A first among the masters of Japanese cartoons: the illustrious studio Ghibli (Chihiro , Mononoke…) Take the risk of digital animation, under the direction of the founder’s son, Hayao Miyazaki, not ready to put away his pencils.
Sometimes referred to as Japanese Walt Disney — for his power of imagination — the master of Japanese animation has just celebrated his 80th birthday, and continues to work on his next film.
“Chances are I’ll retire before he does!” Jokes his son, Goro Miyazaki, 54.
Same smile, same full face, same taste for fantasy and magic: the heir comes out of the shadows with Aya and the witch, first film in digital animation stamped Ghibli, visible online during the Gérardmer festival (January 27-31).
The film, which is part of the Cannes 2020 selection, tells the story of a brave and mischievous little orphan, friend of a kitten, placed in a family of wizards.
A very “Miyazakian” plot… But fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s most beautiful works, like My neighbor Totoro or The castle in the Sky will be confused by the cooler rendering of the 3D animation.
For a studio renowned for the visual harmony of its creations, it is a gamble, recognizes Goro Miyazaki, aware of the risk of disappointing “by default, almost beforehand, the expectations of Ghibli fans”, attached to the traditional feature that has made it famous.
However, Goro Miyazaki assures us that his father’s perfectionist “left his hands free”: “he hardly had any remarks during the production (…). He came to get information regularly (but) because of the technological difference with the traditional cartoon, he had no influence. It is not his medium ”.
No question either of “entering into a kind of competition” with the American animation giants, and their enormous technical and financial resources.
“We could compare large American productions to Tesla automatic cars, and what we are trying to do with an electrically assisted bicycle for a mother,” Goro Miyazaki told AFP. “But there are also landscapes that are only visible because we are in this slowness of cycling…”.
“A neighborhood workshop”
May the guardians of tradition be reassured, “drawing on paper, traditional animation like my father’s practice, will continue to exist within the studio”, underlines Goro Miyazaki.
But digital computer graphics offer “a new possibility of the future”, considers the one who had already signed Tales of Earthsea (2006) and Poppy Hill (2011). “Ghibli Studios carry a legacy of over 30 years of history. But everyone inside is also wondering how the future will be written ”.
Because at Ghibli, the question of the succession of the master, who founded the studio in 1985 and received the Oscar for best animated film in 2003 for Spirited away, is not decided.
Some talented writers have died, others have founded their own studios, and no name has prevailed.
Despite international artistic renown, “we are neither a big studio nor a big company. But rather a neighborhood workshop, a small place of creation. I don’t think we can plan for a generational change that works as we expect. We tried it several times, and it did not work as expected, ”recalls Goro Miyazaki.
Especially since Hayao Miyazaki could “work for another ten years!” Enthuses his son, “impressed by his capacity for imagination still intact”.
Eight years after his last opus, The wind picks up, the film on which Hayao Miyazaki continues to work is “a rather touching project”, he slips, without revealing more.
Anyway, his father “has taken the habit of retiring … and going back on his decision a number of times in the past,” he laughs.