With the release of Ghibli’s newest film, Mononoke Hime, in theaters internationally and finally hitting certain parts in the US this weekend, it’s a good time to reflect on the rest of Miyazaki’s work. For each fan of anime, there is at least one anime that they don’t want anyone else knowing about because it was just so damn good. The following list is a mixture of things that I have learned from watching many other animes and my personal opinion. In no specific order:
10) Nausicaä wasn’t originally supposed to be a Ghibli film
Hayao Miyazaki has been quoted as saying “If I had never met Takahata, I would have carried on being a manga artist until the day I died”. Those who have seen Grave of the Fireflies, know that Miyazaki’s talent for powerful storytelling lies not just within his manga’s story but also through creating a world around it. In the case of Nausicaä, Miyazaki had originally started out with a serialized manga called “The Legend of God Soldier”. The anime was going to be directed by Toshio Suzuki, whom is now one of Studio Ghibli’s main producers and directors. However, after seeing some early animation tests from Miyazaki and meeting him in person, he decided to give him control over making a whole new film. This obviously led to bigger things as Suzuki eventually retired from directing and became more of an overseer role as producer.
9) Miyazaki is a Helicopter Pilot
Miyazaki began his aviation career in 1958, but he has been flying for over 50 years! During the 1960’s he took part in many races where planes raced each other at speeds of 500 kilometers per hour. He had planned on becoming a fighter pilot until an accident changed his mind. During the 1970’s, while working on Future Boy Conan, Miyazaki was inspired by helicopters during one scene which prompted him to become a helicopter pilot. On one trip to India, he even got himself trapped in some mud after being forced to land due to bad weather conditions. Luckily there were some jeepers that helped pull out the copter and free Miyazaki later that night. There’s actually a video of it on YouTube, watch it here .
8) Ponyo is based off of the Little Mermaid
Ponyo (ポニョ) is one of Miyazaki’s most recent anime films and he even stated in an interview that the film was heavily influenced by The Little Mermaid. What makes this claim somewhat questionable is that both works take place in a world where there are two oceans: A summer and a winter one. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel can only be with Prince Eric if she becomes human. For Ponyo, it’s her father Fujimoto who warns Sōsuke about how becoming human will cause her to forget about him and become ill.
7) Spirited Away has never won an Oscar
Spirited Away is a mainstream anime that made waves all over the world. It was not only the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time but it also won the coveted Anime Grand Prix prize in 2001. So, why didn’t Miyazaki get an Oscar? In an interview with Newsweek, he stated that it wasn’t his choice to have had Spirited Away get submitted into nomination for Best Animated Feature Film in 2003. Miyazaki has since then opposed sending in Spirited Away again because there are too many rules and regulations involved in getting nominated which causes studios to dumb down their works before trying out for one in order to appeal more to American audiences.
6) The castle in Howl’s Moving is actually based on a real structure in the Czech Republic
Howl’s Moving Castle is a unique Ghibli film since it was written by someone other than Miyazaki for once. Although Miyazaki did write the original book from which howls was adapted, they used parts of Diana Wynn Jones’ novel and parts of Miyazaki’s own film Nausicaä to form some sort of new story. At the end of the day though, it was still a mishmash or “braid” as he called it that would not have been possible had there not been some sort of connection to his past works like Laputa. What makes this interesting is that when Howl’s Moving Castle was released around Europe, many fans noticed some distinct similarities between Ghibli’s castle and the Krizik’s Fountain in Litomyšl, Czech Republic. There are some uncanny resemblances between certain features of both structures that make it unmistakably similar. Click here to see for yourself.
5) The Wind Rises is about pacifism during war
Miyazaki himself has stated that this film is his last one due to health reasons but most people don’t seem to understand precisely why he made The Wind Rises in the first place. This film was intended to be a final message with regards to war, specifically World War II. Miyazaki had once said that “Japanese society has never faced up to the damage it inflicted on other Asian nations nor its responsibility toward civilian victims.” and his film seems to be a response to that. In an interview with The Guardian, Miyazaki stated that during the war, people tend to lose their humanity and would usually resort to being extremely selfish in order for them to survive. This is shown through the main character of The Wind Rises, Jiro Horikoshi who had dreams of creating beautiful airplanes but instead had become a weapon of destruction.
4) Miyazaki got married at age 52
Miyazaki is now 72 years old and has been married twice before. He didn’t want children anymore after his divorce from his first wife as he said it “would interfere with his work.” His second marriage was what led him to become a father as he met Akemi Ota (小田明実) through a mutual friend who wanted to introduce them to each other. In an interview with NHK, Miyazaki said that he had been interested in Ota from the very start because she manages a traditional Japanese Inn and it was her being so independent at her job which appealed to him. The two ended up dating for a year before getting married and now have a 13-year old son named Keita.
3) Hayao Miyazaki is not “retired” but has since moved onto animation background work
Miyazaki played an integral role in Studio Ghibli as he wrote or co-wrote almost all of their films over the past 30 years as well as directed many of them as well. He also supervised almost all of Ghibli’s other film productions such as Grave of the Fireflies and Ocean Waves. Miyazaki was also very active in animating many segments for various Studio Ghibli’s short films such as Yadosagashi (やどさがし, House Hunting), On Your Mark and Mr. Dough and The Whale Hunt. It was quite a shock to fans worldwide when he said that he had retired from directing feature-length animated films but it seems like this is not entirely true. Despite his retirement announcement, Miyazaki has since worked on storyboarding three sequences within Isao Takahata’s film The Tale of Princess Kaguya .
2) Hayao Miyazaki will most likely retire by the time he’s 70 years old
The reason why Miyazaki retired in the first place was that he’s always hated “idle talk.” He said that whenever he had to attend a meeting with executives, they’d usually start by asking him what he’d be doing next and his response would always be “I’m thinking about it.” or “Let me get back to you on that. We’ll set a deadline later on so we can meet up sometime and discuss it.” which is something he described as being extremely troublesome. His main concern was that if people overworked themselves too much then they’d eventually burn out and run themselves into the ground which is why he refuses to work past retirement age. If Miyazaki were to tell Ghibli that his next film would not be made until 2022, it would be a virtual guarantee that this project would start production right after his retirement.
1) Hayao Miyazaki has been working on a new animated film since October of last year
This is probably the biggest piece of news that just got released within the past two weeks and if you’re not from Japan then chances are you wouldn’t have known about it. Last year Miyazaki had said that he wanted to work on another feature-length movie once Goro Murata’s Ronja the Robber’s Daughter aired but in all likelihood, there was no way he could’ve finished a new film by next April unless Studio Ghibli went bankrupt which will never happen. However, there was one consistent bit of advice he gave staff members and the media when they asked what he’d be doing next. This was because he wanted to create something much smaller in scale than The Wind Rises which followed the life story of Jiro Horikoshi. It would be too difficult to turn his previous projects into an anime tv series due to copyrights issues with all of the characters appearing in them but Miyazaki still wanted to make a movie about something that could be easily turned into an animated feature. When reports of Miyazaki working on a new film arose earlier this year, there were rumors floating around claiming it would be based on Pippi Longstockings but ended up being completely false information. What actually happened was that Miyazaki was given several books by people whom he had worked within the past and The Dune was one of the first ones to catch his attention. Miyazaki immediately fell in love with its story but knew that if he were to faithfully adapt it into an anime then it would end up being a movie that’s well over three hours long, possibly even close to four hours. He dived deeper into The Dune universe by reading other books written by Frank Herbert as well as watching David Lynch’s film adaptation of the series which still remains one of his favorite movies to this day. After Miyazaki finished reading all six chapters of the original novel, he told Ghibli president Koji Hoshino that he wanted to make a new theatrical feature-length film out of The Dune. Studio Ghibli first got their hands on the rights to make an anime from The Dune series back in 2012 and it took them four years to finally secure them once again for this project. In all likelihood, Miyazaki’s film will most likely be finished by 2020 as he stated it’ll only take him two years to complete a new animated feature-length film. This is somewhat surprising since his last three movies have all been around 100 minutes long at best but then again, Studio Ghibli has released around 25 full-length theatrical films thus far so they’re not exactly strangers when it comes to dealing with a large number of projects within a short amount of time.