Animation Hayao Miyazaki Studio Ghibli Term Paper

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Hayao Miyazaki: Studio Ghibli

Anime, for all its weirdness, eccentricity, poignancy, hilarity, and Japaneseness, is a learning experience no matter how you value it. Hayao Miyazaki hopes that Western fans can view anime and say, 'There's something other than the place where I live, things that I'm familiar with, there is something else out there that has value to it.' -- Shinobu Price, 2001

Throughout the history of modern art there are those influences which have been having a major impact on the way everyone is looking at the world around them. Part of the reason for this, is because many of these techniques are so ground breaking that they have changed the focus of contemporary artists by creating a new type of genre. A good example is by looking the works of Hayao Miyazaki. He has developed new techniques that have been utilizing animation to transform the way the general public is entertained. Evidence of this can be found with Miyazaki's 1984 Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This groundbreaking film used a number of techniques and devices that would shape the way many animation projects were created in the future to include: the use of modern day themes and animation to tell a unique story to the audience ("Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," 2010). Likewise, Schilling reports that, "Hayao Miyazaki's animated films had gone head-to-head with Disney rivals at the local box office five straight times by 1995 and beaten them every time. But though a growing number of foreign fans praise them for the beauty of their animation and the psychological realism of their characters, the products of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli are created for the domestic audience" (p. 11). These elements and issues are important because they highlight how this director created a series of projects that influenced film-making well into the future. To fully understand the impact of Miyazaki on the industry requires a background and overview of his life as well as an examination concerning how his animations were influenced by: historical, social and economic issues. Following this analysis, it will provide the greatest insights as to his overall influences on contemporary films. At which point it will be possible to specifically focus the research project on certain aspects of this director and his effect on the world of entertainment.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview

In order to understand the historical, social and economic influences on Miyazaki's life, it is essential to examine the context in which these factors existed during his life. For one thing, Miyazaki enjoyed a rich history of animation during his youth since Japanese animators had been producing animated films since the early 20th century. For instance, Schilling (1997) reports that, "As early as the mid-1910s some excellent animated films were completed, including Noburo Ofuji's experimental series Chiyogami Anime" (p. 139). For another thing, following the end of World War II, while the Japanese nation was rebuilding itself from its rubble, there was increased attention in the animation industry on producing feature-length animated films, with most of these being produced for Japanese children (Shilling, 1997). During the early 1980s, however, a number of feature-length films were produced that were geared towards a more general audience, including adults (Schilling, 1997). One of the most important directors of this type of feature-length animated films has been Hayao Miyazaki, whose works, such as Tonari no Totoro ("Totoro, the neighborhood ghost," 1988), represent a new direction in modern Japanese art (Schilling, 1997).

Figure 1. Screenshot from Miyazaki's "Totoro, the neighborhood ghost"

Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_IgdgYrIKgGk/TQ_xUme4h9I/AAAAAAAAAjw / vRqUMLjAxF4/s1600/Totoro.jpg

The prolific Miyazaki was born in 1941 in Tokyo, the second of four brothers. Miyazaki's father was an executive in the Japanese aircraft industry during World War II, but his mother suffered from spinal tuberculosis during much of his youth (Schilling, 1997). Later in his career, Miyazaki reported that his mother had been influential in shaping his skeptical and questioning personality (Shilling, 1997). Miyazaki attended Gakushuin University, a prestigious private college that had a close relationship with the Japanese imperial family, where he majored in economics and political science where he became influenced by the leftist rhetoric of the day as well as his membership in a children's literature study circle that fueled his desire to become a professional animator (Schilling, 1997)..

Following his graduation from Gakushuin in 1963, Miyazaki became an apprentice at Toei Animation, the largest animation studio in Asia then and now; this entry-level position did not pay much, but it was a job involved with the animation industry to which Miyazaki aspired (Schilling, 1997). This modest beginning would quickly lead to more important work for Miyazaki. For example, Schilling reports that, "This was an unusual choice of occupation for a Gakushuin graduate, but Miyazaki was a diligent and talented animator who soon attracted the attention of his seniors. One was Isao Takahatal who first supervised Miyazaki as a director on the 1964 TV series Okami Shonen Ken (Ken the Wild Boy). Miyazaki and Takahata also worked together as activists in the company union" (1997, p. 139).

Just 2 years later, Miyazaki became involved with an animation project that would have significant implications for his career. According to Schilling, "In 1965 Miyazaki joined the production team that director Takahata and animation director Yasuo Otsuka were assembling to produce a full-length animated feature, Taiyo no Oji Horus no Daiboken (The Little Norse Prince Valiant)" (1997, p. 139). In a sharp departure from standard industry practice at the time, the film's directors invited all members of the production team to the storyboarding meetings, and Miyazaki demonstrated his innate talent in ways that set his apart from his peers. In this regard, Schilling notes that, "Bombarding his superiors with ideas, he played a key role in developing the film's style and storyline" (1997, p. 139). In an effort to distinguish their work from the low-quality aspects of the anime industry, Miyazaki and the production team set their sights higher, determined to reach larger audiences and produce work that would rival the best in the business (which of course was Disney at the time). The production achieved the team's goals of creating a work that would challenge live-action movies. For instance, according to Price, "The work of famed animator Hayao Miyazaki often rivals the complex emotional realism of live action films. Never caring much for the simplified and superficial nature of Disney movies, his films place more importance in portraying realistic emotions (and even extreme social and political consciousness) than in the realistic movement so highly regarded in Western animation" (2001, p. 153). The influence of this production on the animation industry in general and the animation industry in Japan in particular is noted by Price as well who reports, "Miyazaki's work helped convince many Japanese animators working on unambitious run-of-the-mill television shows, as well as the general populace, that anime was an extraordinary medium capable of infinite possibilities for any gender or age" (2001, p. 153).

Following the successful release of The Little Norse Prince Valiant, Miyazaki and Takahata departed their positions at Toei Animation in favor of new ones at A-Pro, a new animation production company. Collaboration between these two resulted in the 1972 production, Panda Kopanda ("Panda, Panda Cub" or "Panda Go Panda" -- see Figure 2 below), a timely work that drew on the panda craze that was prevalent at the time; however, in spite of the fantasy aspects of the production, the film still managed to accurately depict the inner world of its young protagonist (Schilling, 1997).

Figure 2. Screenshot from Miyazaki's 1972 "Panda, Panda Cub"

Source: http://www.animetion.co.uk/Reviews/anime/pandagopandap1.jpg

A year later, the team of Miyazaki and Takahata once again changed jobs, leaving A-Pro to take positions with Zuiyo Pictures; in their new positions, Miyazaki and Takahata created Alps no Shojo Heidi ("Heidi"), described by Schilling as "the first Japanese TV anime series based on sketches and information gathered by animators at a foreign location, in this case Switzerland" (1997, p. 139). This production was distinctive from the frenzied pace of the anime genre at the time by being a calmer, more detailed depiction of 19th century life in a Swiss village, and was highly successful as a result (Schilling, 1997).

Notwithstanding this track record of success, the production that rocketed Miyazaki to international fame and recognition within the Japanese film industry was his Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa ("Nousicaa of the Valley of the Wind") released in 1984, described by Schilling as "an epic eco-fable about a young girl's struggle to survive in a poisoned world inhabited by warring tribes and giant mutant insects" (1997, p. 139). In collaboration with Takahata as producer, Miyazaki wrote and directed 59 episodes of this series until its end in 1984; during its lengthy run, Miyazaki explored complex issues such as the relationship between good and evil and God and humans as well as the human condition itself (Schilling 1997). This series garnered numerous national and international awards, including the Grand Prize at the Second Japanese… [END OF PREVIEW]

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