Enrico Casarosa Talks Miyazaki

Enrico Casarosa

GhibliWorld.com offers a superb in-depth interview with Pixar story artist Enrico Casarosa in which he talks about Hayao Miyazaki’s influence on his work. Of particular interest is the insightful passage in which Enrico contrasts the ways in which Pixar and Ghibli tell their stories. An excerpt:

“Well, as I was just saying, the process [at Pixar] is very much one of doing and redoing, making things better step by step. It involves a willingness to pick apart the movie and its themes. This constant editing and refining can be frustrating at times. The huge difference is that at Ghibli storyboards are done by the director and they are followed without exception. So you find a very different way of doing things there, the studio and its artists are following the leader’s vision without deliberation, editing or feedback necessary. Incidentally it sounds like Suzuki-san might be the only person at Ghibli able to have a discussion with Miyazaki-san regarding the story or characters of the movie they’re producing. In this setting though Miyazaki is free to go on his own journey finding the movie he wants to tell, bit by bit. The result are stories that are more fully personal and hold an authenticity and uniqueness which is close to impossible to achieve in the US, where a story, in the best case scenario, is well crafted by several gifted people while in the worse case scenario is made by committee. I think that’s what is great about many projects coming from Japan, with their own merits or faults, they possess an unwavering will to stick to their director’s vision. The stories are allowed to be more idiosyncratic that way and that is what I personally find inspiring and refreshing.”


  • http://stephansolarchive.blogspot.com Stephan

    What a nice article! I agree with Enrico on the uniqueness of animation from Japan, because the dirctor’s will is the “law” on the project. However, I myself also like to work on projects of my own, but I always check with others if the intention of my story is well received.

  • narkspud

    “I think that’s what is great about many projects coming from Japan, with their own merits or faults, they possess an unwavering will to stick to their director’s vision.”

    Hmmm . . . sounds like Persepolis.

  • http://gagaman.blogspot.com The Gagaman

    One thing I like about Japanese animation studios is that when the sceudule is coming to a close on a feature film and they still have a lot of animation to do, they’ll get other studios to chip in on the work. I was watching Tekkonkinkreet the other week and the credits listed just about the entire Japanese animation industry helping out: Gonzo, I.G, Gainax, Ghibli, and many, many others. It’s really quite heart warming, like the industry over there is like one big community.

  • http://doubleben.blogspot.com/ Emmett Goodman

    This seems to support why so much Japanese animation today looks a hell of a lot better than most of today’s American commercial animation. Is it possible for their process to work over here in the U.S. It seems like Pixar comes the closest to following the examples set.

  • http://salmon-leap.blogspot.com/ Daniel

    While this does indeed create a nice contrast, and results in more personal films (any quick glance at Miyazaki’s oeuvre can quickly determine most of his preoccupations), feature animation is almost by definition a collaborative art form. Individuals cannot create a feature film themselves.

    So while the end product of Miyazaki’s process is indeed amazing (I’m saying this as someone who loves Miyazaki’s work, who was inspired to become an animator because of his films) he would probably be hell to work for if you could have no input that affects the film. Also, if the director is any degree of a lesser talent, the film will crash and burn as much as a film written by committee.

    But as Enrico Casarosa implies, the failure of a film that comes from a personal singular individual will still be more idiosyncratic and thus interesting… So I dunno, I still have mixed feelings.

  • christy

    awesome article-
    yea-a friend of mine told me the same thing about the japanese studios helping each other out -he said that the studio that did mindgame had help from some of the other big studios because they were so psyched about the project-has anyone else heard anything like that? if its true thats pretty cool.

  • Dori

    I think an American film that is an exception to the rule is Iron Giant. Because WB had pretty much written off the animation feature unit after the debacle of Quest for Camelot, Brad Bird was given a lot more freedom (as in ignored) by the lot as long as he came in on budget. And he had a very dedicated crew that was passionate about following Brad’s vision. As a result the film really does have a sense of being led by a single, talented director. After Iron Giant got such great reviews despite practically no marketing, the main studio got interested again in the animation unit and Osmosis Jones was once again committeed to death.

  • Trav

    While it’s true that the larger studios in Japan do end up sharing a lot of work, you could say the same thing of American studios; they just send the work to Korea instead of the studio across the street. Though we Americans blanch at the words, “farming it out,” that’s exactly what’s going on between studios there.

    And yes, a director with absolute power and no willingness to listen to the cogs in the machine could be difficult to work for by say, Pixar’s standards. But keep in mind that animation is generally thought of much more as a learned craft than a special art form in Japan. You come in, do your work for the studio, and leave. Yep, even at Ghibli. This can be reflected in the mainstream public’s acceptance of animated films as, well, regular films. It’s not a special magical medium with its own Oscar category like it is here.

    True, no animated feature film could be made without collaboration, but the idea that Joe Shmoe animator can openly make story suggestions to the director is rather unheard of in Japan.

  • http://segaltoons.com Steve Segal

    This is a great concept. You can see this type of originality and personal vision here in the US by looking at the films of Bill Plympton (and almost any personal short film: Don Hertzfeldt, Chris Landreth, John Canemaker, Jan Pinkava, Joanna Priestley, etc.).

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Being reminded of what Trav said earlier about the way Japanese studios often collaborate on particular products such as stated above (and how it is often done in the US). It should be of note of course there tends to be twice to 3X as many studios out of Tokyo alone than there are in Metro LA (as well as in a few other cities/prefectures in the country), often a lot of small-time outfits that in the past often worked on things like backgrounds, inbetween, ink & paint and what-not (this was more common in the 80′s when OVA’s were coming out on a regular basis). Of course in recent years much of the work has also been farmed out to Korean studios like DR Movie and so-on. Of course I sorta wished we had more of that here with a lot of small-time studios springing up that took on projects from the big leagues.

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tim Drage

    True, no animated feature film could be made without collaboration, but the idea that Joe Shmoe animator can openly make story suggestions to the director is rather unheard of in Japan.
    Ironically, Miyazaki got started doing just exactly that early in his career, on films such as “Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon” and “Hols: Prince of the Sun”.

  • http://www.ronniedelcarmen.com/blog1/blog.html Ronnie del Carmen

    I say, “Well said, Enrico!”

    Another crucial aspect in both distinct story processes (between the U.S. and Japanese) is the quality of the storytellers involved. A good director/storyteller is usually behind a successful movie. That said, no amount of auteur freedom and absence of outside input can guarantee a good movie, as well as no amount of well-intended collaboration across a production’s personnel can insure the same.

    As creators we pine for that time when we can make our own movie as we damn please. If you’re worth your salt as a storyteller then well and good. If not or unsure then may you have the wisdom to know a good idea suggested your way and the humility to actually use it.

  • Kelly Tindall

    Lovely interview, thank you for posting it.

  • http://enricocasarosa.com/wordpress.1 enrico casarosa

    You all raise good and compelling points with your comments. This is fun stuff to discuss.

    I certainly agree on the fact that given a choice one would rather work in a teamwork environment, where a storyman can have a certain input. There just isn’t such a opportunity in the way Ghibli makes his movies.

    Tangentially … and interesting point that I am fascinated with … and that I hinted at in the interview is the idea of straight ahead storytelling versus scripted and figured out storytelling. What is amazing about Miyazaki is that he starts a story often without knowing its ending.

    That is one gutsy way of flying: he doesn’t know where he’s gonna land. I feel that when he’s successful at it (and sometimes hasn’t been) it’s amazingly satisfying … we are taken along this unpredictable and wonderful ride he’s taking himself. That is unique and maybe exactly what makes his movies so special. I feel that a scripted film will never quite have that feel.
    I don’t think there are many directors in the world able to do that though, especially when there are big budgets at hand.

    In that respect I feel pretty lucky to be working in a studio where even with big budgets at play we have directors wanting and able to take some chances. If you look at Pixar’s last movie and the two upcoming ones you’d have to agree there is a willingness to stray from the ordinary and take some chances.

  • Daniel Mata

    Now lets just hope that willingness to stray from the ordinary would lead to more 2D films, and maybe a few directed to the adult audience.