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Hayao Grumpy-zaki

Hayao Miyazaki

The Japan Times has details about a press conference that Hayao Miyazaki held in Tokyo a few weeks ago. The article describes him as a “cranky 67-year-old” which is not too inaccurate a description considering what he said at the conference. Then again, anybody who makes films as well as Miyazaki does deserves to be as cranky as they want.

Miyazaki seemingly has an opinion about everything, from Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s apprecation of manga (“It’s an embarrassment. He should do that sort of thing in his private time.”) to how classic films don’t work for today’s audiences (“[A]udiences today can no longer enjoy films that are more than 30 years old, save in a historical sense…If Casablanca were released now, it wouldn’t be a hit.”). He also thinks that today’s kids shouldn’t use so much technology (“It takes away their strength.”) and that the world is ending (“I’m not confident that we can stave off the collapse of civilization, though we must make the maximum effort.”)

That latter statement is actually more positive than he was about the fate of humanity in this 2005 The New Yorker profile (a highly recommended read by the way):

“I’m hoping I’ll live another thirty years. I want to see the sea rise over Tokyo and the NTV tower become an island. I’d like to see Manhattan underwater. I’d like to see when the human population plummets and there are no more high-rises, because nobody’s buying them. I’m excited about that.”

(via Harvey Deneroff)

  • areader

    He’s a genius, but he’s dead wrong about modern audiences and “old” films.
    I wonder how many times he’s sat in a theater as I have with a packed audience that loves “Casablanca” or any other really great film from silents all the way to the end of the golden age of cinema? Audiences love them, go totally nuts if it’s a comedy-and I mean an audience not made up of hardcore film buffs, either.
    On the other hand, Japan is like another planet from the West, so perhaps it’s that way over there-it’d be a shame, though, if “old” Kurosawa films held no interest for modern Japanese.

  • Siamang

    Hmmm… a cranky bitter animator. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday.

  • SlapHappySappy

    Not really shocking considering he’s not a very successful family man.

  • ovi

    its the end of the world, indeed.

  • hoggan

    I think he’s a smart, intelligent man just sharing some honest opinions. Just because they arent as positive as the masses doesn’t make him cranky. Hell we could all use a little armagedon ;) Might take the edge off the recession, and the Iraqi war!! The things we worry about…..the things we worry about…!!

  • How ironic that he thinks ‘classic’ films aren’t palatable to modern audiences when pretty much every film he’s ever made is based in fairy tale lore(Howl, Spirited Away, Laputa, Mononoke), or amps up the ‘good old days’ quaint childhood nostalgia angle (Totoro, Kiki, Ponyo).

  • Clam Bakeness

    Wow. That tears it. This New Years I’m spending with the Miyasakis!

  • Good times and happy thoughts . . . real good.


  • It may just be me, but this doesn’t seem that cranky, nor that inaccurate.

  • Richard Gadd

    He has a point. I love old films like Casablanca – and when they are shown as special screenings they get a good audience who loves them – but this is a tiny tiny portion of the overall cinema going audience – if you did a huge re-release of Caseblanca – say 2500 screens (typical for a mid-studio new release) – how big an audience would it really get?

  • Ghosty Mctoasty

    BOY !! I thought I was cranky ! Actually agree with most of his comments, especially the ” Casablanca” thing which to me seems to say more about our quick Fix society ( in general) and what now is popular in entertainment.
    Huh, I guess I am cranky !

  • Jack

    Everyone who sees the re-release of Casablanca will leave the theater so happy they’ll try to buy a new Packard.

  • That last part sounds like a George Carlin interview!

  • En Ming Hee

    One thing that is not focused on in Miyazaki’s career enough is that he is more than just an animator but also a great cinematic humanist in the tradition of Kurosawa, Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Antonioni and Fellini. Most of those guys weren’t terribly nice people to talk to, and the films they made weren’t terribly nice either even if they appeared that way. To watch their films is to feel interrogated and be aware of the sort of reductive bullshit that we can be subjected to. It’s like when a fisherman kills himself after hearing the Chinese have the bomb in “Winter Light”, or when the director can’t stand to film the epic in which survivors are taken away from a stricken earth in “8 1/2”. Miyazaki’s films have that power. They help us understand the dread that is coiled in the heart of existence, and realize the impersonality of horror. But try to imagine what skill he has to make all of that sound so lighthearted, beautiful and watchable! And like all of those filmmakers, Miyazaki’s heroes are very often…us. We are given to seeing films these days that feature protagonists who can fight back with means we don’t have; from Batman to the team at CSI, and by doing so they absolve us of the possibilities within us. Guys like Miyazaki speak to the possibility that lies within us…his characters become us, and their triumphs and tragedies our triumphs and tragedies. And that is what makes his films great art.

  • All he needs to do is shave his beard a little differently and you have an Asian-looking Chuck Jones.

  • I like the way he thinks. I wonder what gets him up in the morning?

  • Oh, by the way, love the headline. I would have been tempted by Hate-ao Miyazaki or Prince Moan-onoke.

  • Michael

    I guess that just goes to show that insanity and genius are often intimate friends. At least with regards to the New Yorker stuff. The press conference questions are just him being a bitter, cranky old man, like old men are supposed to be.

  • Chuck R.

    I’m a huge Miyazaki fan, but only because his films give no hint of his anti-humanitarian beliefs.

    “I’d like to see when the human population plummets…”
    Mr. Miyazaki, are you willing to jump in the queue first?

    When Casablanca was released, do you suppose there were folks who said: “Ahhh, Birth of a Nation! Why don’t they make films like that anymore?” :-)

  • Michael H


    I don’t know about you, but I think talkin’ pictchas ah gonna ruin Hollywood. ;)

  • I may have only discovered Miyazaki movies a few years ago, but I have worshiped him since. The man is a master. With everything he has accomplished, I think he has earned the right to be pessimistic and cranky. I admire him just as much now.

    I do, however, disagree with the part about audiences today not appreciating old films. The key word here is “timeless.” If a film has a timeless quality to it, it might succeed. Miyazaki’s films are truly timeless. I’ll admit some old films are hard to watch now, but there are people out there who still appreciate them.

  • Well, I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised that this interview is getting attention on Cartoon Brew. I knew about it, but paid it little attention because I know Miyazaki’s work so well. There were no surprises for me.

    So what’s the deal here? You’re only discovering what I (and other Ghibli Freaks) have been trying to tell you for years:

    Miyazaki IS NOT WALT DISNEY.

    I don’t know how hard it is for Americans to grok this. It’s not a secret, really. The conflict between his youthful political idealism (Horus, Prince of the Sun) and his later pessimism is the hallmark of Miyazaki’s Ghibli films.

    Didn’t any of you sit down and watch Porco Rosso? Didn’t you understand that was his self-portrait?

    Didn’t any of you watch Mononoke? Have you ever noticed how dark and dispairing it is? It doesn’t have any happy ending, except for the lousy US dubbing that tried to shoe-horn dialog that never existed (I’m thinking of Eboshi’s final scene).

    Haven’t you watched Lauputa: Castle in the Sky? Didn’t it ever strike you how critical he was of the military? Especially in the third act, when the villain starts indiscriminatingly killing soldiers? Was all that devestation and chaos lost on you?

    When was the last time you bothered to watch the Nausicaa film? If you paid attention, you would have noticed its ambivalence. Miyazaki is squarely on the side of his iconic Heroine, but none of the other characters are. The film raises many questions, none of which are answered.

    Didn’t any of you understand Howl’s Moving Castle? The war theme was Miyazaki’s own invention, his own life experiences added to his memories of the book. Were none of you paying attention? Howl is many stories at once; one of them is the story of the young man who goes off to war, becomes scarred (cursed) by the experience, and returns home a monster.

    Did you notice that Ghibli’s three last movies – Ponyo, Earthsea, Howl – have all revolved around the Miyazaki Clan? Husband and wife, father and sun, love, loyalty, career, missed opportunities, reconciliation…yadda yadda. We all know the score. Right?

    And what of Miyazaki’s masterpiece, the 7-volume Nausicaa manga? Those books have been available in bookstores for many years now. Why haven’t you read them?

    I do hope I’m not coming off as a crank myself. That’s not what I want. This is all a part of the learning process. And many Americans will have an idea of the man, based on whatever works they’ve discovered, and what culture they’ve been exposed to. If you’re idea of Miyazaki is Totoro and the Catbus, or Sen and Chihiro, you may form an idea of the filmmaker. And you may assume Ghibli is an Asian counterpart to Walt Disney. But that is simply not the case. The truth is far more complicated and deep.

    Miyazaki is a tremendously complicated man; that’s reflected openly in his work, and it’s why he’s one of the great personal filmmakers. You need to truly understand his work if you want to understand him. Much of that comes from discovering his long career before Studio Ghibli, which unfortunately means a lot of importing DVDs and downloading fansubs. But I think we’ve made it much easier for you now. I had to find all this out from scratch. You just have to click on a few links at the Ghibli blog.

    Hmm….this might be a good chance for animation bloggers to go into depth on Miyazaki and Takahata and Ghibli. I don’t think that’s really happened yet. Yes, we all love these movies, but there’s not a lot of deep examination of them. We must learn to dig below the surface. The better movies have layers of depth, especially animation. Heck, we already know this from Pixar, right?

    Anyway, I hope this proves helpful. If nothing else, you’ve got something new to write about. I’d love to hear what Cartoon Brew thinks about all of this, in depth. You guys are always so successful at this. Good luck!

  • Annie-Mae

    Wow, good thing he’s not in politics.

  • Tim Elliot

    I didn’t see cranky (at least from the post), and I agreed with much of what he said. It seems to me that audiences seem to flock more to old 30+ animation (such as Disney’s rereleases), than old live-action films. Casabanca might have been a bad example — while it did good at the oscars, it was only a mild popular sucess when it was released in 1943 ($3.7M, not adjusted for inflation).

  • PJ

    I really admire Miyazaki’s work. Every film of his I’ve seen I’ve loved, and the ones I own I could just sit and watch a million times. They’re great.

    That being said, I can’t stand when people, no matter how unbelievably smart they may be, say thing like they’re wishing for the end of the world, or they can’t wait for armageddon, or whatever. I realize he’s probably not entirely serious, but I find that kind of thought to be enormously unhelpful and unproductive. Just as worthless as blind and unfounded optimism.

  • re: Casablanca’s BO gross

    I don’t know what other movies did at the time but considering that movie tickets were generally in the $.05 to .25 range then that would indicate about 15 to 30 million tickets sold which would be huge today.

  • Ridgecity

    More than grumpy, sounds like a humanist. To be a good storyteller you have to understand how people respond to certain stuff, and he knows a lot of people hate when someone points out the truth, instead of closing your eyes to the reality.


    If someone chooses to go see an old movie in a theater, they probably already know what they will get, and as a writer, I know what he’s talking about. The stories are the same, but the presentation has a totally different place now… Think of Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry vs Blake’s Edwards’ Pink Panther (The comedy Film), They work today because they are pretty fast paced compared to the films of the time, because they had to work in a “less than 10 minutes” pipeline. The Pink Panther movie was funny for its day but, scenes feel very slow now and we expect lots of comedy every few minutes, not just a funny thing in every scene. Movies were mostly long scenes of characters talking with the camera barely moving (before Citizen Kane), it even required real actors, not just pretty faces like today. I just saw Lawrence Of Arabia yesterday, and the movie is great, but it would have been killed in editing or splitted in 2 since with the intermissions and titles comes around 270 minutes. for comparison look at Kill Bill that was split in 2 movies since it was around 240 minutes long.

    But I wouldn’t want to see the end of civilization. I haven’t had enough sex!

  • Brad Bird

    3.7 million in the early forties is VERY good boxoffice, particularly because CASABLANCA was not a particularly expensive film to make.

  • Wow. The guy certainly has his point of view.
    He makes some brilliant cinema though.

  • Cranky?!?

    Just see all the garbage out there (about cinema’n’animation) folks!

    He’s totally got the point. =)

  • Oliver

    If the state of the world doesn’t make you cranky, you haven’t been paying enough attention.

  • pappy d

    The difference between an angry young man & a grumpy old man seems to come down to ‘potential’.

  • Mookibaba

    I have to say my view of Miyazaki has certainly been shaken. How can a man, behind such beautifully positive, imaginative and cheerful movies hold such bitter (and borderline insane) views?

  • Chris Higgins

    …sounds like somebody needs a hug.