Q&A: Hayao Miyazaki isn’t making features but is at work on manga

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Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki will accept an honorary Oscar on Saturday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards. Miyazaki, 73, who won a competitive Oscar for his 2002 animated fantasy “Spirited Away,” announced his retirement from directing last year.

In an interview through a translator, Miyazaki discussed the future of his Tokyo-based animation company, Studio Ghibli, his latest creative project and the precarious future of hand-drawn animation.

Congratulations on receiving an honorary Oscar. What do awards mean to you at this point in your career?


I would never want to be on a jury to choose somebody to receive an award. I don’t like to rank things. I do have a kind of distaste for that sort of thing.

The last time we spoke, your film “The Wind Rises” was just about to open in the U.S. and you had recently announced your retirement. How are you spending your time now?

I’m very busy. I go into my atelier every day, and a lot is requested of me, so I work on those items. It’s a bit of a problem for me. For example, I have a friend who has gone to Fukushima to help out with children there, with getting them a play area and a place that they can spend time in. I’m asked to make a graphic for that location, to draw up plans for that kind of facility, and also for the Studio Ghibli museum. We sometimes make new pictures for the displays at the museum. And my own hobby, which is drawing a manga; I haven’t been able to finish it, so I’m pulled in all different directions.

Earlier this year some people got the impression that Studio Ghibli was going to stop making new movies. Is that the case?

At this point, we’re not making a new film. I think we will not be making any feature films to be shown in theaters. That was not my intention, though. All I did was announce that I would be retiring and not making any more features.

Is there not a next generation at the studio who could continue after you and your partner, Isao Takahata?


That will depend on their efforts and whether they’ll have the fortune, the luck, to be able to make films.

Do you think the medium of hand-drawn animation will continue, if not at Studio Ghibli then somewhere else?

If creators have the intent to do hand-drawn animation, there certainly will be opportunities for them to do that. But what might be a difficulty will be the financial considerations. I do think the era of pencil, paper and film is coming to an end.

Can you tell me about the manga you’re working on?

It’s something I wanted to do when I was a student. It’s about samurai in the 16th century, wearing full armor, battling it out with each other. I was very dissatisfied with the way that era was depicted in fiction and film, so I wanted to draw something that would reflect the way I thought that era should look. ... The great director Akira Kurosawa filmed his films in large, open spaces like golf courses, and there weren’t those large, open spaces in Japan.

Do you watch movies from other animation studios?


I’m not a very serious audience for films. I prefer the scenery that I see while I’m taking my walks.

When was the last time you were here in California?

I’ve been several times, but it wasn’t necessarily on my own initiative that I went. I was always requested to show up. One was when “Spirited Away” was released in the U.S., also I went around the time that “Ponyo” was to be released in the U.S. This time [Disney executive] John Lasseter has invited me to go to his house. He’s a very valued friend of mine, so I’m looking forward to visiting him.

I’ve heard he has a train in his yard. Will you ride on it?

He’s warming up the engine boiler. He’s very enthused about it.

When I interviewed your son Goro a couple of years ago, he found it peculiar that so few people go for walks here in California.

I also feel the same way. John Lasseter’s yard is so large. Maybe we’ll walk there.

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