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A talk between Hayao Miyazaki and Shigesato Itoi (Excerpt)

Sunao ni Wagamama; December 1988

Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama
Edited by Eric Henwood-Greer

© 1988 by Kaiseisha
Translated without permission for personal entertainment purpose only. This is not, by any means, an accurate word for word translation, and the translator is solely responsible for any mistranslation or misunderstanding due to it.


Introduction from the translator:

Shigesato Itoi did the voice for Dad in Totoro. He is a copy writer, not a professional actor. He has written advertising copies for Ghibli films since Totoro. ("This strange creature still lives in Japan... Maybe...")

Here is the excerpt from a talk between Miyazaki-san and Itoi-san, about why Miyazaki-san wanted Itoi-san to play Dad, and what kind of acting he wanted from Itoi-san. This could explain why Dad in the Japanese version didn't sound "fatherly" as some said.


Key to the dialog
M: Hayao Miyazaki
I: Shigesato Itoi

M: Aside from writing the copy for Totoro, you played the part of the father. With your voice, the movie fits to its place. It was great. I saw Studio L which was aired on NHK, for which you were the Master of Ceremonies, and I thought you had a wonderful, strange voice. I heard a lot of voices of voice actors, but they are all warm, and are too much like a father who totally understands his kids. There used to be a TV program called Father Knows Best. A father who is 30 or so can not be like that. So, we thought that we had to cast a different kind of person (than a professional voice actor). I was the one who said Itoi-san would do.

I: You were?

M: Yes. I met you once before to discuss the copy for Totoro... and I thought your voice would do well since it's strange. It's strange to say it's good since it's strange... but it is good that (your voice) has a certain carelessness. Well, it's also strange to say "carelessness." -laughs-

I: I speak in meaningless way... -laughs-

M: I myself am a father. The reality of a father isn't Father Knows Best. So, I thought it would be better that (the father) speaks in such a way. To tell you the truth, I was nervous. I'm glad that it worked out well. -laughs-

I: The (acting?) director gave me a part of the script with difficult lines. He told me to try them, but I couldn't. Well, I thought it was better not to have the part, but he said we would somehow manage. I thought what a heck, if I failed, there would be a substitute.

M: No, we didn't have any substitute.

I: You didn't? What a scary thing have I done! -laughs-

M: Since we don't have a lot of time in making a movie, we depend on the skillfulness of the voice actors. But still, it sometimes frustrates me. For example, the lack of a sense of presence. Especially, the voices for girls all sound like "aren't I cute?" I can't stand that. I've always wanted to do something about it. But in Totoro, both Mei and Satsuki had wonderful voices. They weren't unnatural.

I: The lack of presence you mentioned, rather, I thought (voice acting in) anime should be like that. It's the same with theater, but it won't be communicated unless it's excessive. For example, when I'm really dealing with my kid, my voice is more blunt. So in that sense, I was worried since what I was asked to do was a bit different from what I had thought. Rather, I can do if it's Father Knows Best, by imitating it.

M: Oh, I see. -laughs-

I: Yes, I can do that. But it won't do if I do that, right?

M: It's certainly difficult. I say "do it ordinarily," but it's not ordinal.

I: It's not true. Not at all. If we do (the voice) in the same way we usually speak, it would sound scary. When people speak, it's scary, swaggering, or teasing-- very much so, I mean, the reality has an evil feeling.

M: I know. When we ask for a more natural way of acting, we face that problem. It made me realize how much we use made-up voices when we dub animation.

I: You chose my voice, that means you want my this voice, but you might also want my made-up voice, not the ordinary voice, and I would end up acting like that anyway, so how do I balance them? I once asked the (acting?) director about that.

M: That's the problem we always have when we are dubbing. And in some case, the acting gets worse after many takes... But this time, Kitabayashi-san who played Grandma made my jaw drop. -laughs- She was really great. I was amazed.

I: She was great! Really great. I mean, maybe the script had been changed by her.

M: She made the part her own, in true sense.

I: The way she uses her voice, it's totally different. It comes from a different place. It's not just reading the script, but more like catching lines floating in the air. They are lines she caught on her own.

M: Even in a tense scene, it wasn't a tense voice, so I told her so. I was told by her, "I think it's better not to have such a voice in this scene," and I thought indeed it was. -laughs-



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