of the first song – Going Through the Motions – of the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is deliberately intended to look like a number from an Ashman/Menkin musical).

Financially, these four movies were extraordinarily successful. Prior to these movies, animation was considered to be something of a niche business, but these movies changed that idea utterly. They grossed far more than anyone had believed possible. Still, though, the audience was mainly children, and this fact made them some of the most financially successful films ever made. This was because they were made after VHS video recorders were ubiquitous. VHS video was a rental business, as people generally only wanted to watch movies once. However, the exception to this was films aimed at children. Children would (and will) watch the same movies over and over, and therefore parents would actually buy VHS tapes for their children. At the time, the prices of such tapes were high, and stunning numbers of the tapes of these four animated movies were sold. (Low quality direct to video sequels were made of these films as well, and these raked in even more). The films had not cost all that much to make (animation was not an art held in high regard just prior to The Little Mermaid) and the levels of profitability were just amazing. (The profit on The Lion King is in the billions of dollars, on an investment of maybe $50 million). Even better, children’s films are hugely valuable things in studio archives, as a new generation of children comes along every few years. (The Ashman/Merkin films also were helped by the fact that they coincided with the arrival of the baby boom echo generation of children. Hollywood was too dumb to be actually aware of this, and didn’t actually figure it out until after the release of the horror film Scream in 1996, but that is a different story, although one well worth telling some other time).

Disney’s competitors saw all this, and felt that they wanted a part of this profit. Therefore, animation divisions were set up by two other existing studios – Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox. A third, new studio – Dreamworks – was formed by Jeffrey Katzenberg, a studio executive who had fallen out with Disney after running Disney’s animation division through the golden period. Animation was central to Dreamworks’s business plan.

All these studios set about producing animated movies in house, and they also set about looking for independent animation studios doing interesting things, who they could commission to make films for them.

What happened was that the cost of animated films went up dramatically, as talent was in demand, and the average quality dropped, as it was more widely dispersed. But, of course, with voume going up, masterpieces did get produced as talented people found it easier to get their work made.

And Disney themself were on the lookout for external talent. And they really found it, in a company called Pixar that had been founded by George Lucas and was owned by Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs.

The biggest success in animation in recent years has been Pixar, creators of the two Toy Story films, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. The story of Pixar has been told elsewhere (even by me), but the summary is that they make beautiful movies. As it happens, I finally got to see Finding Nemo yesterday afternoon. My expectations were very high, as it got wonderful reviews and it is the biggest grossing film of the year so far in the US. And it was very, very good. Technically, it is utterly beautiful. The animated creation of the ocean and its creatures is simply wonderful. Some of the characters are hilarious, especially the surfer Tortoise voiced by director Andrew Stanton and the pelican voiced by Geoffrey Rush. It was particularly nice to see all the sea creatures supposedly in Australian waters voiced by Australian actors with real Australian accents. And the plot was well put together. But I thought it had maybe a little too much schmaltz. Monsters Inc. and particularly Toy Story 2 had a bit more depth to them. Still, a beautiful movie.

Of the other studios, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers were not very successful with their animation divisions. Fox produced a traditional Disney style movie, Anastasia in 1997 which was sort of okay but lacklustre. They then produced an animated movie with a space theme aimed at teenage boys, Titan AE in 2000 which, although it was written by Buffy genius Joss Whedon, was an unqualified disaster. It cost a huge amount of money and found no audience at all. 20th Century Fox chief Bill Mechanic was fired by Rupert Murdoch a few days after it was released, and that is why. Fox then stopped making conventional animation. They did then move into computer animation, and they had a hit with Ice Age, in 2002, but their work in this regard is still fairly unremarkable.

Warners was financially no more successful. Their new division’s first film The Quest for Camelot in 1998, which was a disaster from both financial and critical viewpoints. In 1999, they released a film called The Iron Giant, directed by a film-maker named Brad Bird.

Bird is considered something of a god by the animation world – one of the best people out there. He was involved in the early days of The Simpsons, and is most famous for creating the characters of Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob. The Iron Giant was adapted from Ted Hughes’ children’s book The Iron Man., which seems quite well known by my English friends, but which was not well known to me. This film is perhaps the great masterpiece of animated film of the last decade: sweet, gentle, dark, disturbing, and uplifting. And having had Bird produce it for them, Warners had absolutely no idea how to market it, and it pretty much vanished without trace at the box office. This is seem by many people as a tragedy. The film was so good that it should have launched a new era of great animation at Warners, led by Brad Bird. However, it didn’t.

But as it happens, before Finding Nemo yesterday the cinema showed the trailer for The Incredibles, a computer animated film about a family of superheros and Pixar’s next film. Also, it is Brad Bird’s next film, as after the The Iron Giant debacle, Bird left Warners and was hired by Pixar. This film comes from an artistically different direction from all of Pixars previous films, which have been made either by director John Lasseter or his proteges in what is essentially his style. The trailer is hilarious, showing a retired and out of shape superhero preparing for one last mission, or at least trying to. This is the film that much of the animation world is looking forward to. The question, however, is whose dynasty it is going to belong to. Will it be of Pixar’s legacy of family friendly technical brilliance or the slightly darker and edgier one of Bird. Or will it be some brilliant fusion of the two.

The Iron Giant was, none the less, about the end for Warner’s independent animation division. We are left with the question of the new studio, Dreamworks. And I think, even after quite a few films, the jury is still out on this one. Dreamworks started producing traditional drawn animation: their first film was an animated biblical epic The Prince of Egypt in 1998, which was quite well received and which made money, but which was not the blockbuster Jeffrey Katzenberg had hoped. This was followed up by The Road to El Dorado in 2000, which was a clear misfire, and Stallion: Spirit of Cimarron in 2002, which probably broke even. Drawn animation at Dreamworks had clearly not lived up to Jeffrey Katzenberg’s hopes, but Dreamworks was still doing interesting, ambitious work in the genre in 2002. Possibly, though, not for much longer, because Dreamworks was making far more money elsewhere.

Dreamworks had also set up a computer animation subsidiary, PDI, which produced the film Antz in 1998, which made money, although technically it was much cruder than what Pixar was doing, and then produced Shrek in 2001. Shrek was and is by far the most successful animated film in no way associated with Disney, but it rather left me cold. The film contained various references to Disney animated films and Hollywood in jokes made at the expense of Disney CEO Michael Eisner. It was more satirical than we had seen in animated film before, but not in my mind in a very sophisticated way. Still, it was very popular and actually a good film. I simply do not think that it is as good as some of the other films I have discussed in this article.

Dreamworks has however also bought animated films from one external source, and this source does in my mind produce the best animated work they have been associated with. Nick Park, the brilliant claymation animator of Aardman animation in Briston, has done wonderful things with the short form, particularly the Wallace and Gromit films, but hasn’t quite got things going with feature animation. Aardman have made one feature, Chicken Run, which I think is very good but not quite a great film, and they have had a certain amount of trouble getting more features made. Their film of The Tortoise and the Hare was aborted after going into production, and while a Wallace and Grommit film has gone into production, it is taking a long while before we get to see it. However, audiences love Aardman’s work, even more so outside the US than in it, and everyone is eagerly waiting for their next film. Eagerness to see it is perhaps not quite as strong as eagerness to see The Incredibles but people are pretty eager.

And that really is where we are with animated film in the English speaking world. There was a brief era of great movies at Disney around 1990, one great film from Warner Brothers in 1999, an extraordinary body of work from Pixar over the last seven or eight years, and some good stuff coming from Bristol. Plus a fair bit of dross.

However, in the animation world, there is one other force. And that is Japan. Japanese animation has always been a different product living in a different world from animation elsewhere. It is often frenetic in quality. It is often science fiction, often apocalyptic, often has German expressionist influences, and is often at least semi-pornographic. It has an audience in the west, but it is a different demographic to that of western animation.

Except that within Japanese animation, there is one great artist working. He transcends his genre in the way that some artists do, and his films are popular with virtually everybody in Japan. The artist in question is Hayao Miyazaki, and his films – Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service have over the years been slowly gaining an audience in the west on home video. They are beautifully drawn films, with beautifully told stories of considerable depth, and in terms of quality are amongst the best animated films ever made. Miyazaki is revered by producers of animated films the world over. John Lasseter of Pixar is a particular fan.

And yet Miyazaki’s films have been unable to gain mass audiences in the west, particularly in the United States. Possibly heartened by the success of other animated films, Disney prepared a carefully dubbed version of Miyazaki’s 1997 film Princess Mononoke, a story telling the story of a journey through a supernatural medieval Japan, with just the beginnings of industrial society being apparent. (Actually, in a way the setting of this film rather resembles a Japanese version of Tolkein’s Middle Earth, now I come to think of it). The English translation of the dialogue was adapted by Neil Gaiman, but the film didn’t cross over to mainstream audiences, and grossed only $2.2 million. I was living in Australia at the time, and it barely got a release. Eventually, an independent cinema in Sydney, the Cremorne Orpheum, imported a subtitled print, but they were only able to show it for a frew weeks in their fairly out of the way location before it had committments elsewhere. During its first week the screen showing that one print grossed more than any other screen in Sydney, and once again everyone who saw the film loved it, but it didn’t get released in multiplexes the way that was necessary for it to cross over to mainstream audiences.

Two years ago, Miyazaki’s Spirited Away was released in Japan. This is set in modern day Japan, but is an Alice in Wonderland type story. The main character, Chihiro, is a little girl who is perhaps a little battered by life, and who is separated from her parents in what they think is an abandoned theme park (“They built so many in the early 1990s. And then the economy collapsed….”) but is in fact a bathhouse for the Gods, and tells the story of her strange and wonderful adventures there as she tries to find her way back into the real world and find her parents.

Despite having made many films, Miyazaki seems to still be improving, and this is I think his best film – or at least it is his best of those I have seen. Again, most people feel this way. It was loved by the American animation industry the moment they saw it, John Lasseter of Pixar helped make sure the US release version was as perfect as it could be, the film was released in the US around a year ago, and it eventually won the Academy Award for Best Animated feature. However, it still didn’t cross over to mainstream audiences, grossing around $10 million in the US. This compares with its gross of $230 million in Japan, which in per capita terms is far more than any animated film has ever grossed in the US, and is the highest gross of any film in Japan.

In Britain, the film was finally released three weeks ago, in both subtitled and dubbed versions, and since then it has grossed around $1m. I have finally got to see it. I had been anticipating it for a long time, and it is just beautiful. Still, though, it didn’t get a major release in the multiplexes. Given the quality of the product, and, quite frankly, the accessibility of the product – it doesn’t feel culturally alien if you see it – it is a shame that general audiences have not seen Miyazaki’s films. An American film can be a worldwide hit. A British film can even be a worldwide hit. Taiwanese director Ang Lee managed to produce a worldwide hit from a Kung-Fu movie spoken entirely in Mandarin. But it seems that a Japanese animated film, however good, cannot break through in this way. Which is a great shame, because Miyazaki’s films are some of the unmissable masterpieces of animation today. And as a medium animation should be, and generally is, particularly translateable.

Still, though, they are all available on DVD, and there are many I have not seen. And Miyazaki has another film, Howl’s Moving Castle in pre-production and due for release next year. I am looking forward to this eagerly. As I am looking forward to The Incredibles, to John Lasseter’s new film Cars in 2005, and Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit movie in 2005, or whenever we see it. There seems, in fact, to be a lot of good animated films coming.

Update: When I first posted this article, I got the name of the main character from Spirited Away wrong. The girl is named Chihiro, which I have now corrected in the article.

Further Update: I also repeated a few paragraphs of this post when I initially posted it. This was actually a consequence of the server problems we were having when I first posted it. Sorry.

34 comments to Waiting for Miyazaki, or Thoughts on the state of animated movies.

  • For some reason, the Samizdata server will not presently allow me to post the rest of the post, or even to fix it. I will do so later when I am able.

  • Brian Micklethwait

    And at that point it still wouldn’t work properly. So Michael says.

    I’m not expecting this one to work either.

  • I think it may be possible to post really short comments, but long ones are cropped. In any event, the comments system did dire things to my paragraphing, so this is enough.

  • Okay, the whole thing is finally posted, although the server is I think still somewhat unreliable. If anyone would like to leave some comments on the actual post, please go ahead.

  • BigFire

    Michael, some fact correction.

    Haku is the appretice of the witch. Chihiro/Sen is the little girl/main character.

  • Ian

    The girl in Spirited Away is known as either Sen or Chihiro. Haku is the boy who aids her in her quest.

    Great analysis. However, I believe that Miyazaki is pretty well appreciated around the world. I know for certain that he’s wildly popular in asian countries, not just Japan but China, Indonesia, and others. Spirited Away won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival a couple of years ago, and I understood that it did quite well financially in Europe.

    I posted my own essay on Miyazaki back in April.

  • derek

    “Princess Mononoke” was a wonderful flim, if you watched it with subtitles. Who ever did the dubbing messed up most of the story and removed a great deal of the dramatic effect.


  • dickweed

    Steven den Beste is very fond of Miyazaki, and that’s quite a recommendation. I hope SDB sees your appreciation of the animator. Well done. Now the pain. Any of you aficionados have an opinion about an animated movie called “Heavy Metal”?

  • Michael, nice job on this story, and greatly appreciated by this Miyazaki fan. The few corrections I would make to your content have been done by other readers already, and they’re minor.

    By the way, as a Japanese speaker, on the issue of Sen/Chihiro’s name: that was a great visual pun. You see, when the majo (witch) makes the deal with Chihiro, and the latter signs her name, the “hiro” character drops off the contract, leaving the kanji character “chi”, which is read is isolation as “sen”, the on-yomi or “Chinese reading”. It’s funny if you know the language.

  • Neel Krishnaswami

    Disney has produced one great piece of animation in the last few years — Lilo and Stitch. It’s not as good as The Iron Giant, but it can be compared to it without slinking off in shame, which is something very few movies can do. I have no idea how well it did at the box office, but it was a really strikingly good movie.

  • I really enjoyed Lilo and Stitch too. It was wonderfully twisted, but not so much as to lose its core audience: children.

  • Guy Herbert

    In answer to dickweed: Yes, it is painful to think about, but remarkable in a number of ways.

    I can’t really understand how it got greenlit. It was the first animated feature aimed at an adult (or adolescent) audience since the disastrous LOTR. The source material was cult comics, and, worse, ultimately French cult comics.

    Lets be grateful that they were adventurous enough to do it. Seeing it again is not compulsory. And conceivably it might have been great.

  • Outstanding piece as always, Mr Jennings, though describing the Orpheum as “fairly out of the way” is a bit of an understatement. I’m sure it’s lovely and handy for people who actually live in the area, but for those of us on the south side of the Harbour it’s a terrible bastard of a place to get to. As for Princess Mononoke, the Dendy ran a short Japanese animation festival about three years ago and Mononoke was part of that, so the Orpheum actually isn’t the only place it’s shown. Anime generally doesn’t get much of a cinema release here anyway, though, so Mononoke was hardly unique in that respect…

  • Any opinion on the film Wizards? Is it worth renting?

  • Neel: Yes, I enjoyed Lilo and Stich too. I did actually write about it here, which is an earlier piece along the same lines as the first part of the post above (although I go into detail about different things). The other relatively recent Disney film that I like is Mulan, which was produced by Disney’s Florida based animation team (rather than the usual one in California) like Lilo and Stich. Both of these films did well at the boxoffice without turning into the huge blockbusters that Disney seems these days only able to get from Pixar. I don’t think either are quite on a par with the best of the other movies I have discussed, however.

  • Wizards is, if memory serves, by the Bakshi bros. Good animation for the early 80s, though their plotting used thinner.

    Spirited Away was a wonderful film and it lasted longer on the London circuit than I expected. I saw it at the revamped Curzon in Mayfair – a recommended cinema.

  • Harry Payne

    Bakshi’s “Wizards” is not worth your time or money. Leaving aside the question of whether or not Bakshi’s animation is any good (says he with a copy of “Fire and Ice” on the shelf), “Wizards” is a morally bankrupt tale.

    Miyazaki-sensei’s films, on the otherhand… I’ve placed an order for the back-catalogue from Japan, and will be buying UK copies as and when they are released for presents. I fell in love with his films when I first saw “Laputa” (aka “Castle in the sky”) one Boxing Day at the tail-end of the 80s.

    This site is the place to go for information on the Ghibli films.

  • Part of the issue is the audience. Mononoke was great, but it’s not for kids. And Spirtied Away, which got a huge release is for kids, but my nieces (who love Totoro and Kiki) found it too intense.

  • John Isbell

    I’ll also put in a quick plug for “The Emperor’s New Groove”, which had a happy insanity and quite a few debts to Hanna Barbera from Underdog days.
    Great post. I loved Spirited Away. It was interesting how they made the family Eurasian; also, the train ride may be the most dazzlingly beautiful animated sequence I have ever seen (ahead of Beauty and the Beast).

  • Johnathan

    Spirited Away has deservedly boosted enthusiasm for the genre. Fantatastic film and I will definitely want to check out some more.

  • speedwell

    One reason Princess Mononoke mightn’t have achieved any success to speak of here in the States could be because it simply wasn’t shown much. Its only showing I know of was near my home here in Houston (Texas), in a theater that was either closed (but opened for the purpose) or almost completely out of business… and at that it was a FREE promotional showing, with tickets given out to local art students and professional animators. Not much profit in this, huh. I was only lucky enough to go because my partner is a professional animator.

    We recently bought and watched Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Consider me a confirmed Miyazaki fan… 🙂

  • speedwell

    I don’t think at work even when I post, it would seem… in the above post I meant that I only knew of one showing in Houston.

  • Sylvain

    Just one or 2 things:
    Miyazaki’s first name is Hayao, not Hayayo. Please pay the master his due!

    You should also see the very emotional and very funny Porco Rosso, set mostly over the Adriatic sea under fascist Italy. I write ‘over’ because this movie is about pre-WWII fighter and other airplanes, which Miyazaki obviously loves. Miyazaki displays a general penchant for old-fashioned technology, especially of the flying sort, some of it historical, as in Porco Rosso, some of it fictional but nevertheless obsolete-looking, as in Nausicaa, which also features plenty of flying contraptions.

    While we’re at obsolete-looking fictional technology, see also Metropolis, drawn by old-time Japanese anime master Tezuka. This film has a deliberate retro feel, obviously as a hommage to Fritz Lang’s eponymous work, but maybe also as a twist on Japanese anime’s general craving for super-hi-tech sci-fi stuff. It is visually dazzling, setting Tezuka’s 50s style “flat” animation characters against a 3D computer-generated, intricately detailed, high-rise backdrop (as I remember).

    Returning to Miyazaki, I think My Neighbour Totoro is a must-see, very moving and delicately drawn, with an innocent child-like approach where Chihiro is more sophisticated and twisted (and I love it too).

  • I, too, think Miyazaki Hayao is one of the all-time greats in animation. (I’ve written a lot about him recently, including writing in depth about “Sprited Away”.)

    Recently I’ve become quite impressed with another director whose name is far less well known: Watanabe Shinichiro, who has started using the nickname “Nabeshin” (from “wataNABE SHINichiro”, his name in the normal surname-first-order used in Japan).

    “Excel Saga” is a wild ride, and now I’m totally immersed in “Cowboy Bebop”, which couldn’t be more different except in the obvious quality and richness and sheer talent which comes through.

    Nabeshin is a lot younger than Miyazaki, and I see him as being part of the vanguard of a new golden age of animation. (And in the US I think the best animator working today is Genndy Tartakovsky, who’s also just getting started.) But if you limit yourself just to feature films, you’re missing where the true action is: half hour TV shows, especially limited series’ like Cowboy Bebop.

  • Miyazaki’s first name is Hayao, not Hayayo

    I suppose I could argue that I was using some alternate but justifiable scheme of Romanisation, but no, I won’t. Just a typo. Now fixed. Sorry.

    I haven’t seen Porco Rosso, but I will. I am slowly working my way through them, and the British distributors are slowly releasing them on DVD.

    And yes, I have seen Metropolis, in a London arthouse cinema full of rather hip looking young Japanese people, which was kind of cool. Good film too. (That was the one I was thinking of when I mentioned anime’s German expressionist influences, although I think the influences are certainly wider than that particular film).

    And as for something really intriguing (not actually animated) from a noted Japanese animated filmmaker, might I suggest Avalon, from Ghost in the Shell director Mamoro Oshii. This is a live action film made in Poland, and is sort of a combination between, well, Ghost in the Shell, David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique and one or two World War 2 and Cold war movies I can’t quite think of right now. Really a very interesting mixture of genres.

  • BigFire

    Re: Den Beste

    Common mistake. Nabeshin who made Excel Saga is Shinichi Watanabe. Cowboy Bebop‘s director is Shinichirô Watanabe.

  • I caught a showing of Kiki’s Delivery Service on Disney Channel some time ago. A very sweet and charming story, beautifully animated.

    Cowboy Bebop is really quite astounding at times. Currently Cartoon Network is showing a lot of anime on it’s Toonami and Adult Swim blocks, and not just the apalling Pokemon & Yugioh.

    Recently, Adult Swim showed the indescribable FLCL 6 episode series. And I DO mean indescribable. Gloriously anarchistic, superbly animated and the English voice dubbing was nigh perfect.

    My current anime obsession is The Big O, also on Adult Swim. Think of it as a mix of Batman and Gundam. Noir and giant robot/mecha suits. It works, too.

  • Donavon Pfeiffer

    Heavy Metal was a really popular magazine here in the US when I was a teen. The varied cartoon styles and themes were unavailable in other easily accessable magazines.
    The friends of mine that saw the movie when it came out were, like me, people with the Dune Trilogy on their bookshelves next to the Lord of the Rings, AeroSmith, Ted Nugent and Black Sabbath in their record collection and a stack of Omni’s somewhere.
    We loved the movie, but then again, it was probably aimed at us. I remember it fondly as the best rock video I ever saw. Watching the pacifist elders get slaughtered to “the Mob Rules” was a metalhead’s delight.
    The thread used to bind the stories was weak, but as a video version of the magazine it was a lot of fun.

  • Heavy Metal (the magazine) was a big influence on Ridley Scott when he designed the visual look of Blade Runner. It’s all discussed in this book.

  • George W

    If the worst Disney direct to disc spin-offs are a bad fast food hamburger and the best the West has to offer (probably Pixar) pictured as a magificent steak, then Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” is a 12 course Teppanyaki banquet with sushi starters. There is no comparison.
    Disney’s formula for merchandising is one main character then a couple of cute sidekicks: Pocohontas, Lion King,Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid,Aladdin, and so on. It’s handy to colect the whole set with a McDonald’s Happy Meal- there are always about 6 to collect. They sing too (so you can buy the music) then you repeat the whole thing for the next batch of kids & parents 7 years later, at no origination cost, making pure profit. How many meetings with PR men, accountants, lawyers, and all the other sponges? Too many. What “Spirited Away” does is stick to an original idea from one main vision boss- satcho, then let everyone get on with it- for the sake of art, for the sake of the story;everything. A concept revered in Japan and the East, but in the West, there are just too many meetings, with compromises and “What Ifs”. If you have seen Frank Darabont’s”The Majestic”, you will get an inkling about how a script meeting is like. William Holden in “Sunset Boulevard” says “You might have seen my last picture- all about Okies in the Dust Bowl- but you’d never know it-by the time it reached the screen, it all played on a motor torpedo boat.”
    Cynical? It’s only the movies.
    It’s not real.

    What I am interested in Miyazaki’s work is the recurring theme of abandoned and discarded places. One of the most memorable and successful “Rupert the Bear” images from the 50’s that still haunt me (we are on the subject of cartoons) is the overgrown lost railway. Now there is a topic. Is it the Japanese obsession for the latest gadgets? Is it his vision of the future, because the past always had a kind of permanance without ambiguity- “Castles in the Sky” the workers just got on with their lives.
    Any thoughts from anyone?

  • I have never posted to a blog before but my admiration for the works of Hayao Miyazaki has me here, there and everywhere tossing in my two cents whereever they might be received.

    I second the comments of George W. (May 7, 2004). I appreciated his insights into those waste places in Miyazaki’s movies. I haven’t thought about that before.

    Of course, the likes of Disney or even Pixar will never be able to put together a film that matches Spirited Away. No committee with a responsibility to shareholders can create art at that level. (I do, however, give them credit for making the fourth and fifth best children’s movies of the 20th century [Mary Poppins and Toy Story 2] and to Mr. Lasseter personally for the care he clearly lavished on the English Version of Spirited Away.

    Miyazaki is, in my view, a one in a billion genius: a DaVinci, a Shakespeare, a Vermeer. Every frame in Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke is a painting. His stories, even the wildest fantasies, are true – if you know what I mean.(No one I deal with on a daily basis knows what I mean, which is why I am here, I suppose).

    I don’t want to overburden Miyazakisan and his entertainments with a lot of earnest or sloppy devotion but his works mean a great deal to me.
    If I live to be an old woman, this time in my life when I discovered the films of Miyazaki (late 30s with two little kids and a busy job) will always be evoked by a frame from Spirited Away or a few bars from the score of Princess Mononoke. It will be a happy memory.

    We (my kids and I) watch one Miyazaki film or another every week. I’ll keep an eye on what he does with those abandoned places. There is always something new to see and think about with his movies… Maybe his treatment of those places is like his treatment of his characters – his willingness to let his people be good and bad and not tell you what you should think about it. Of course they are also evocative and haunting. Maybe they are there just because he’s got those images stuck in his wonderous mind.

  • The site is good & has good description of all animation works.We do dubbing & subtitling in many Asian,European & Indian languages.


  • will someone contact me about the Anastasia movie…….or was it really about Marie……..contact my father he knows more ……..586-781-6653 Edward Mularczyk…….thanks cf or http://www.fritzmodels.com

  • will someone contact me about the Anastasia movie…….or was it really about Marie……..contact my father he knows more ……..586-781-6653 Edward Mularczyk…….thanks cf or http://www.fritzmodels.com