Studio Ghibli films have gained enough momentum to be considered as a global phenomenon, with more and more people seeking out new productions from the iconic studio as well as revisiting the masterpieces that they have produced over the years. A lot of that success can be attributed to the pioneer at the helm – Hayao Miyazaki.
It isn’t a coincidence that most of the celebrated Studio Ghibli works have been directed and written by Miyazaki, the man who gifted the world with unforgettable creations such as My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away among other incredibly important works. Miyazaki’s contributions exceed far beyond the projects he has made during his time at the studio.
Apart from what he has created, Miyazaki has also inspired newer generations of filmmakers to take up animation. While he has actively advocated young artists to focus on the spiritual and existential elements of animation instead of the mechanics-focused CGI, there has been one aspiring artist who was discouraged from venturing into the world of animation by Miyazaki.
That person was none other than his own son, Gorō Miyazaki, who discovered his love for art when he came across his father’s sketches. However, Gorō felt that he could never become as accomplished as the master auteur in that specific domain so he focused on landscape architecture instead and even worked as an architectural consultant after graduation.
In fact, he was even involved in the designing of the Ghibli museum and worked as a director there before trying his luck at animation. “You know, kids always want to do against their father, so that really motivated me to do something completely opposite of what he wants me to do,” he explained. “So him being opposed to me becoming a director really helped me motivate myself in film making.”
Over the years, there have been many filmmakers at Studio Ghibli other than Miyazaki who have created wonderful works of art. The name of Isao Takahata immediately jumps to mind as Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli’s most iconic projects but there have been others such as Whisper of the Heart‘s Yoshifumi Kondō and even Tomomi Mochizuki who made the severely underrated gem Ocean Waves.
In the last decade, Studio Ghibli has added to its legacy by making modern masterpieces such as Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya but Gorō Miyazaki’s contributions have been out of place. He started with a dubious Ursula K. Le Guin adaptation when he made Tales from Earthsea which received some praise for its animation but was heavily criticised for the narrative deficiencies.
Gorō has followed it up with other projects but the only one that has received acclaim is his 2011 film From Up on Poppy Hill whose script was penned by his father. What makes matters worse is his latest project – Earwig and the Witch – which became Studio Ghibli’s first truly 3D computer generated anime, an example of everything that Miyazaki had warned against since it felt completely soulless.
Miyazaki obviously came to the defence of his son when everyone expressed their disappointment and supported his vision but it was reported that he had told his son to stop making films after Tales from Earthsea. Gorō has gone on to claim that the future of Studio Ghibli is CGI which is very disheartening for fans who fell in love with its meticulously animated works.
“One of the things I found was that with hand-drawn animation, you have to rely on the hands of a very talented animator to bring out a great performance from the character with facial expressions, emotions, and so forth,” Gorō reflected in an interview. “There’s a limited number of very talented animators that can do so. That’s one of the big challenges with hand-drawn animation.”
That’s exactly why most fans are eagerly waiting for Hayao Miyazaki’s final project How Do You Live? which promises to be a classic Studio Ghibli experience, as opposed to the new thing that Gorō is working on currently. Studio Ghibli’s films are deeply personal and their vision is simply magical, something that Gorō hasn’t quite learnt yet.
Miyazaki, while talking about How Do You Live?, said that it was meant as a farewell letter to his grandson: “Grandpa is moving onto the next world soon but he is leaving this film behind because he loves you.” Just that statement alone explains why the future of Studio Ghibli still revolves around the inimitable auteur.