Earlier today in Tokyo, Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki held a press conference attended by over 600 journalists to formally announce his retirement. He acknowledged that he has said he would quit before: “I’ve mentioned that I would retire many times in the past, so a lot of you must be thinking ‘Oh, not again.’ But this time I am quite serious.”
Miyazaki explained his reasons for why he no longer wants to direct animated features:
I’m not sure you all know exactly what an animation director does. And even if you say ‘animation director’ everyone has their own way of working. I started as an animator, so I have to draw. If I don’t draw, I can’t express myself.
So what happens is, I have to take my glasses off and draw like this. I would have to do that forever. No matter how physically fit and healthy you are, it’s a fact that year after year the amount of time you’re able to concentrate on that decreases. I have experienced this personally, so I know. So, for example I leave my desk 30 minutes earlier compared to during Ponyo. Next I guess it’ll be one hour earlier than that.
Those physical issues that occur with age, there’s nothing you can do about them, and hating them doesn’t make a difference. There’s the opinion that i should just do things a different way, but if I could do that I would have already done a long time ago, so I can’t. Therefore, all I can do is persist in doing things on my terms, and I made the call that feature films would be impossible.
Miyazaki is leaving feature animation on a high note. His new film Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is Japan’s top-grossing film of 2013. At the conference, Miyazaki said that he will continue going into the studio “as long as I can drive and commute back and forth between my home and the studio.” He expects to work for at least another ten years on projects of his choosing, but refused to divulge what those might be, other than hinting that he would become more involved with organizing exhibitions at the Ghibli Museum.
In a self-effacing moment, one of many during the conference, he related what happened when he told his wife that he was retiring:
So, this is the way the conversation about my retirement with my wife went—I said, “Please keep making my bento,” and she said, “Hmph…at your age it’s unheard of to have someone still making your lunch everyday.” So I said, “I am terribly sorry, but I’ll still leave it to you.” I don’t know if I said it that politely.