Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Taking Flight: Thoughts on the Art of Hayao Miyazaki on His 70th Birthday

by Gregg Chadwick

Celluloid Dreams
Celluloid Dreams at the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Japan

I woke up from a dream this morning that seemed to have been pulled from a Hayao Miyazaki film. In my dream a tender sapling reached towards the light as it sprouted from my wrist. Above, russet clouds moved in a cerulean sky. I look to my dreams as openings rather than fortunes. Yet, since I recently returned from Tokyo, I should remember that in Japan the first dreams of the New Year, hatsu-yume 初夢, traditionally provide markers for the dreamer's upcoming year.

Hayao Miyazaki
Sketch for Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)
pencil and watercolor on paper 2001
(Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Japan)

The vision and mystery of Hayao Miyazaki's work will surely provide inspiration for me throughout 2011. In December, I was fortunate to visit the Ghibli Museum which was created to feature the art and films of Hayao Miyazaki and also the breadth of animation done by Studio Ghibli since its founding in 1985 by filmmakers Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.

Flight plays an important role in many of Miyazaki's films and it is fitting that both the film company, Studio Ghibli, and the Ghibli Museum were named after an Italian airplane first produced before World War II: the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli. The word ghibli in Italian refers to the hot dry winds that blow across the Sahara desert.

Caproni Ca.309 "Ghibli" In North Africa during WWII

Hayao Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941 just months before Pearl Harbor and the brutal battles in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. As a small child growing up in greater Tokyo, Miyazaki drew scenes of aircraft and aviation most likely inspired by his father's family business which built airplane parts for Japanese Zero fighter planes and also in the later years of the war, by his remembrances of the waves of Allied bombers which firebombed much of Tokyo into smoldering ruins.

Still from Grave of the Fireflies ((Hotaru no Haka)) 1988
Created by Studio Ghibli. Directed by Isao Takahata.

Much of Miyazaki's mature work reflects his distaste for heedless violence and warmongering. Miyazaki also deeply cares about the environment and the place of natural beauty in a heavily industrialized Japan. Thirdly, many of Miyazaki's films feature a strong, brave, and resourceful main female character. I have been traveling to Japan since I was a kid in the 1970's and I am pleased to see that Miyazaki's vision for life in Japan seems to be bearing fruit. On his 70th birthday, I would like to give thanks to Hayao Miyazaki for his talent, vision, and deep concern for humanity. Bravo!

Hayao Miyazaki at 22
(Courtesy NTV)

Hayao Miyazaki
Sketch for Porco Rosso (Kurenai no buta)
pencil and watercolor on paper 1992
(Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Japan)

Hayao Miyazaki
Sketch for My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)
pencil and watercolor on paper 1988
(Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Japan)

Miyazaki Discusses Hand Drawn Animation and Inspiration at the Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2008

Japanese Television Documentary on Miyazaki

Much more at:
Studio Ghibli Website
Studio Ghibli Latest News from
Studio Ghibli Information Site (In French and excellent!)

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