Following the release of the intensely personal The Wind Rises, Studio Ghibli maestro and legendary animator/director Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement. Given that he was 72 at the time, was famous for his perfectionism and had produced some of the greatest animated films of all-time over 20 years, few held it against him. He left the direction of Studio Ghibli to his son Goro Miyazaki and explained that from now on he’d devote himself to small projects.
Apparently retirement didn’t agree with the famously strict workaholic though, because he’s back with Kemushi no Boro, or Boro the Caterpillar, a feature-length expansion of an upcoming CG short he’s been working on.
For diehard Studio Ghibli fans, and fans of great cinema in general, this is big news, which is why it’s odd that the new production was casually mentioned, without fanfare, in a recent Japanese TV special titled Hayao Miyazaki; The Man Who Is Not Done. The special, broadcast on NHK TV, showed how Miyazaki had been spending his time since he’d dropped out the limelight.
It begins with a depressing sight – the Studio Ghibli offices deserted and devoid of life. After all, these are the desks on which Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro first came to life! Could the end of Miyazaki be the end of Studio Ghibli? Fortunately, one by one, the staff returns and the animation room is soon teeming with life.
The next surprise is seeing Miyazaki working digitally. This most traditional of animators gets to grip with drawing on a tablet, watching the animation change in real time. While this might be a new working technique, he’s still the same old tyrant about quality. He dismisses work as “Terrible … draw them again.” One animator gets both barrels: “Are you living your life without thinking of anything? If that’s no good then step down. Quit as soon as possible!”
We conclude with the announcement of the new feature, timed for release in 2019, just before the Tokyo Olympics. Miyazaki notes that he’ll be 78 when the film releases, noting “Maybe I’ll be alive?” A (brave) member of staff wonders what’ll happen if he dies during production, with another noting that’ll make it “a big hit.” Miyazaki concludes: “I think it’s still better to die when you are doing something than dying when you are doing nothing,”
Morbid humor aside, it’s great to hear that Miyazaki is back. 2019 can’t come soon enough.