Hayao Miyazaki/John Lasseter Press Conference

I had an opportunity to join selected journalists at a Hayao Miyazaki-John Lasseter press conference held yesterday (7/28) before their appearence at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last night. I also shot some video (sorry for the shakey hand held camera work, and the low audio) and thought it was worth sharing with our readers. In this first part below Miyazaki talks about using (or not using) CG and his chances of making a film in 3-D. Lasseter discusses the process of dubbing a Miyazaki’s films. Interesting to note they’ve already dubbed Tales From Earthsea.

In the second part, Lasseter discusses 3-D animated films; Miyazaki talks about what’s happening with his son:

In the third part, John Lasseter discusses his admiration of Miyazaki’s films, his reaction to the first one he saw, Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki’s influence in Pixar films, and why he wants to bring Miyazaki’s films to the US:


  • Dave

    Thanks for putting these up!

  • http://www.lyris-lite.net David Mackenzie

    Jerry: the dubbed version of Tales from Earthsea was shown in British cinemas in 2007 (the subtitled version was also screened), and both are available on UK DVD.

  • Leedar

    Interesting. I still don’t understand why Lasseter and Miyazaki get along. Miyazaki’s position seems particularly cynical.

    Also those sounds behind the camera were quite disturbing, ha ha.

  • Rick Farmiloe

    I was at the Miyazaki salute at the Academy last night, and attended the before show reception. I was able to meet Mr. Miyazaki and tell him how much I loved his movies. John Lasseter and I worked at Disney at the same time and remember when he brought Miyazaki to the studio back in the early 80′s. We screened Castle Cagliostro and were totally blown away!! It was so nice to be able to pay tribute to such an animation master. A very special and unforgettable night. John did a wonderful job as host.

  • Jared Pettitt

    I was there! I would’ve given anything to have known about the reception beforehand, so that I could have gone. I was still amazed by the whole thing. It’s my dream to work at Ghibli someday (I know…) so I guess I’ll get to meet Miyazaki then.

    SIDE NOTE: Never take a Greyhound bus, ever. Going from Tucson to L.A on one of those was an unspeakable black hole of despair.

  • Porco Rosso

    I have always found it surprising that Miyazaki’s relationship with John Lassiter is described/translated as ‘friendship’ when neither speaks the other’s language and, whilst JL clearly admires Miyazaki’s work (although I have never heard Mr Miyazaki praising PIXAR’s output directly) and Studio Ghibli have clearly benefitted from PIXAR promoting their films in the USA, their relationship seems to exist on more of a business footing than a personal one.

    I have seen “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” and, whilst it has wildly imaginative moments, it failed to work cohesively for me. It seems to be oft-compared to “Totoro” yet I think this has a strong narrative thread, for example, there is a real sense of pain and loss when Satsuki is looking for Mei, wheras in Ponyo, there is never any sense of threat or urgency in that vein. I very much admire Miyazaki’s work and he has directed some wonderful films and series but, for me, I have found that Ghibli’s recent output has felt disappointing in comparison to their films of the 80s and 90s. “Ponyo” as described above, “Tales from Earthsea” was one of the dullest experiences of my life (the issue of employing a director with no animation experience whatsoever to helm a multi-million yen feature simply because he was Mr Miyazaki’s son rather soured my view of the studio ethically also), “Howls Moving Castle” again had its moments but the opulence of the backgrounds and animation were, I felt, working against a weak story that fell apart near the end. Maybe I am in a minority in this sense but I can still watch “Cagliostro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Laputa” or “Porco Rosso” etc and thoroughly enjoy up the strong stories, enjoyable characters and charming animation, something of which seems to have been missing for me since “Spirited Away”. Maybe Miyazaki is simply choosing to evolve in a less narrative direction but I still get the impression that he aims to tell cohesive narrative stories and I think that has been the less strong element in is films recently, for me anyway.

    It feels a little sad that Studio Ghibli’s movies, so reliably wonderful in the past, are less of a sure bet just at the moment when they are receiving the most support with regard to distribution in the US particularly.

  • SHAN

    Just out of curiosity, is John Lasseter like US distributor for Miyazaki?

  • Brian Kidd

    EARTHSEA can’t be released in the U.S. until the Channel Formerly Known as Sci-Fi’s rights to the books expires. That’s why it has been released everywhere except here. To be honest, it’s a beautifully-animated, but totally soulless, film. You aren’t missing much if you haven’t seen it. I just don’t think Miyazaki’s son has the talent that his father does.

    PONYO, on the other hand, is wonderful. Not Miyazaki’s best, but still great.

  • http://www.ghiblicon.blogspot.com daniel thomas macinnes

    Why is there such skepticism about the friendship between John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki? Where exactly is this coming from? When they first met around 1980, Miyazaki was in the States working on the Nemo movie project (before withdrawing), and he was at the low point in his career. Castle of Cagliostro, his first directoral film, was a box office failure. Sherlock Hound (Meitantai Holmes) was scuttled by Telecom after six episodes were created but never aired. His great television series, Future Boy Conan, had finished its run in 1978. In fact, Miyazaki’s great triumph was Heidi in 1974 and 3000 Leauges in Search of Mother in 1976.

    Clearly, in 1980 there was no master plan to take over the film world. Miyazaki would be absent from anime entirely for the next four years, before his film version of Nausicaa signalled his triumphant comeback.

    John Lasseter, likewise, would see the darkest days of his career. He would lose his job as a Disney animator, then find work with George Lucas’ obscure computer graphics company. Said company was bought by Steve Jobs, and nobody at the time could have dreamed that Pixar would become the Great American Movie Studio.

    The idea that Lasseter and Miyazaki’s friendship is cynical business politics is absurd. It’s beyond absurd. What is it with Americans and stupid conspiracy theories, anyway? Are we going to ask John Lasseter for his birth certificate next?

  • andrew osmond

    This is the second Miyazaki item on Cartoon Brew to which Porco Rosso has cross-posted his strange message, casting doubt on the idea that Miyazaki and Lasseter actually like each other.

    If you want a 2 1/2 hour piece of evidence that they do, try watching Ghibli’s ‘Thank You Lasseter-San’ DVD documentary, about Miyazaki and Lasseter promoting Spirited Away together.

    For the record, I’m in the minority who found Tales from Earthsea interesting and worth watching, though of course it has lots of problems. Comparing it to other non-Miyazaki Ghibli films, I thought it was better than the fun but very weightless The Cat Returns.

  • http://www.kohrtoons.com Robert K

    I was at the Ghibli Museum last month and they were showing the Ponyo exhibit. While there I met John Lasseter, actually it took a minute or so for me to recognize him. He was really nice. While not appearing to be stalking him, I followed his group and he had a lot of similar comments and reverence for Miyazaki’s work in his explanations to the people who he was with. For instance he commented a lot on the timing on the Cat Bus sequence in Totoro. So the reverence is there on his side. As for Miyazaki I always had the impression that he doesn’t compliment much, he seems more in his world and more aloof (not in a bad way). I asked him a question a few years back an a junket and it was what a young artist should do if they want to be good in animation, he said “Make really good movies and work really hard at it,” then he added, “being poor, being young, and having no name is the best way to become a great creator.” Of course that does ignore the fact that you have to eat and pay bills as well as the other distractions of life. Good advice none-the-less.

    That aside when I went up to the store I noticed in a corner a little statuette with Lasseter and Miyazaki in there own cartoony form (Lasseter in the Hawaiian shirt and Miyazaki as a Porco Russo-ish Pig). While there is a language barrier between the two I think its totally plausible that they are friends. Also speaking through an interpreter may not be all that bad.

    Over all Tales of Earthsea was a horrid film. I stopped it half way through.

    As for these videos they are really great! Thanks Jerry

  • http://www.kohrtoons.com Robert K

    SHAN – Lasseter isn’t Buena Vista is. Lasseter is producing the american dubs as he has done for other Ghibli films.

    Jared Pettitt – I did a lot of research into this about 4 or 5 years ago as it was also something I wanted to do. A good 1/3 of Ghibli is non-Japanese, though you need to be fluent in the language.

    Also animation is not so much an ‘educated’ job in Japan. Meaning you don’t really go to school for it, if you do its not the same as other animation schools. The best thing I can liken it to is like being a jouneyman or apprentice.

    The pay in Japan is really lousy. Ghibli pays about $1400 US a month to start. Even after that the pay is really really low. Tokyo is really really expensive. So how do they do it? Typically the animator is living at home with their parents, as in most asian cultures you don’t move away from home until you are married (unlike some anime make it seem). The studios then pay you something more akin to lunch and transportation expenses, Ghibli pays on the high end.

    Another thing to note, my GF is in finance so I can’t get away from thinking like this, the US economy sucks right now, 10% job loss is the norm. Japan is a lot worse, and the japanese animation market is pretty much the hardest hit.

    Email me if you want to chat further.

  • http://www.jaimeekkens.com Jaime

    why is the camera shake and sound so bad? The camera man obviously had no idea what he is doing…..

  • Porco Rosso

    Hi Andrew

    I posted twice (albeit updated the second time) as I came in after a few days on the earlier article and was interested to see if anyone else felt similarly or had an alternative view, but I had rather missed the boat by that point as newer stuff was rolling out. Some interesting and informed comments here, so glad I did, but well done for keeping count :)

    I have seen the “Thank You Lassiter San” documentary some years back, but I’m afraid that I don’t see your point in this respect. As you say, this shows cross promotion of a movie and could easily be viewed as good PR for any film or production company. John Lassiter has certainly helped Studio Ghibli break through in the USA, which is a huge market, after patchy theatrical and video releases through companies such a Troma for the initial dub of “My Neighbor Totoro” and the Carl Macek dubs of “Laputa” and “Nausicaa” etc. I don’t get that notion of personal friendship at all in the way you are suggesting. Indeed, the sequence where John Lassiter rushes out to greet Miyazaki at PIXAR shows Miyazaki looking rather awkward I thought! I’m not doing him down or anything, I just don’t get any impression of a personal connection in any of his interactions with Miyazaki, other than professional admiration.

    Anyway thanks for your response, good to get some views back (even to “strange” posts!).

  • Daniel M.

    I find it pretty ironic that Lassiter is now praising 3-D as a storytelling device that they’ve been waiting to use, while when Katzenburg speaks about it he’s merely speaking of a gimmick, no matter how he phrases it.

    And I wonder if Mr. Lassiter realizes that he wouldn’t be able to use this all powerful storytelling tool if Dreamworks didn’t start pressing the theaters to build 3-D screens in the first place. Way to stay on your high horse Pixar. (doesn’t mean that I don’t like them, simply saying that I get annoyed with them and their mightiness)

  • Andrew Osmond

    I just had another look at the opening scene of the ‘Thank You Lasseter-San’ film. They’re both hugging, back-patting, laughing… it looks pretty darn friendly to me!

    Whatever Miyazaki’s and Lasseter’s differences, they’re both nuts about the animation medium and have devoted most of their lives to it. That strikes me as ample common ground for a friendship.

    (I recently saw the film ‘American Splendour’ again. In that, we see Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb drawn together by their shared love of jazz and their common ambition to stretch the comic-strip medum. I found that very convincing…)

  • Scott

    “Dreamworks didn’t start pressing the theaters to build 3-D screens in the first place”

    Of course, this is baloney. ALL studios were pushing theaters to do 3D as a way to help prevent piracy. Katzemberg just has a bigger mouth.

  • a reader

    No two cultures could possibly be more different than ours to Japan’s.

    Miyazaki has a position and attitudes deeply rooted in his own country. For all the trappings of western pop culture that the Japanese adopt in various superficial ways, they hold themselves very much apart from the west-this is especially true of Miyazaki. He’s very taciturn and yes, aloof. And no-not in a bad way.

    John Lasseter is the polar opposite-he tends to be effusive and warmly personal even by our average US standards. Whatever the “personal friendship” may be between these two it isn’t going to be anything apparent during a press conference or anything else in a way that will look like what we’re used to expecting from two old animation/filmmaking friends.

  • Leedar

    I have no doubt he has, but can someone show Miyazaki saying good things about Lasseter or Pixar, beyond generic pleasantries?

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

    Why is there such skepticism about the friendship between John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki? Where exactly is this coming from?
    It’s just your typical cognitive dissonance from limited-thinking US animation fans. “OH NO how could PIXAR possibly approve of this INSCRUTABLE JAPANESE and his MEAN AND CYNICAL views on animation :(”

    Also gotta love all this great Miyazaki news/content being sandwiched between lame ‘O SO WACKY JAPAN LOL’ hug-pillow story and OH NOES MIYAZAKI HATES AMERICA ;___; troll posts. I guess it does say “Leading” the animation conversation.

  • Labyrinth

    Can’t completely understand what Miyazaki (his translator, to be more specific) is saying about his son in the end of the second part. Could someone write it down here, please?

  • Daniel M.

    Nice jab at Katzenburg Scott, but not much of an argument….

    I also didn’t mention anything about interviews in years past where folks from Pixar (including directors of films currently out in 3D) cited 3-D merely as a gimic, but when it becomes a desired product, they turn it into a thoughtful and artistic way of encapsing the audience into the movie.

    This was the whole initiative behind doing more movies in 3D by Dreamworks (as well as the other live action studios). They spent a lot of time experiementing with how to go more into the picture/screen, and have it feel less gimicky, but the reality is there is only so far you can move into the frame before your eye becomes uncomfotable and strained. Its a lot easier to pop out of the screen. (research this, you’ll find it to be true). Lassiter can sit there and say you see vista’s that go on for miles, but actually, thats not true. I didnt even feel ‘Up’ was in 3-D, and got annoyed with wearing the glasses because nothing felt at all different.

    My point is, its bashed and harped upon until the great studio in the sky does it, then it becomes acceptable.

    To reiterate, I love Pixar’s films…

  • Labyrinth

    i can’t completly understand what Miyazaki (his translator, to be more specific) is saying about his son at the end of the second part. Please, could someone be so kind to write translator’s words down here?

  • Kyle Maloney

    I’d say George Lucas was one of the earlier ones to start pushing for digital projection, not Dreamworks.

  • echo B

    I love some of the very perceptive comments that I’ve read here.

    I think friendship could mean different things to different people… Perhaps for Mr. Miyazaki, it is close to that of respect towards a fellow soldier who shares common love and cause for animation.

    Layrinth, for your reference:

    Miyazaki: My son is now in childrearing.
    Lasseter: Which is very important to Miyazaki-san.
    Miyazaki: That’s a very important process.
    Question: Is there anything more to be said about your son’s interest in animation?
    Miyazaki: It’s a difficult question, but I don’t see myself creating a directors dynasty, unless he can crawl up to be a director on his own. It’s up to him. The first hurdle right now is raising his children.

  • HertzaHaeon

    I’m very grateful for filming this and putting it up, so I’m almost ashamed to point out that the camera work is very distracting. I don’t expect steady-cam quality, but it’s very shaky. But most distracting are the noises of the camera bumping into things and shaking around. It makes it hard to hear what people are saying.

  • http://twitter.com/jsidhom Jonah Sidhom

    OK so somehow I missed echo’s transcription until I was about to post this, but since it took a minute for me to write, I’ll post it anyway:

    Questioner: “What has he [Miyazaki's son] been doing since [directing his first film]? Is he carrying on the family tradition?

    Miyazaki translator: “My son is now involved in child-rearing.”

    Questioner: “Is there anything more to be said in terms of his interest in animation now?”

    Translator: “Uh, it’s a difficult question. But I don’t see myself creating a director’s dynasty. So unless he can crawl up to be a director on his own, it’s up to him… but the first hurdle right now is raising his children.”

    ——-

    Thanks for putting these up, Jerry. Who cares if it’s shaky, he didn’t have to push record at all. Not everyone walks around with a tripod on them at all times.

  • http://www.johnsemper.com John Semper Jr.

    Strange. When I did the English language translation scripts for “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Laputa,” neither John Lasseter nor any of his producers (or, for that matter, writers) were anywhere near me. It was just me alone in my living room with a relatively primitive VHS VCR going backwards and forwards over the Japanese version with the sound off – watching the lip movements and thinking up dialogue to fit. It took me a month to do each film and I worked all by myself, with no help or oversight from anybody. In fact Buena Vista’s deal to acquire Miyazaki’s films predates Lasseter having ANY involvement or control at all over the dubbing of Miyazaki’s movies. The deal was consumated years before Pixar officially became a part of Disney. So it’s kind of weird to hear Lasseter eplaining in great detail the elaborate process involved in creating the English dubs. In my experience, he wasn’t there.

  • http://twitter.com/jsidhom Jonah Sidhom

    John Semper Jr.: I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.

    You say you translated those two films, but Lasseter dubbed four other films from Miyazaki. So why is it weird to hear him talk about it?

  • Rey

    Robert K. wrote,
    (Lasseter in the Hawaiian shirt and Miyazaki as a Porco Russo-ish Pig)

    That figure is titled Friendship Figure. I learned from this site a long time ago, but the artist took down the picture. Here is the home site. It’s in Japanese.
    http://www.geocities.jp/chikyuuza/

  • http://www.johnsemper.com John Semper Jr.

    Jonah Sidhom: You say you translated those two films, but Lasseter dubbed four other films from Miyazaki. So why is it weird to hear him talk about it?

    My reply: I guess it’s weird because Lassiter rarely explains that he HASN’T overseen ALL of the Buena Vista Miyazaki releases. In fact, he has so plastered himself all over the DVD releases of both “Kiki” and “Laputa,” that you’d think he oversaw those as well. And when he addresses the process of how the translations were done, he frequently speaks in broad generalizations, not specifically limited to just his productions. And I GREATLY resent that my translation credit seems to be missing on the DVD releases of those two films (in which Lassiter had a heavy hand), when said credit was very much there on the earlier VHS releases (before Lassiter was involved). If anybody can find my poor lost credit anywhere on the DVD releases I would be greatly in your debt <>. And, for the record, I don’t simply “say” that I did the job, I’m on record as having done the job.

    And perhaps the word “weird” is inappropriate. Substitute the word “irritating” and you’ll have a better idea of how I feel about Lassiter and his apparently insatiable ego.

  • echo B

    John Lasseter’s supervision of the English dubs are only for the most recent of Ghibli’s films—i.e., Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, and Ponyo. Ghibli asked Lasseter for his involvement, hoping that would bring greater attention to Ghibli works for theatrical release in North America.

    John Semper Jr.—you should inform Disney’s Home Entertainment people about your missing translation credits for Laputa and Kiki, before these titles are re-released along with the Ponyo DVD.

  • R Simpson

    Dear all,

    I stumbled upon this article whilst writing an essay on Spirited Away, and found many of your comments very interesting and helpful. It appears i missed the boat on this discussion, but if any of you are still monitoring this I would like to know your thoughts on the casting of Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas in the English Dubbing. Such a deliberate casting of young celebrities, who I personally consider bad role models for children, seems completely contradictory to the aims of Ghibli’s works. I can understand the casting of older celebities (Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer in Howl’s) slightly more, yet it appears money is the driving force behind the appointment of these two kids. It was a deliberate appointment, one which was surely wasn’t based on acting ability. John talks a lot about the specifics and careful way they have dubbed the film, but accuracy in translation doesn’t equal accuracy in message. The act of putting celebrity faces behind roles removes something from the Japanese characters – a debate which may have some relevance to the whole nature of ‘dubbing’ in general.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated

    R. Simpson

  • Sagat

    I know this thread is old, but I stumbled on it through wikipedia and, after reading some of the comments, I have to say I was so appalled I needed to leave a comment of my own.

    Where does this gross, borderline xenophobic paranoia of “Miyazaki and Lasseter not really being friends” come from?

    For a little history lesson, Disney’s partnership with Ghibli began in 1998, John Lasseter met Miyazaki in either 1979 or 1980, nearly two decades before any business partnership was established between the two.

    And some people are using “Thank you, Mr. Lasseter” as an example of them not being friends? Really? I’ve owned the DVD for some years now, and watched it a number of times through the years, and every time I get the same impression: These are two men who are passionate about what they do, and who both love and respect each other.

    People seem to confuse Miyazaki’s introverted nature as being a callousness. He’s an older Japanese man, and while the younger generations of Japan may be a lot more flamboyant, Miyazaki is from a “quieter” generation of Japan. And not only that, but it’s well documented that Miyazaki is very shy. Even when speaking in Japan, Miyazaki usually has Toshio Suzuki do the talking for him.

    Just because they live oceans apart doesn’t mean money is the foundation of their relationship. And just because Miyazaki has a more cynical view of most animation products (by the way, he’s right on that. It’s so excessive now that we do have a lot of mindless nonsense flooding animation), doesn’t mean he doesn’t respect Lasseter’s work (I seem to recall Suzuki once mentioning Lasseter was the first person to get Miyazaki to admit a piece of CG animation interested him).

    But, y’know, one’s Japanese and the other is American, so they can’t be friends. Welcome to 1940.