“Retirement” is often a synonym for a “long break” or an “artistic vacay” for creatives who insist they’re done doing what they do best. Steven Soderbergh is re-emerging from his “retirement” next week with Logan Lucky, and Hayao Miyazaki is on his way to returning to filmmaking (again) after retiring. But even if you were skeptical about the master animator’s return, have no fear because today brings some more solid proof.
Watching the fanciful films of Studio Ghibli, it’s all too easy to imagine yourself transported to these far-off worlds of fantasy. The universe created by animation heads Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata feel simultaneously cozy and adventurous, practically inviting you to take a ride on My Neighbor Totoro’s catbus, pig out at the enchanted buffet (pun intended) of Spirited Away, or goof around with the cute little forest spirits in Princess Mononoke. That dream has now inched closer to reality, as worthy competition emerges to rival the insane-sounding Avatar theme park that opened earlier this week.
It’s been an exciting time for Studio Ghibli fans. First, beloved director Hayao Miyazaki assured us all a few years ago that he was leaving, before pulling a Favre and signing on for JUST ONE MORE project (sure), and now, for those fans who’d rather not scour the darknet for a bootlegged copy with mediocre-to-indecipherable subtitles, Ghibli’s 1993 film Ocean Waves is coming to American theaters for the first time ever in 2017.
To American audiences, Studio Ghibli must be the biggest name in overseas animation, having brought domestic cineplexes such visually sumptuous, emotionally affecting films as ‘The Wind Rises,’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle,’ and ‘Spirited Away’ to our fair shores. (That last one earned team Ghibli the Oscar for Best Animated Feature back in 2003, a first for the studio.) Those three films all happen to have been created by now-retired Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki, but as the mind behind ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,’ ‘Pom Poko,’ and ‘Grave of the Fireflies,’ animator Isao Takahata has been just as crucial to the studio’s stellar track record.
Hayao Miyazaki, the mastermind behind Studio Ghibli and the director of films like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises, has been viewed by many as the last bastion of traditional, hand-drawn animation. How fans will react when they learn that he’s planning to make his first entirely computer generated short film is unknown, but we predict “generally bummed out, but maybe intrigued.”
At Pixar, when we have a problem and we can't seem to solve it, we often take a laser disc of one of Mr. Miyazaki's films and look at a scene in our screening room for a shot of inspiration. And it always works! We come away amazed and inspired...