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Talk: Hayao Miyazaki versus Isao Takahata
"Our thirty years: from Toei Doga to Studio Ghibli"

[Kinema Junpo cover image]
The Animation of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Studio Ghibli
Kinema Junpo Special Issue, Number 1166; July 16th, 1995

Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama in April, 1996
Edited by Brian Stacy

© 1995 by Kinema Junpo Sha
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.


Key to the dialog
I: Interviewer Masaaki Nomura
M: Hayao Miyazaki
T: Isao Takahata


The Toei Doga era, when we were aggressive

I: Takahata-san joined Toei Doga (Toei Animation Studio) in 1955, Miyazaki-san in 1963, so it's been thirty years since then. And it's been ten years since you established Studio Ghibli. I want to ask you about these years today.

M: It's not Paku-san's taste to tell such things, -laughs- though it's the same for me, too.[1] He isn't that straightforward, either.

T: It's very difficult to tell people what oneself has been doing just as it happened, as something important.

M: It's not that we don't get sentimental from time to time, but it wasn't that big a deal.

I: You two met in 1963. Miyazaki-san joined Toei Doga at the age of twenty three, and at twenty eight years old Takahata-san was already working as a director's assistant.

T: When we started working, there wasn't much animation, though there was Disney in the United States. When I actually tried to do (animation), it was like we hadn't done this, we hadn't done that, well, I didn't think that way, but anyway, there were countless things we hadn't done. So, there were many things we had to do. My life has been a very passive one, but it was like: if there was a stone, we had to move it.

M: There were so many things we were doing without removing stones.

T: And (we tried to do things) such as "let's add this." It was a time when we could do such things.

M: I entered into this industry because I saw works in the 1950s, such as Cross-eyed Tyrant or Snow Queen.[2] I thought maybe I could manage (to reach the level of) Hakujyaden but anyway, I thought they were far above, in terms of what they tried to do, and what they accomplished.[3] We were, in short, at the level of "Toei kids' stuff." The gap between our level and the works we were inspired by was too big. We thought how could we climb up there, or even if we couldn't, let's remove the stones around us. So, there were many things we had to do.

I: And Horus was where you wanted to reach.

T: It was not something to reach, but just a thing we tried to do, but it became such a big fuss. -laughs- In the beginning, we thought it was worth doing, so we just jumped into it blindly. We didn't know how tough it was going to be. We just proceeded without knowing, or we could proceed (because we didn't know)...

M: The big difference between the time we were working at Toei Doga and now is that the company still existed as an organization (then). The company told us various things, such as "kids would love to see small animals," or "well, you say so, but unless you do a well known classic story, tickets won't sell." So it was easy for us to fight against the company. But these days, it's impossible to make (anime) while fighting against the company. The foundation of these companies are so weak that we can't help but understand their difficulties.

T: I don't know if we can say the same thing about the whole industry of current TV and animation. I wouldn't be surprised if some young people emerge trying to overcome something which can't be moved. I don't think that's absolutely impossible. But, when we work at Ghibli, we have to work while also considering these things. Miya-san is working with everything on his back, including the company. So, it's really difficult. It's totally different from the time when we started our career. We rebelled against what had been done, and we could work with enough enthusiasm even if that meant we were just removing stones, or placing one or two stones. On the contrary, now, Miyazaki animes are so successful, so I can kind of understand why young people feel it's so tough.

M: Well, you are forgetting about yourself. -laughs-

T: But, that's basically it. I don't mean that Toei Doga animes at that time weren't successful, but I think the meaning (of them for young people?) was different. Young people sympathize when they see Miya-san's works. So, they have to start from that point. On the contrary, as Miya-san said, we had such works as Snow Queen or Cross-eyed Tyrant towering (over us), but they were a bit far-off, so we could start without being captivated by them. However, they see the works we are making close-up, and then they have to climb up, stepping on (our works). I think that might be tough.

I: Horus: The Prince of Sun was Takahata-san's memorable debut, and Miyazaki-san volunteered to work on it. Was it easier for you to approach what was towering?

T: Those which were towering weren't close to us, and there weren't many. But we could see that we could do such things with animation, and this was the work worth doing. The rest of it was just step by step.

M: We thought a movie could do amazing things. At that time, the Japanese movie population was dramatically decreasing, but we still had many inspiring movies, and we thought we were making movies, not just animation, so we firmly believed that movies were something in which we could express something.

T: As for the young people now, I thought it would have been difficult and confusing for them since there is so much information, but actually, it isn't so. They choose only with partial judgment since they can't delay choosing till they see the whole picture. And they are accustomed not to get irritated or impatient about it. And if someone they trust says "that's good," they respond really obediently. But we were more impudent, and we didn't appreciate anyone if we didn't think they were good, no matter how famous they were or supposedly great.

M: We were indifferent toward such things, and we stuck to our opinions, saying "no, it isn't." I don't know, maybe we happened to be that way, but both Paku-san and I were very aggressive. -laughs- How about the young ones these days?

T: Well, after all, the movie industry is in the middle of a long decline, so we can't simply compare now with our young days, but we were able to denigrate whomever we wanted to really severely. Speaking of aggressive, for example, the popularity of Japanese movies wasn't so weak, so it wouldn't have tumbled even if we had said "Ozu's movie is nothing."[4] Because the movie industry was standing on its own, we could attack a movie if we thought it wasn't good, no matter how much everyone else said it was good. We had those kinds of conversations, not only among film critics, but also among movie goers. And movies weren't something which would be broken by that. Compared to back then, the responses are gentle these days. Critics, too, many of them are "critics with love." -laughs- Many of them try to find good points (in a movie) because (those who made the movie) tried really hard. I think there is such a tendency.


THe work with nakama who had the same ambition

I: There are many young people who want to be animators. What kind of approach do they take?

M: When I ask them what they want to make, I can see that they are apparently confused. There is a gap between what they want to make and what they have to make. For example, some started working (in this industry) because they had such fun watching TV anime when they were kids, and they want to do that kind of "wow, this is fun!" thing even if they don't get much praise, but they also think they have to make some difficult movie after all. -laughs- They haven't decided their stance yet. So, if they are asked formally, they say that the difficult stuff is worth making, but if I pressure them to tell the truth, they murmur "Er, can't we do worry-free adventure stories anymore in this era?" Though they don't show their true colors that easily.

T: We didn't think "we absolutely don't want to make anything but this." We were able to go on because we were willing to work on anything.

M: I said that we were aggressive, but we were able to think in such a way that it's OK if it's not fun, cause we make (movies) to depict humans, and the important thing is that the movie has a meaning. (We thought) if people won't see the movie, it's their fault. -laughs-

T: I think what we accomplished with Horus was that we were able to make realistic expression, so that in the mob scene, it wasn't just that there were a bunch of villagers, but that the villagers were together doing something. There had been no anime like that. So, at least we expressed that, and there was a theme in the expression. So, we wanted to do such a thing, and actually did it, working as a group.

M: It's still possible. I think The Wing of Honneamise is the proof of that. Those who made it were amateurs in terms of experience. In their mid twenties, they made it by themselves living and eating together, with no distinction between the work and their private lives.

T: Now, thinking back, we were lucky since we had our nakama who shared the same ambition.[5] Now, people talk about "Miyazaki and Takahata" as a pair, but there were many nakama who tried to express (something) in animation. In the unsatisfied situation with low pay, heavy workloads, frustrations, and such things, we talked with each other. We had nakama with whom we could talk not only about the work we were doing, but also about other things, and anime was made out of those (kinds of interactions). It was that kind of era. Speaking from this experience, I think the quick path to make a movie is first, to get nakama. Right now, people are separated individually, and they are required to show their individualities, more now than in the time when we were young, but they can do it by looking for their values or the direction they want to go, by confronting each other.

M: If three talented people get together they should be able to accomplish many things, and I think young people have the talents. It's not like we had so much talent anyway.

T: The way we act hasn't changed much. When I quit Toei Doga, I didn't even think about going out alone. Yasuo Otsuka-san, who invited me, used to be my nakama at Toei Doga, and he was creating a very unique TV series called Mumin at that time.[6] When he asked me to come, I asked Hayao Miyazaki and Youichi Odabe to go with me.[7] This was my conclusion after I thought about how we could utilize what we had been building up. Thinking back, it might just mean that I was fortunate as a director because I was always able to work with the talented people, but when I moved there, I was thinking totally different things. It was completely out of comradeship. It wasn't about I. I just thought that we were going to make it by supporting each other. I even thought, if possible, we would endure for all our lives.

M: The feeling of "one can only do so much" was really strong.

I: There is no "if" in history, but if Takahata-san made a movie like Horus now, I feel that it would have gotten attention from inside and outside Japan, and it would have completely changed the direction of your works after that.

T: Here is an energetic young man with a huge talent, named Hayao Miyazaki. If that were to happen now, there should be many offers, but at that time, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. -laughs-

M: There was a short review in Kinema Junpo, and that was it. So, the most important thing was whether we could do the work which would satisfy ourselves. There was no anime journalism yet, and no one sent us a letter or anything, so the important thing was whether one could have a sense of doing a somewhat better job than before. So there was no room for doubts.

T: At that time, no matter how hard one worked, only a limited number of people got their names credited. But now, even the smallest job can get credited. I think it's because of this era appreciating individuals, rather than because of anime journalism. There were the nine very important members who made the golden era of Disney anime, and now the "Nine Old Men" are famous, but at that time, no one knew about them. Right now, there is a very distinctive functional job system in the United States. There are people who write scripts, who write storyboards, who direct, and if an animator said to the director that he wants to change something, the director would say "I'm not authorized to change it." There is a very clear distinction among functions, and they have a strong sense of rights. Therefore, it is very difficult to incorporate each member's various ideas and work together to make an anime.

I: It was the opposite at Toei Doga.

T: When I joined Toei Doga, they were preparing for Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke.[8] For example, a key animator in the project said to the director, "I think this is better," and after talking it over, they decided to incorporate that idea. It was natural for them to do such things.

M: It was an ordinary thing. In a meeting, "Can I change the e konte (story boards) a bit?" "Sure." (An animator) drew small squares on animation sheets, not e konte sheets, and since he didn't know the number of seconds (for the sequence to take), "I'll take whatever seconds it'll require."

T: Not all the people were working like that, though. I think you need a talent and a persuasive power after all. In a certain feature film, although Miya-san was just a rookie, he strongly insisted and succeeded in adding a certain sequence into the movie.[9] -laughs-

M: Well, that's because when I asked "how about doing this?" I was told "oh, sure"... -laughs-

T: Well, that was the situation. However, if everyone just brings his/her own ideas in, there will be no consistency, so the main staff have to have tight control. If we just expand a scene freely, thinking it'll be enough if this scene looks great, there will be no consistency throughout the film. That was one of the reasons for Disney's decline. So, the director's control is also important.

M: And if you do it, you have to do it within the time frame. It's absurd if you can't finish your work on time even if you are allowed to incorporate various ideas of your own. That's your responsibility. So, you can't do it unless you are trusted. Otherwise, people will think you are just a brat talking nonsense. (People will think) you are just a big mouth.[10]

T: But these days, that kind of thing rarely happens. There are some people who are willing to incorporate other people's willingness in that manner, if possible, but it's difficult. In many cases, directors just refuse. I'm not sure since I didn't hear this from the director's side. I guess the director's pride won't allow it.

M: But those who care about their own pride aren't good. -laughs- The worst ones say something like "obey me. I'm the director." That kind of person can't listen to other people's suggestions. He feels as if his whole self is rejected.

T: The problem is that you can't have a good ensemble.

M: For example, if the main staff are weak, and the e konte are totally useless, but the animators are talented or motivated, it's gonna be a disaster. In that case, there are two ways. Either you enjoy yourself animating what you want, or you just proceed and finish working as scheduled.

T: When they aren't motivated, the work progresses really quickly. The best way to guarantee finishing within the schedule is if the staff members never get motivated at all.

M: But if they don't get motivated, they won't work at all, so you need a certain balance.

T: But the first case could be possible. You can create a great fun movie with a lot of fun parts.[11] Everyone can offer his/her own ideas and can change (the direction), having fun. I can understand why Disney, in a certain period, took this approach.


Should young people get embarrassed?

I: That kind of thing (i.e., incorporating other people's ideas) was possible at Toei Doga, but what was the situation like when you went outside (of Toei Doga)?

T: Before we quit Toei Doga, the era of TV animation had started, and it brought a sort of "director-centralism" in, because there was no time to do such things. Since the air date was given, we had to make it in a short time. In this situation, the power started to be concentrated in the director. Of course, I think there were people who opposed to it.

M: To make a number of anime, many people were promoted prematurely to directors, and actually, people who had never directed became directors. So, many odd things happened, but at the same time, animators were also promoted prematurely, so every Jack had his Jill. -laughs- It was really a stupid time.

T: Well, there was also a positive side to it. Everyone was able to have actual experiences in various things. Because of the promotion, at least those who wanted to be directors could direct, and those who wanted to be animators could animate. Which meant that one could know about oneself. There was a lot of this trial-and-error. Well, you get embarrassed enormously, but those who can take it as an embarrassment will make progress because of it. So there were many opportunities for that. The chances to get embarrassed were increased. It's totally opposite in present day Ghibli. Rookies have no chance to get embarrassed (by making mistakes).

M: There are many check systems among staff.

T: Regardless of whether it was a good era or not, I feel that we need to incorporate, in some form, the chaos we had in the beginning of the TV anime era.

I: But facing Miyazaki and Takahata, don't young people get intimidated, or feel pressure?

T: Well, while you are embarrassing yourself in such works as TV, you don't have the time to get intimidated. But if you are chosen by Miya-san to direct a so-called Ghibli anime, I think you feel pressure because there is this "Ghibli brand," and you think you have to make something worth that name.

M: They get pressured not because of our demands. Rather, they put pressure on themselves. In many cases, people create pressure on their own by making Ghibli a hypothetical enemy, or by appreciating Ghibli too much. So, they run away when I say "there is an interesting project. Won't you direct it?"

T: Well, after all, Hayao Miyazaki is such a formidable figure. You get intimidated if you think about what Miya-san will say about it.

M: I wanted to let my assistants do (the direction), but when I told them "do this," everyone ran away. -laughs- On the other hand, there are people who come to us and say "let me do this," but actually, that kind of person isn't good. We can trust better those who know themselves and think that directing isn't that easy. We need to meet someone who overcame that and still wants to direct in one level higher. (We have to meet) someone on whom we can stake (a project?) even if Ghibli would go bankrupt.

T: It's better if they assert themselves in some tangible way. I think we were like that. Miya-san didn't say "let me do this," but, he asserted himself really strongly (through his work). If there is someone who gets our attention like that, we may be able to stake (a project?) on him/her.

M: It's no good even if we make them want to do it. Paku-san says "tell your opinion," but if they do, he fires back at them. Three times, ten times more. They get stupefied, get dizzy, not knowing what to do.
    This era might not have the difficulties which our era had, but there are other difficulties. It needs a huge violent courage for new people to come out with what they want to express. In our case, we can say that it wasn't just self-display, but it was easier for us to be assertive because of many things such as the atmosphere of the time or the situation which animation was in.

I: But, wasn't Toei Doga when you two were there the best environment in Japan at that time?

M: There was no best or worst. There was nothing to compare with. -laughs- I myself thought it was the worst place.

T: For the young people these days, we have a policy to let them go knight-errant (outside of Ghibli). Not raising them here, but letting them go outside to expose them to the roughness of the outside world. Thinking back, we experienced this kind of roughness. We did crazy works in the crazy era. If you are here, you can't do crazy works. So, people who once were here went outside. Maybe, there will be an opportunity for them to come back someday.

M: I think Ghibli is like this: Ghibli is a torso. If we have a firm torso, you can put arms, a head, or legs on it, but without a torso, you can't do good work just with arms or heads. Ghibli is basically a torso. So, if a good head comes, we can have a good project. If a good hand comes, the hand can do good work as it pleases. In Ghibli, there are honest and patient staff members who support the torso. But they are not a head.

T: In that example, we have Hayao Miyazaki as a head, and we have Ghibli as we know now. We had ten years of Ghibli in such a form. In the future, if another head comes, we can still show the very strong competence as a torso, compared to other studios. Though I heard this story of Ghibli being a torso for the first time here. -laughs-

M: I told Mamoru Oshii many times that he should work at Ghibli.[12] We even had a concrete project once.[13] But, every time, he declines, making excuses. He seems to fear that the animators, like a bunch of nagging relatives, will peck him all over, and give him a hard time. -laughs-

T: No, not just that. Not just about the torso. He fears even if he became a head, there would be another head attached right next to it, called Miyazaki. -laughs-

M: I won't meddle too much. -laughs- That's not fair, Paku-san, you are forgetting about yourself.

T: But after all, Miya-san is the one who makes Ghibli. So his presence is a huge one.

M: I myself am not aware of it.

T: Maybe he isn't aware of it, but it is so.


In the beginning, there was President Tokuma

I: Let's move on to the story of how Ghibli was created.

T: First, Tokuma Shoten (Tokuma Publishing Co.) had a magazine called Animage, and Miyazaki-san was writing the manga Nausicaa for it. Of course there were people who paid attention to it even back then, but it was a huge gamble to make an animation based on it. After all, compared to other manga writers, Hayao Miyazaki wasn't famous or anything. And Tokuma Shoten had no know-how, no studio, nothing. So what were we to do? We were confronted by a situation which was totally different from the one we grew up in. We had a project to do, and we had a head, Hayao Miyazaki, but nothing else. So, we had no choice other than forming a new studio.
    So, after some considerations, we decided to work with a studio called Topcraft. However, I asserted that if Tokuma Shoten was seriously going to produce animation in Japan, we had to do it responsibly, with a long term view, not just doing it when we had a project, renting some studio and then disbanding it (after the project has completed). So, it was decided to form Ghibli. I persuaded Hara-san (Toru) to come, and I dumped all the operation (of Ghibli) on him, Miya-san, and Suzuki-san.[14] Though I guess it was an unfair thing to do.

M: In the beginning, we were planning to disband (the studio) once we finished the project, and if we got another project, then we would gather staff members again, but we would at least keep the place. Usually, an organization gets stagnated after three years or three projects, so I was saying "three years, three projects." So, once we had made three projects, we changed the organization little by little. We changed it so that we could guarantee the livelihood of animators with fixed pay, based on the decision that we would keep making (anime). It was totally opposite to the direction the anime industry was heading, and it meant we had to take risks, but it was possible because we had a person like Tokuma-san who said "Go!" as he's always been saying.[15]

T: In a sense, it's largely due to the fact that it's a publishing company. And of course President Tokuma, in particular, is a large part of it. It's the job of publishing companies to cooperate with writers, so they respect writers and stake (the future?) on them. I think they have that kind of willingness (to cooperate).

M: Tokuma Shoten had such an atmosphere that they respected writers. But, the movie industry is filled with people who find satisfaction in finding out how successfully they can manipulate the old-hands into doing what they want, and there are many people who got burned (in the movie industry), so they wouldn't let us make (what we want) so easily. Another thing is the presence of Producer Suzuki (Toshio). Although he himself doesn't come out in public, he is a baby boomer who loves to manipulate the general public, -laughs- and his contribution has been enormous. If it weren't for him, there wouldn't be a Ghibli.

T: Totoro and Grave were double billed, and we were often told, "We felt so good when we finished watching Totoro, but we were thrown into the abyss by Grave." But, we had no choice other than combining these two films. It was made possible only through Suzuki-san and others' maneuvering. After making Nausicaa and Laputa, Tokuma Shoten would've been happier if we had made more of these kinds of films, and they didn't feel that they knew what to do with something like the monsters in Tokorozawa.[16] On the other hand, Shinchosha wanted to learn how to make animation.[17] So, Suzuki-san and others contacted their friends at Shinchosha and promoted this project (Grave). Then, the president of Shinchosha finally decided to go ahead with it. To Shinchosha, Tokuma Shoten pretended that they were going to make Totoro, but in truth, they hadn't decided yet, I think.[18] -laughs-

M: When Tokuma Shoten estimated (the return) of Totoro and Grave, they reached the inevitable conclusion that each one would lose ¥50 million. President Tokuma said, then, "We are going to be giving Shinchosha some trouble." He is the kind of person who says such things. -laughs- But they were prepared (to take this loss), and the president of Shinchosha, the ninety-some year old prestigious publishing company, the company, older than Tokuma Shoten, called (Tokuma) personally, and that made (Tokuma) decide "let's do it." I thought that was a miracle. In the end, they both made a profit, though.

T: To be more precise, they made a profit only later. We couldn't make money through the theater release. It took the production costs for two films, but we only earned for one.

M: It takes a long time to recover (the investment). But in that case, we have no choice but to think that we are going to recover the investment and make some plus in the end, no matter how much trouble we cause the studio at that time. After all, we are always causing trouble (for the studio). -laughs-

T: Well, we were lucky, but if I can be so bold, Ghibli is the place where a just argument wins. Up to now, I think we can show that if you do the work as good as you possibly can, in a straightforward way, you can survive.

I: Now, looking back, you may be able to think that way, but when Miyazaki-san was the director and Takahata-san was the producer, as in Nausicaa or Laputa, wasn't there a time when you couldn't follow the just argument?

T: Including Producer Suzuki, we are the kind of people who can't think in any other way. So, we were too inexperienced to think things like "this is the way it is, we can't have our way." I had never produced a film before that. I didn't even think I could. So, we had no choice but to push straight.

M: So, we don't choose a project by thinking "among the various choices we have, this one has the best chance to make money," rather, it's just that there is no other choice. -laughs- In truth, we can't do anything other than doing that. It's always been so. So, as I always say, even if I have a plan, a movie will turn out to be the movie (as it is), and I just follow behind it since I have no choice. I think that's closer to what actually happens. Something we didn't expect inevitably happens, and we end up deceiving those who are paying money. It's the same with Mimi wo Sumaseba. We gave it such weird copy as "kasakushohin (a fine small work) series" which doesn't make any sense anyway... -laughs-
    And then, we decided that we would take this opportunity to do various experiments with it, so it ended up being a big fuss. For example, we used Digital Dolby in Mimi, but we learned that doing it in Japan is quite an adventure. You know, it isn't customary to spend much time and money during post production on the sound recording in Japanese movies. We didn't have that custom either, so we always drew pictures up to the time limit, and we put sounds to it in the minimum time. So, this time, the time needed for recording just skyrocketed.

T: It is so, but in other words, it just happened that way by force of circumstances. We have to pursue what we start to the end. Of course there are restrictions to the schedule and the production costs, so we can't do everything we want, but this Dolby thing also, it just happened that way. Usually, if you do something unusual, you make it a sales point, and advertise upfront that you are using many CGs (computer graphics) and digital compositions, but that's not a good thing to do. You just do it by force of circumstances, and you use trial-and-error, and it becomes something. Then, you can use it in a really effective way. You can do it in a calm state of mind, and Ghibli is the place where we are allowed to do that.


Can Ghibli survive?

T: When you face a difficulty at work, how do you cope with it? There are various difficulties such as delays in the schedule or overspending, but will you try to force things down to the minus direction? Or, this is the "force of circumstances" thing, but if the budget is the problem, will you think up a way to recover more money than you spend, or a way to have people invest more? Producer Suzuki is a person who chooses the latter way, and he always tries to solve problems in an aggressive way. This is how we've been working.

I: There is such an excellent combination (of people) as the foundation of Ghibli, but the young people who are growing right now have to make their talents break through by having their personalities collide with each other, and they get polished by that.

M: It's the same with Paku-san, but when we were young, when we were making movies without thinking who's the director or who's what, we didn't discuss so much. We strongly felt that we were in it together, so there wasn't much need for examining things one by one.

T: That's important. Having lively discussions among staff members often looks cool, but it isn't. You have to finish those kinds of things before that. You have to finish (such things) before you start (making a film).

M: Maybe it was till a certain age, but we had such experiences. If three people get together, it can be powerful. I said so before, but if you get together and start talking, it won't be powerful. You can't do that unless you have a strong core. When Paku-san said "let's do Heidi," I was like "heh? Heidi?" -laughs- I was like, "Well, if you insist, I'll do it..." So, I didn't think that I wanted to direct or anything. So, it wasn't like "let me do this;" instead, it was like "I'll do this, so you take care of that." We clearly knew what we had to do, rather than just talking.

T: We grew up that way, and we've been doing things that way. We have some staff members who have been with us since the beginning, and we have new staff members joining us one after another. I feel that it may be hard for the next generation. I mean, by making the younger generation work for our projects, we may be consuming most of what they have, and because of that, they might not be able to have what they need to construct their own (projects)...

M: Frankly, we used them up. It's like we ate them. I feel guilty about them... We've known those who are now in their thirties since the time they were eighteen or twenty, but it's like when we finish, they'll also finish.

T: No, it isn't. -laughs-

M: We are calling them nakama, but it's more vague. It's not like we've been together for a long time. We happen to be together, and happen to be looking in the same direction at one point in time. It's nakama in that sense. It's not like a relationship where we'll go along with them all the way no matter how terrible the mistakes they make.

I: So, young people have to be careful not to be eaten if they work with Miyazaki-san or Takahata-san.

M: Well, if they were eaten, that would still be fine. What would they do if they weren't eaten? They might be doing more meaningless things. -laughs- But if a really talented young staff member emerges, s/he may be someone who is really detestable. I feel it'll be someone who makes us feel "what an arrogant S.O.B!" -laughs-

T: I think about Hayao Miyazaki. I think many things such as: if he had started directing much earlier, he could have made more masterpieces. I reflect, for example, that I might have done disservice to him by making him work with me. But, in the end, I have to think positively that the experience was useful for him. -laughs-

M: Once, someone told me that if I hadn't met Takahata-san, I could have done many more works. I couldn't understand what he meant. Well, I understood much later, but I still feel that was a foolish thing to say. Because I had no complaint about being an animator. If I thought about my work at such a level as expressing myself in such a form, or self-display, or showing my personality, I think I could have only done a worse job.
    Now, people think of Ghibli as the mainstream establishment. But it's been the most adventurous place. Mimi is based on a shoujo (girl's) manga. Even inside, there are some people who wonder "why (do) a shoujo manga now," and we don't know how it will work out until we open the film, but this is a very ambitious project. To realize this (project), though we didn't mean to, we ended up telling many lies such as kasakushohin. -laughs- I think we've been adventurous every time we've chosen a project.[19]

T: So, we aren't choosing them in a way people would say "Ghibli, again?" I think we've been doing projects that seem difficult to make successfully. We are not choosing them from the choices which we think are absolutely safe to do (in terms of making money).

M: I've been saying "Don't think that Ghibli is a stable company. Don't get comfortable just because you are working for Ghibli. Don't have loyalty toward the company." If one project goes down, Ghibli would go down, too. However, it's commonsense to improve the work environment if you make money. It's not right to suck up the profit just because you are taking the risk. But it's absolutely wrong to think that if you just improve the work environment, you can make a good work. A good work can be born even in the worst work environment. So, I'm not going to confuse those. So, I don't feel like "Ghibli forever" like in the case of the Giants.[20] I'm telling my staff members that if they are competent, they can work anywhere.
    About the high cost, while it's a necessary condition to raise the quality, it limits our options, and as Paku-san said, it deprives the young people of the chance to get embarrassed. For example, we created the in-between check system, but I want to change it. (If we change it,) Then, cel painters would complain that they can't paint such stuff. Then it would strike the home of the person who drew it, and he/she would be more careful next time. If such things happen, I think there will be a lively human communication among the different functions. But it's difficult to tear the division of labor down once it got created. A system is supposed to be changed along with the people who are in it. Otherwise, its arteries get hardened.

T: We created the system as the way to smoothly carry out the tasks we had to do at that point in time.

M: We've been choosing projects very roughly. Distributors and investors lost their color every time they saw the first screening of each film. Of course, we ourselves were the ones who were worried most, but I heard that Toho had an emergency conference every time.[21] (To talk about) Whether they should cut the number of the theaters. -laughs- Fortunately, Ghibli movies are doing well right now, but it's possible that they won't in the future. But still, we don't want to choose a project based on the prospect of whether it would do well or not.

I:What do you think about the future of Ghibli?

M: Well, it doesn't matter if it goes bankrupt tomorrow. -laughs- It's no use to think about such things.

T: Well, it does matter.

M: I shouldn't have much time left. I don't want to finish being glued to a desk like this.
    I went to Yaku Island the other day, and it was the best. I want to live there for a year while I'm still able to walk around the mountains. -laughs- There should be a few clear days no matter how rainy it is, if I stay there for a year.[22]

T: Yes, we are now in preparation for the next film, so we have no choice but to keep going.

M: Those who never said anything about green started feeling (the green is) great while they were walking the mountain. When they went location hunting, they were overwhelmed, and their hands were shaking.

T: They seem to have realized the difference between looking at beautiful green in pictures and actually going there and being surrounded by green, and I think that's good for them. We've been trying to create a realistic world or the feeling of presence with animation. But, the world in images is totally different from reality. I started feeling so. I wonder what the meaning of creating realistic images is.

M: After all, I think we are staying at the level of simple naturalism.

T: I think it'll be interesting if something new emerges and breaks it down.

M: There are countless issues. The ones who have to shoulder these issues are not us, but those who are destined to work, utilizing this place. After all, we can't say anything other than we did as we pleased. -laughs-

T: He says so, but I think he is still going to work hard. -laughs- The next Ghibli film is up to Miya-san, after all.


May 29, 1995, at Studio Ghibli

Notes from the translator
1. "Paku" is Takahata's nickname.
2. Le roi et l'oiseau (Cross-eyed Tyrant), by Paul Grimault, is the animation classic made in France. Snow Queen is a masterpiece animation from Russia.
3. Hakujyaden (The Legend of White Snake) is the first color feature animation film in Japan made by Toei Doga.
4. Yasujiro Ozu is a famous Japanese film director.
5. Nakama can mean "comardes" or "partners."
6. Yasuo Otsuka was the animation director of Horus, Conan, and Castle of Cagliostro.
7. Youichi Odabe was the animation director of Heidi and 3000ri.
8. Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke, the second feature film by Toei, is a boy Ninja story.
9. Sidenote: I think this was Gulliver's Space Travel, in which Miyazaki-san added the ending totally different from the script --Ryo.
10. Sidenote: Interestingly, Takahata-san couldn't finish Grave of the Fireflies on time ^^;; --Ryo
11. Note: In Japanese, we say "fun like toppled toy box." I think it implies many toys are scattered around and kids can have a lot of fun, but I can't think up a good English translation for this. --Ryo
12. Mamoru Oshii, the director of Uruseiyatsura 2 and Patlabor. He is considered to be one of the prominent directors in the young generation.
13. A project called Anchor.
14. Toru Hara was the president of then Topcraft. He became the CEO of Ghibli. Toshio Suzuki was the former chief editor of Animage. He has been the producer of Ghibli movies, and an officer of Ghibli.
15. Yoshiyasu Tokuma is the president of Tokuma Shoten.
16. Tokorozawa is the place where Totoro was supposed to take place, and is where Miyazai-san lives.
17. Shinchosha is the publishing company who published the novel and produced the anime version of Grave.
18. Sidenote: Totoro was produced by (i.e., paid by) Tokuma, and Grave was produced by Shinchosha. Tokuma couldn't afford to produce the both, but wasn't sure if Totoro alone could attract enough audience, so they decided to cooperate with Shinchosha and put Totoro and Grave together. --Ryo
19. Sidenote: "Kasakushohin (a fine small work)" is a sort of copy for Mimi. I guess it was to tell the sponsors that this was going to be a down-to-earth small project, but it became such a big project as we know. --Ryo
20. Tokyo Giants is a baseball team which is expected to win always. When a famous player retired, he said "Giants forever!"
21. Toho is the company who distributes Ghibli movies in Japan.
22. Sidenote: Miya-san went to the island for the location hunting for Mononoke Hime. The island is famous for its big trees and constant rain. --Ryo

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