A Report on the Japanese Anime Film Director
By Mithil Bhoras S.E. Comp F Div
Hayao Miyazaki is a world famous anime director whose films set a new standard in the world of
animation. He is one of the main founders of Studio Ghibli, a renowned animation film studio and
the best after Disney.
A Brief Introduction to Anime:
Anime origins from Japan. It is the short form of ―animation‖. Anime has a different visual
style than other forms of animation. It’s had drawn colorful graphics, mostly intended for
adult audiences. Depending on the context, the meaning of Anime varies.
While the earliest known Japanese animation dates to 1917, and many original Japanese
cartoons were produced in the ensuing decades, the characteristic anime style developed in
the 1960s notably with the work of Osamu Tezuka and became known outside Japan in the
1980s. Just like Manga, which a word for cartoon strips and comic books in Japan, Anime
has a large audience in Japan and recognition throughout the world. Anime is both-hand
drawn and computer-generated, both or either of them. Each and every frame is drawn by
hand and the film is generated at the
rate of about 24 frames per second.
Here is one example of a hand-
drawn frame from a Miyazaki film
titled Spirited away (2001).
What these animators do is create a
storyboard i.e. a rough sketch of
what is going to happen in a scene.
Next, they create the drawings
called the ―Key drawings‖ which
only represents the most important
frames of that scene. They don’t tell the entire scene though. They are the key frames that
decide the key moments of the fictional characters therein. After the approval of Key
drawings from the director, the animators draw the ―Inbetween drawings‖ that come between
the key drawings and link them together. This creates a continuous shot after tedious hard
Thus Anime is completely different from computer-generated animation films. Each and
every frame has hard work behind it and directing these kinds of films is quite difficult.
Though, the end result is always satisfying and organic. Japan has witnessed countless artists
who have produced some of the best animated films in the world. Hayao Miyazaki is one of
them. From next topic, we shall see about Hayao Miyazaki’s life in short, his films and their
influence on the world of Animation…
Miyazaki: Early Life
Miyazaki, the second of four sons, was born in the town of Akebono-cho, part of Tokyo's
Bunkyō on 5th January, 1941. During World War II, Miyazaki's father, Katsuji, was director
of Miyazaki Airplane, owned by his brother (Hayao Miyazaki's uncle), which made rudders
for A6M Zero fighter
planes. During this
developed a lifelong
aviation. Aviation is
his signature style in
almost all of his
films. The layout at
the left is from
Porco Rosso (1992)
which contains his
During his childhood, Miyazaki was forced to switch schools several times. These would all
impact elements of his films. First, when he was three, Miyazaki's family was forced to
evacuate Bunkyō. He began school as an evacuee in 1947. At age nine his family returned
home, but the following year he switched to another American-influenced elementary school.
Miyazaki attended Toyotama High School. In his third year there, he saw the film Hakujaden
(The Tale of the White Serpent), which has been described as "the first-ever Japanese feature
length color anime." Miyazaki confessed that this film was a driving force for him and this is
when the true desire to become an animator occurred in him. After high school, Miyazaki
attended Gakushuin University, from which he would graduate in 1963 with degrees in
political science and economics. He was a member of the "Children's Literature research
club," the "closest thing to a comics club in those days." Miyazaki later decided to become a
Manga artist but he was more expert in drawing planes, tanks, battleships but wasn’t good at
drawing people. Despite the criticism, Miyazaki decided to study animation.
His inspiration behind this step was the film Hakujaden which he first saw in high school. At
one point he decided to drop-out as a Manga artist and pursue animation. Miyazaki trained
himself hard for drawings he couldn’t do.
A picture of Miyazaki in his youth…
Poster of the First color anime feature film The tale of the White
Serpent (1958) that inspired Miyazaki to become an animator.
Miyazaki: Animation Career
In April 1963, Miyazaki got a job at Toei Animation, working as an in-between artist on the
anime Watchdog Bow Wow (Wanwan Chushingura). In no time he became the chief secretary
in Toei’s Union labour. In 1965, he worked as an In-between for the anime Gulliver’s Travels
beyond the Moon (Poster is right below). He gained recognition for his efforts as he had
changed the ending because he had found it unsatisfactory. Later, he married fellow animator
Akemi Ota and had two sons.
In 1968, Miyazaki made an anime with
Isao Takahata, a well-known animator
and a friend with whom he continued to
collaborate for the next thirty years. The
anime was Hols: Prince of the Sun (The
Poster is given below). Till the early
1970s; Miyazaki had worked as Key
animator in many anime films at Toei
In 1971, he left Toei and worked in many other
Animation studios like Mushi Production, A
Pro, Nippon Animation, and TMS Entertainment.
After working for some years with Takahata and
the other studios, Miyazaki animated two short
Panda! Go, Panda! Films directed by Takahata.
He then co-directed 6 episodes of Lupin III with Takahata. This is
a series that was based on a Manga comic created by Monkey
Punch. He also helped in the production of anime series like
Sherlock Hound, Future Canon boy and also did landscaping for
Takahata’s Heidi another anime series which is still remembered
for its dreamy animation and Takahata’s signature humanly
themes. Miyazaki worked on many Mangas, short films and
worked as an Inbetween and Key animators for many anime films,
some of them mentioned above. Then in 1979, Miyazaki made his
first feature anime film Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro. Now we
shall see 10 major films directed by Miyazaki…
Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
In 1979, Miyazaki directed his first anime film. Miyazaki had already created six episodes for
the anime series Lupin III. This is well-known in the entire Lupin III collection. Lupin III is
also considered as a surprising piece of anime delivered from a first-timer, which made the
audience realise of the fact that Miyazaki had potential of making great films.
Lupin is a thief. He is a crafty and notorious
con artist interested in girls and money. One
day when he attempts to rob in a castle,
everything goes wrong. But he is saved by a
lovely princess and her dog. After years, he
encounters her, trying to run away from a
group of nasty gunmen trying to hunt her
down. His attempt to save the girl leads him
straight back to the castle. Now, he must solve
the great mystery of the castle in order to save
the princess against all odds…
The film was recognised by the world only
after Miyazaki had created a huge fan base of
his films. The Official DVD was released in
2005. The Castle of Cagliostro placed in 5th
place on Japan's Agency for Cultural Affair’s
list of best anime. Even great directors like Steven Spielberg have praised this film and his
praise appears on the DVD’s front cover. The film has also influenced Pixar’s animator John
Lasseter, the producer of the famous Toy Story trilogy. Although this film is not Miyazaki’s
best, it was a fresh new attempt in anime with beautiful visuals, great characterization and a
stunning story. After
Miyazaki’s first film, he
made another anime that
permanently put him
among the greatest
anime directors in
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no
Tani no Nausicaä) (1984)
Miyazaki in February 1982 started his Manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind which he
continued till 1992. In between, he decided to direct his second anime film based on this
Manga of his. So in 1984, the film was released and it sparked a new taste in anime.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is the
story of Nausicaä, a young, revolting and
nature-loving princess who live in the valley
of the wind. It is the time when humans have
polluted the Earth beyond repair and toxic
forests have replaced some of Earth’s natural
ecosystem. Some creatures like the Ohmu,
who have adapted to such surroundings,
happen to defend the forests. One day,
another princess from the country of
Tolmekia, attacks the valley and proposes to
destroy the toxic forests and the creatures that
defend it in order to prevent the toxins from
spreading over the entire world. Nausicaä
now must choose between the creatures and
her kin, a decision that can change the future
of the valley…
This film was one of the most important in Miyazaki’s career. Because of this film, Miyazaki
along with Takahata established Studio Ghibli, one the most well-known and famous
animation studios in the world. Nausicaä of the valley of the wind clearly shows us the
difference between Nausicaä and other Heroes. For instance, Nausicaä is a girl. The feminism
theme is prominent in almost all of Miyazaki’s films and he Quote once in an interview:
―When you see a man holding a gun, you aren’t surprised. When you see a girl holding a gun,
now that’s something…‖ The film also shows Miyazaki’s passion for aviation as Nausicaä
most of the times uses a glider in the film, better known as Mehve. Another signature style of
Miyazaki’s is the eco-friendly theme which he has used in almost all his films, both on a
subtle and non-subtle level. The film made more than 700 million yen. The film was released
in Japan on March 4, 1984 and was presented by the World Wide Fund for Nature. While
created before Studio Ghibli was founded, the film is considered to be the beginning of the
studio and is often included as part of the Studio's works, including the Studio Ghibli
Miyazaki was approached by Tokuma Shoten to convert his Manga into an anime but he
refused at first. Eventually, he agreed to direct and animators were appointed to create the
film. A notable animator, Hidaeki Anno created the most complex scenes in the film which
include the famous Attack of the Great-Warrior sequence, considered by many the highest
point in the film. The snapshot below shows the scene where the princess of Tolmekia orders
the last of the Great-Warrior to destroy the Ohmu creatures.
The film received many awards including Animage Anime Grand Prix Prize 1984. Recently,
it was restored and released on Blu-ray in many countries in multiple languages. The film is
very well-known and remembered for its lush and organic visuals and the feminism, eco-
friendly themes. Following the success of the film, Miyazaki founded Studio Ghibli in 1985.
This is the official
logo of the studio.
The creature in the
logo is Totoro, a
Miyazaki made a
film later in1988
on Totoro named
became equally famous alongside the Teddy Bear. After the success of Nausicaä, Miyazaki
moved towards making another classic anime remembered for its boldness and innocence…
After the grand success of Nausicaä, New World Pictures released a completely different
version of Nausicaä of the valley of the wind by re-dubbing and re-editing the film. They
gave the film the title ―Warriors of the Wind‖ which was almost half-an-hour shorter than
Nausicaä and was distributed widely in North America on VHS and broadcasted on HBO.
Consequently, part of the film's narrative meaning was lost; some of the environmentalist
themes were diluted as was the main subplot of the Ohmu, altered to turn them into
aggressive enemies. Most of the characters were renamed (for example, Nausicaä became
"Princess Zandra"). The cover for the VHS release featured a cadre of male characters who
are not in the film, riding the resurrected God Warrior—including a still-living Warrior
shown briefly in a flashback. It was released around the world under various titles, such
as Sternenkrieger (literally "Star Warriors") in Germany.
On learning this, Ghibli was very disappointed with Warriors of the Wind. Miyazaki told the
fans to simply put it out of their minds. They later adopted a strict ―no-cuts‖ clause. Before
the release of one of Ghibli’s films, Miramax who was distributing the film offered to cut the
film to make it more marketable. But Ghibli remained strict about the no-cuts clause and the
film was fortunately not tampered with.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Tenkū no Shiro
In 1986, Miyazaki directed another memorable anime classic, Laputa: Castle in the Sky. It’s
officially the first film of Studio Ghibli and produced by Isao Takahata. This film also won
the Animage Anime Grand Prix Award 1986.
Pazu is an Orphan who works in a mine-field. On
an ordinary day, he discovers a girl, literally
floating down from the sky to the earth. The girl’s
name is Sheeta who having escaped the captivity
of mysterious men led by a man named Colonel
Mushka from a dirigible takes refuge of Pazu. But
then another mysterious group of pirates try to
catch Sheeta. As the mysteries unfold, the
presence of a secret unknown floating castle
named Laputa is uncovered eventually solving the
mysterious survival of Sheeta, the girl who fell
from the sky, unraveling a lost kingdom that first
ruled the entire planet and Mushka’s plan to take
control of it…
Filled with innocence yet braveness, Laputa achieves in keeping the adventurous spirit alive
throughout the anime. Miyazaki also uses some violent means to display the cruelty of men
and how they are different from children. Although Laputa looks like an adventure film for
kids, its deep symbolism and character development teaches us very important lessons in life.
This is the film that shows us a distinctive difference between studios like Pixar and Ghibli.
Hayao Miyazaki won many awards along with Takahata for Laputa. Although Laputa had no
special visuals that stood it apart from other anime, Laputa’s heroism was praised widely and
Miyazaki won the hearts of young and old alike.
The name Laputa itself comes from a novel written by Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels. In
this story, Swift's Laputa is also a flying island that may be controlled by its citizens.
Anthony Lioi feels that Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky is similar to themes from Swift's
Laputa, where the technological superiority of the castle in the sky is used for political ends.
Laputa is credited by Colonel Muska with having been behind Biblical events and
sacred Hindu legends — thus tying the world of Laputa to our Earth (and to
western European civilization) — as do the medieval castle architecture of parts of the fort on
the ground; the Gothic and half-timbered buildings in the village near the fort; the Welsh
mining-town architecture, clothing, and even ground vehicles of Pazu's homeland; and the
Victorian ambiance of the pirate ship. The anime also makes references to the Hindu
epic Ramayana, including "Indra's arrow", while the name Sheeta may possibly be a
reference to Sita, the female lead in the Ramayana.
the architecture seen in
the film was inspired by
a Welsh mining town.
Miyazaki first visited
Wales in 1984 and
witnessed the miners'
strike firsthand. He
returned to the country
in 1986 to prepare
for Laputa, which he
said reflected his Welsh
experience: "I was in
Wales just after the
miners' strike. I really admired the way the miners' unions fought to the very end for their
jobs and communities, and I wanted to reflect the strength of those communities in my
film.‖ Miyazaki told The Guardian, "I admired those men, I admired the way they battled to
save their way of life, just as the coal miners in Japan did. Many people of my generation see
the miners as a symbol; a dying breed of fighting men. Now they are gone."
The film was later released under three different titles by three different distributors as the
name ―Laputa‖ means The Whore in Spanish. It sounded offensive to many but in Japanese it
means nothing. The word was taken from the Gulliver’s travels. Even today, the film is
remembered as Castle in the sky, simply that…
My Neighbour Totoro (Torani no Totoro) (1988)
1988 was an important year for anime as three very
vital anime films were released during that year:
Grave of the Fireflies, Akira and My Neighbour
Totoro. Grave of the fireflies, another Ghibli anime,
was an anti-war film directed by Isao Takahata and
was released the same time Miyazaki’s Totoro came
out. Although Grave and Akira both through their
violent approach to film-making achieved in
creating landmark animation films,(especially Akira
that helped set the standard for mordern animation)
Miyazaki’s extremely simple but brilliant anime was
not overlooked. Today, Totoro has become one of
the most well-known animated figure, his impact on
Japanese culture was deep. Once again Miyazaki
approaches his well-known signature style of
feminism, aviation and Environmentalism… Hayao
Miyazaki produced, wrote and directed this film.
Two sisters with their father move to a new home. Their mother is ill and has been admitted
in a local Hospital. While living in their new home, the two girls begin to realise the presence
of spirits in the nearby forest. Eventually they befriend Totoro, the gaurdian of the forest,
who finds pleasure in simple things and is responsible for the growth of the plants in the
Famous critics like Roger Ebert have praised the film as one of Miyazaki’s greatest anime
films. Unlike Miyazaki’s earlier films which caught the attention of audiences worldwide
many years after they were released, Totoro gained quick fame worldwide and Hayao
Miyazaki’s position as a stong director became more stronger. This was one of the first anime
films to catch the attention of the world and brought Japanese anime in global spotlight. The
film was praised for it’s stunning natural visuals, it’s direction, simple and subtle flow of the
story, the energetic performances of the two sisters and who can forget Totoro, the forest
spirit who teaches us enjoy life’s simple things. All these elements created a new kind of
The art director of this film Kazuo Oga was challenged by Miyazaki when he showed him the
original picture of Totoro. Miyazaki challenged him to raise his standards. Oga’s experience
jump-started his career. Both Oga and Miyazaki used different colors for soil the former used
black soil color of Akita Prefecture (a place)
and the latter used red soil color from the
Kanto Region. The ultimate result was
marvellous and created a beautiful anime.
Oga described his approach to painting
background art: "I appreciate my role and I
draw with the feeling that if I don't make a
good effort, I will be somehow punished."
Oga's conscientious approach to My
Neighbour Totoro was a style that
the International Herald Tribune recognized
as "the traditional Japanese animist sense of
a natural world that is fully, spiritually
alive". The newspaper described the final
product, "Set in a period that is both modern
and nostalgic, the film creates a fantastic, yet strangely believable universe of supernatural
creatures coexisting with modernity. Great parts of this sense comes from Oga’s evocative
backgrounds, which give each tree, hedge and twist in the road an indefinable feeling of
warmth that seems ready to spring into sentient life." Oga's work on My Neighbour
Totoro led to his continued involvement with Studio Ghibli. The studio assigned jobs to Oga
that would play to his strengths, and Oga's style became a trademark style of Studio Ghibli.
Miyazaki's niece was the model for the character of Mei.
A main-belt asteroid was named after
Totoro as 10160 Totoro that was
discovered on December 31, 1994 by T.
Kobayashi and Oizumi.
Totoro has also made many cameo appearances in other films
like Miyazaki’s next film Kiki’s Delivery service, Ghibli
films like Pom Poko and Whisper of the Heart. In 2010,
Pixar’s Toy Story 3 came out. Totoro made a silent
appearance in the film as a plush toy in the film. On the right
is the snapshot of the film with Totoro in the background.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin)
The film that is loosely based on Eiko Kadono’s
novel of same name, came out in 1989 following
Totoro’s success. Miyazaki directed, wrote and
produced this film and it is the fourth Ghibli film.
Kiki, A young witch arrives in a town (Koriko) for
her training. She is alone, except for the company of
her cat, Jiji. After a minor incident, a pregnant
woman who runs bakery with her husband lends her
a room and suggests Kiki to run a delivery service.
Equipped with a magical broom and the company of
her smart cat, Kiki tries to find her way into the city
life fighting home-sickness and sometimes
This film was the highest grossing film in Japan that year. The world caught the attention of
Kiki in 1998 when the english dub was released in the west in collaboration with Disney.
Kiki, just like Totoro, is a simple and subtle outlook towards life and it’s a unique coming-of-
age film that delighted young and old alike. Kiki achieves in creating a calm and satisfying
environment in the first place. The buildings in the city itself were inspired from Stockholm’s
The Kiki’s Delivery Service project started in spring of 1987, when Group Fudosha asked the
publishers of Eiko Kadono’s book if they could adapt it into a featured film directed by
Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli. Due to the approval of Miyazaki’s
film My Neighbour Totoro and Takahata’s film Grave of the Fireflies for production, neither
Miyazaki nor Takahata was available to take up the direction of the project at the moment.
Miyazaki took up the role as producer of the film while the position of director was still
unfilled. During the start of the project and the nearing of Totoro's completion, members of
Studio Ghibli were being recruited for senior staff for the Kiki’s Delivery Service project. The
character design position was given to Katsuya Kondo, who was working with Miyazaki
on Totoro. Hiroshi Ohno another notable animator was hired as art director, partly because he
was requested by Kazuo Oga, who was part of Miyazaki's Totoro team as well.
Although many positions had been filled, the project still lacked a director. Miyazaki, busy
with Totoro, looked at many directors himself, but found none he thought fit to articulate the
project. Finally they found a director, Sunao Katabuchi (which was to be his directorial
debut) who had previously worked with Miyazaki on Sherlock Hound. Ghibli hired Nobuyuki
Isshiki to write the script but Miyazaki was disappointed by the first draft, finding it dry and
too divergent from his own vision of the film. Studio Ghibli rejected this draft of the
screenplay after Miyazaki voiced his disapproval.
Finally, when Totoro was
finished and released,
Miyazaki began to look
more closely at Kiki’s
Delivery Service. He
started by writing a
screenplay himself, and
since Majo no
Takkyūbin was based in a
fictional country in
northern Europe, he and
the senior staff went to
research landscapes and
other elements of the
setting. Their main stops were Stockholm and the Swedish island of Gotland. Eventually
Miyazaki took over as director when Katabuchi got intimidated.
Miyazaki has noted that the real town of Visby in Gotland, Sweden is the main visual
inspiration for the city. Fictional Koriko is much larger than Visby. Generally the buildings
and shops of Koriko have the look of Stockholm, or the old town of a Central European city
such as Munich.
The film is set in an idealised trouble-
free northern Europe of the early 60s –
as with most Ghibli films, one of the
glories of the film is the impossibly real
and detailed scenery, in this case of the
stunning city on the sea. The name of
the city is not actually used in the
movie (except in writing on the side of
a briefly visible bus) and it is often
spelled "Coriko" in publications from
Ghibli. The time setting for Kiki's
Delivery Service was a subject for discussion among the movie's fans for some time: Kiki
carries a transistor radio apparently of 1960s vintage, and some characters are seen watching
black-and-white television sets, but the cars and some of the aircraft seem to be from an
earlier period. Specifically, a plane resembling the Handley Page H.P.42 is seen during the
opening credits, although all eight of the H.P.42 aircraft had been decommissioned or
destroyed by 1941. The controversy was settled when Miyazaki said the story took place in
the 1960s of an alternative universe in which both World Wars never took place!
Porco Rosso (Kurenai no Buta) (1992)
Keeping true to his most favourite aviation theme, Miyazaki produced anime in 1992. It is
Miyazaki’s sixth anime film and was distributed by Toho Distribution in Japan. Disney took
the rights to distribute it in the US.
During the Great Depression, Porco Rosso is
a former flying ace who works as a
freelance pirate hunter. He frequents the
Hotel Adriano, where he spends time with
Gina, the owner of the hotel and one of his
closest friends. The film depicts the
adventures of Porco Rosso. Porco Rosso in
Italian means Crimson Pig. He has actually
been cursed to be a pig a long time ago.
The film was originally planned as a short in-
flight film for Japan Airlines based on Hayao
Miyazaki’s Manga The Age of the Flying
Boat, but grew into a feature-length film.
The outbreak of war in Yugoslavia cast a
shadow over production and prompted a
more serious tone for the film, which originally had been set in Croatia. The airline remained
a major investor in the film, and showed it as an in-flight film well before its theatrical
release. Due to this, the opening text introducing the film appears simultaneously in Japanese,
Italian, Korean, English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, French and German. Porco
Rosso was the number one film on the Japanese market in 1992, earning ¥2.8 billion in
distribution income. It was selected as the "Prix du long métrage (Feature movie) at the
1993 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. It also made Time Out's top 50 animated
movie list. On Anime News Network (ANN) Porco Rosso, as of Dec 2010, has over 2,600
ratings, the average of which is
8.212 out of 10.
Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime) (1997)
1997 was another year when some really great films came out. Titanic was released in this
year and became the first film to break the One Billion dollar mark, making it the highest
grossing movie of
the year and of all
time. But there
released that year
that some critics
to this date still
term it as
anime of all time.
They termed it ―a
this film, it did
not go unnoticed.
This film officially brought all the Studio Ghibli films on an international level and Hayao
Miyazaki earned many awards for this film, including the Best Picture award in the Japanese
Academy Awards, the highest honor bestowed on a film in Japan.
A giant boar-demon attacks an Emishi village and the protagonist, Ashitaka, is forced to fight
and kill him. In the struggle, Ashitaka receives a curse on his right arm, which grants him
superhuman strength but will eventually kill him. Under the advice of the village
wisewoman, he leaves to travel to the west in search of a cure. After some traveling, he meets
Jigo, a wandering monk who tells Ashitaka that he might find help from the forest spirit of a
mountain range populated by giant animal-gods. Iron Town, located in that range, continually
clears the nearby forests to make charcoal to smelt ironsand and produces advanced firearms,
leading to battles with the giant forest beasts. Among these animals are giant wolves
accompanied by San, who the villagers of Iron Town call "Princess Mononoke." She is a
young human woman who was adopted by the giant wolf goddess Moro, is desperately trying
to keep a notorious woman Lady Eboshi from invading the forest who runs Iron Town.
Ashitaka then has to choose between the forest and the humans of Iron Town, a decision that
can change his fate…
It is interesting to know that Miyazaki took 16 years to develop the story and characters of
this film. The has truly has a deep outlook towards life suggesting that life is not so easy as
they show in most films. The visuals of this film were directly taken from his own Manga
that he created in 1983, titled The Journey of Shauna. It was during the making of this Manga
when Miyazaki had an idea to make Princess Mononoke. He gave himself a lot of time while
developing the characters, the imagery and the most vital element, the story. If one sees the
film, he will discover the fantastic and complex character development in the film which
suggested that no one was actually good or bad. Miyazaki displayed a really unusual cliché in
this film that one does not get to see in modern films i.e. changing loyalties. Though
Mononoke is a fantasy film, Miyazaki still sticked to realism in this film. This film was also
the first Ghibli anime to use computer graphics.
The film has been dubbed in numerous languages. Miramax dubbed the film in English. And
Disney took the rights for it’s U.S. distribution. This is the time when Mononoke received
acclaim from international audience. The film appears frequently on the Best Animated films
of all time lists. Critics claimed it to be a visually stunning and a thought-provoking
milestone in cinematic world. Even in this film the most common themes like feminism and
environmentalism are prominent. Though, fans were surprised to discover that Miyazaki
never used his favorite aviation theme in the film. In addition to that, Miyazaki also used
violence in greater detail to make the film more realistic like in the war sequences men’s
arms get amputated. It was chosen as the Japanese submission for the Academy Award for
Best Foreign Language Film for that year.
Mononoke means angry or vengeful spirit. Hime is the Japanese honorific word that means
princess, which, in the rules of Japanese grammar, is placed after a person's name instead of
before, as is the custom in many Western languages. When the film's title was translated into
English, it was decided that Mononoke would be left as a name rather than translated
literally. This was also to be Miyazaki’s last film but he was inspired yet again to make
another anime that achieved much grander success and earned Miyazaki an Academy Award
Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)
In his retirement, Miyazaki was spending some time with his friends when one of his friend’s
daughter caught his attention and inspired him to create another masterpeice, Spirited Away.
In the 75th Academy Awards, the film won the best
Animated Film of the year. Critics claim this to be his
second best achievement at film-making, probably the
greatest 2D animation ever made.
The film tells the story of Chihiro Ogino, a sullen ten-
year-old girl who, while moving to a new
neighbourhood, becomes trapped in an alternate
reality that is inhabited by spirits and monsters. After
her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch
Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in
Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and
her parents and escape back to the human world.
Haku, Yubaba’s so-called apprentice, helps Chihiro
until at last he realises that he had met her before and
had known her his whole life…
Every summer, Hayao Miyazaki spent his vacation at a mountain cabin with his family and
five girls who were friends of the family. The idea for Spirited Away came about when he
desired to make a film for these friends. Miyazaki had previously directed films like My
Neighbour Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, which were for small children and teenagers,
but he had not created a film for ten-year-old girls. For inspiration, he read shōjo
Manga magazines like Nakayoshi and Ribon the girls had left at the cabin, but felt they only
offered subjects on "crushes" and romance. When looking at his young friends, Miyazaki felt
this was not what they "held dear in their hearts." Instead, he decided to make the film about
a girl heroine whom they could look up to. He said, ―I created a heroine who is an ordinary
girl, someone with whom the audience can sympathize. It's not a story in which the characters
grow up, but a story in which they draw on something already inside them, brought out by the
particular circumstances. I want my young friends to live like that, and I think they, too, have
such a wish.‖
Production of the film commenced in 2000 on a 1.9 billion Yen (US$19 million) budget. As
with Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki and his staff had experimented with the process of
computer animation. Equipping themselves with more computers and programs
like Softimage, the Studio Ghibli staff began to learn the software, but kept the technology at
a level to enhance the story, not to "steal the show." Each character was largely animated by
hand, with Miyazaki working alongside his animators to see they were getting it just right.
The biggest difficulty in making the film was to cut down its length. When production
started, Miyazaki realized it would be more than three hours long if he made it according to
his plot. He had to cut many scenes from the story, and tried to reduce the "eye-candy" in the
film because he wanted it to be simple. Miyazaki did not want to make the hero a "pretty
girl." At the beginning, he was frustrated at how she looked "dull" and thought, "She isn't
cute. Isn't there something we can do?" As the film neared the end, however, he was relieved
to feel "she will be a charming woman."
When released, Spirited Away became the most successful film in Japanese history, grossing
over $274 million worldwide. The film overtook Titanic (at the time the top grossing film
worldwide) in the Japanese box office to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese
history. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards,
the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival and also the Japanese
Academy Award for Best Picture, second anime film to do so, first being Princess
Spirited Away’s stunning visuals, dazzling imagery and the usual deep characterization is
extremely rich. Miyazaki’s attention to detail is much stronger. Here Miyazaki yet once again
sticks to his signature styles. But the environmental theme is given a more subtle look in the
film while feminism and aviation are quite prominent.
Executive Producer John Lasseter of Pixar supervised the English-language dubbing of the
film and tried to match the actors' English-language dialog with the mouth movements of the
This is the first film to earn US$200 million in grosses before opening in the U.S.
First anime film to be nominated for (and win) an Academy Award. It also has the longest
runtime of any other film nominated or winning in that category (125 minutes).
Miyazaki wasn’t present during the Academy Awards because he didn’t want to come to a
country that was bombing Iraq.
Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauru no Ugoku Shiro)
Based on Dianna Wynne Jones’ novel, Howl is another masterwork of Hayao Miyazaki.
Miyazaki was once again nominated for Oscar, though he did not win. After Spirited away’s
grand success, Miyazaki became active once
again and made two more anime films,
A love story between an 18-year-old girl
named Sofî, cursed by a witch into an old
woman's body, and a magician named
Hauru. Under the curse, Sofî sets out to seek
her fortune, which takes her to Hauru's
strange moving castle. In the castle, Sophie
meets Hauru's fire demon, named Karishifâ.
Seeing that she is under a curse, the demon
makes a deal with Sophie--if she breaks the
contract he is under with Hauru, then
Karushifâ will lift the curse that Sophie is
under, and she will return to her 18-year-old
This time too, Miyazaki for the third time caught the eye of the world with breathtaking
visuals and never ending imagination. Miyazaki takes a step forward in the use of computer
graphics. Although the films story was drastically different than the novel’s, Miyazaki keeps
true to the character Sophie’s emotions, making a great impact. The film had its world
premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 5, 2004 and was released in Japanese
theatres on November 20, 2004. It went on to gross $231.7 million worldwide, making it one
of the most financially successful Japanese films in history. The film was subsequently
dubbed into English by Pixar's Peter Doctor and distributed in North America by Walt
Disney Pictures. It received a limited release in the United States and Canada beginning June
10, 2005 and was released nationwide in Australia on September 22 and in the UK the
following September. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated
Feature at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006.
Although the film was not released in the United Kingdom until 23 September 2005,
director Hayao Miyazaki personally travelled to England in the summer of 2004 to give a
private showing of the film to Diana Wynne Jones.
The birdlike glider that Howl uses looks like the one used in Nausicaa, mostly remembered
by the namesake Mehve.
Ponyo (Gake no Ue no Ponyo) (2008)
Ponyo came out in 2008, directed and written by Miyazaki and his tenth film. It is the
sixteenth film of Ghibli. Though not his best, Miyazaki still delivers a dazzling film
experience sticking to the old film-making techniques and his signature styles.
The son of a sailor, 5-year old Sosuke lives a quiet life
on an Oceanside cliff with his mother Lisa. One fateful
day, he finds a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle on
the beach and upon rescuing her, names her Ponyo.
But she is no ordinary goldfish. The daughter of a
masterful wizard and a sea goddess, Ponyo uses her
father's magic to transform herself into a young girl
and quickly falls in love with Sosuke, but the use of
such powerful sorcery causes a dangerous imbalance
in the world. As the moon steadily draws nearer to the
earth and Ponyo's father sends the ocean's mighty
waves to find his daughter, the two children embark on
an adventure of a lifetime to save the world and fulfil
Ponyo's dreams of becoming human.
The film was written, directed, and animated by Hayao Miyazaki, who said his inspiration
was the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Little Mermaid" but his inspiration was more
abstract than a story. Production on Ponyo started October 2006.
Miyazaki was intimately involved with the hand-drawn animation in Ponyo. He preferred to
draw the sea and waves himself, and enjoyed experimenting with how to express this
important part of the film. The level of detailed drawing present in the film resulted in
170,000 separate images—a record for a Miyazaki film.
Ponyo's name is onomatopoeia, based on Miyazaki's idea of what a "soft, squishy softness"
sounds like when touched.
The seaside village where the story takes place is inspired by Tomonoura, a real town
in Setonaikai National Park in Japan, where Miyazaki stayed in 2005. Some of the setting
and story was affected by Richard Wagner's opera Die Walküre. The music also makes
reference to Wagner's opera. The character of Sōsuke is based on Miyazaki's son Gorō
Miyazaki when he was five. Sōsuke’s name is taken from the hero in the famous novel The
Although the film wasn’t received positively the way Miyazaki’s former three films were,
Ponyo was universally acclaimed by film critics worldwide. Miyazaki’s Ponyo takes place
90% of the time in ocean. Up until now, this was the last film of Miyazaki after which he did
storyboards and screenwriting for some films…
Ponyo was completely hand-drawn. No computer graphics were used as Miyazaki wanted to
stick to traditional anime.
Recently, Miyazaki did the screenplay for another Ghibli
film The Secret world of Arriety (Poster on right),
directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The film tells the
story of Arriety, a young Borrower, who lives under the
floorboards of a typical household. She eventually
befriends Sho, a human boy with a heart condition since
birth, who is living with his great aunt, Sadako. The film
was released in Japan in 2010 and is currently running in
He then did
storyboards for his
given below). The film though wasn’t a hit and critics
considered it one of the worst anime to come out from
Ghibli, probably the only one.
He also worked on the screenplay of another film,
From up on Poppy hill, also directed by his son Goro
Miyazaki. Hayao Miyazaki is currently working on
the story of his son’s next film. But no word has yet
come out about his next film…
Though Miyazaki has promised a sequel to his film Porco Rosso where the main character is
going to be shown old, depicting Miyazaki’s own aging.
Nausicaä of the valley of the wind…
Laputa: Castle of the sky…