Studio Ghibli co-founder teases Hayao Miyazaki's next 'big, fantastical' film
For his next post-retirement film for the famed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, the home of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki is making a return to "big, fantastical" stories.
With Studio Ghibli's library of classics, from Castle in the Sky to When Marnie Was There, arriving on streaming via HBO Max for the first time in the company's 35-year history, producer Toshio Suzuki spoke with EW over video conference on these new developments, including an update on Miyazaki's How Do You Live?
"The film that Hayao Miyazaki's working on at the moment is a big, fantastical story," he said through a translator.
Miyazaki, 79, crafted some of Ghibli's most celebrated works, including Spirited Away, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. He teased his impending retirement for years. Then he made 2014's The Wind Rises, a fictionalized World War II-set biopic that was a departure from the sweeping fantasy sagas that marked the bulk of his career. Miyazaki announced his retirement in 2013, but then decided he wanted to make at least one more film.
"Many directors make films on and on and on throughout their careers as they grow older," Suzuki explained. "When Miyazaki came back and said that I want to make a film again, I actually said that's not a great idea because he's achieved so much already. You can't come back and do something that you've already done in the past, you have to do something different. One of the ideas that came out from that was, why not spend more time and spend more money [to make a film]? So, that's one of the new approaches."
In 2017, Studio Ghibli announced Kimi-tachi wa Dou Ikiru ka? (How Do You Live?) as Miyazaki's next film, based on Yoshino Genzaburo's 1937 story about a young boy who moves in with his uncle after the death of his father and undergoes a spiritual change. Suzuki says the coronavirus pandemic, which has halted most film and television productions around the world, has not affected Ghibli's progress here. But we're still a few years away from seeing the final results.
"We are still hand-drawing everything, but it takes us more time to complete a film because we're drawing more frames," he noted. "So, there are more drawings to draw than before. Back when we were making [1988's] My Neighbor Totoro, we only had eight animators. Totoro we made in eight months. [For] the current film that Hayao Miyazaki is working on, we have 60 animators, but we are only able to come up with one minute of animation in a month. That means 12 months a year, you get 12 minutes worth of movie. Actually, we've been working on this film for three years, so that means we have 36 minutes completed so far. We're hoping it will finish in the next three years."
At the start of the new year, Studio Ghibli rang in 2020 by revealing there were in fact two films in development. The second film, Suzuki confirmed, is from Miyazaki's son, Gorō Miyazaki, seemingly the untitled work first reported on in 2017. Gorō previously helmed 2006's Tales from Earthsea and 2011's From Up on Poppy Hill for Ghibli. "This one is all done by computer-generated animation," Suzuki said of the new work.
The producer declined to go too in-depth, but said, "Gorō's film is based on a book or story from England, and it's a story about a very wise girl. We've only announced it's going to be a new film, we haven't announced anything yet. So, that's as far as I can tell you now."
Much of Studio Ghibli's library (with more to come afterward) will arrive on the HBO Max streaming platform at launch this May 27. The films were also already made available as digital purchases on Dec. 17.
Quotes from Suzuki have been slightly edited for clarity.