Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Ponyo: Before there Was Pixar, there was Hayao

Posted on June 23, 2009 at 9:20 PM

If you want to know where one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live is residing, as well as one of the best production studios established is located, you need look no further than the Tokyo suburb of Koganei. Such pull and weight does this studio have that the heads even sent Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein an authentic Japanese katana as a response to his memo stating they should make edits on the American release of their film. All that was scribbled on the note was "no cuts."

Weinstein agreed.

The studio's name is Studio Ghibli. The filmmaker's name is Hayao Miyazaki. If you aren't familiar with either, then you disgrace yourself and perhaps they should send you a katana so you may perform seppuku. Ghibli, and Miyazaki, have won countless awards (including an Oscar) and are often dubbed one of the most influential entities and filmmakers in film history; often called the "Disney of the east." Why Disney? Studio Ghibli does animation, of course.

To merely say they "do animation" is a complete disservice to them, however. So I bring up the notion of Pixar, who's own heads say Studio Ghibli was the single most important entity in their own approach to filmmaking. Pixar's films seem to go beyond being "kids cartoons" and reach a broad audience. They're more complex, emotional and are geared towards adults just as much as they are children. This formula, though, was more or less nurtured and perfected decades before Pixar even existed.

Studio Ghibli's films range from the comedic adventure, such as Castle of Cogliostro following the detective Lupin and his erroneous ways, to the whimsical, such as Kiki's Delivery Service about a little witch, to the serious such as Grave of the Fireflies where we follow two orphaned children during the bombings of Tokyo during World War 2 (that movie is not for children, by the way). Spearheading this studio, and the man responsible for most of their films, is Hayao Miyazaki who won an Oscar a few years ago for his masterpiece of film, Spirited Away, which is has so much imagination you're surprised the celluloid can contain it and are left awestruck. Miyazaki-San has been around for a long time. While Disney floundered during the 1970s and 80s, he and his Studio Ghibli soared and still do to this day. They may not make much, and Hayao getting up there in age, but when they do, you automatically know you're in for a treat - again like Pixar. They don't miss, they don't dish out mediocrity. While you might enjoy some more than others, you can't deny the imagination and brilliance of it all.

The Studio now offers us their latest effort, simply titled Ponyo here in the United States. Like many of Ghibli's trailers, it's hard to understand what it's about, just that it looks pretty. We all know better by now, however. It all comes together once you see it. Once again, Miyazaki appears to capture the imagaination of a child in a bottle and unleashed it in its purest form. Enjoy the man's work while you can, he's a dying breed, so let us only hope he lives to be a thousand.

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Reply toosmartforbond2
7:04 PM on July 14, 2009 
I can only pray that Studio Ghibli survives to provide quality films without Miyazaki, whenever that sad yet inevitable day comes. I think they did a few without him, specifically, and they turned out rather well. Still, I don't think it gets much better than Castle in the Sky ^_^
Reply J. Conrady
9:23 PM on July 15, 2009 
Yeah, the man is pushing 70 and is still a workhorse.
I recently watched Porco Rosso. That was one I had simply neglected to see as time went on. It as just great, almost like Indiana Jones and just as fun. "fun" is something sorely missing in movies sometimes. I will say Ponyo looks to be the man's most bizarre film, though. But he hasn't made a bad film so I think we're safe.
Reply toosmartforbond2
10:03 PM on July 15, 2009 
The man doesn't know HOW to make a bad film.

I liked Porco Rosso a lot. I think I own almost all of his stuff, without buying that studio collection. I think I may be missing some, but I'm close. Whisper of the Heart and Grave of the Fireflies are the ones I don't have, and possibly that weird one about the person with the cat-head.

Still ... I'll certainly enjoy seeing another Miyazaki film ^_^
Reply frdrizzt (Anthony)
10:34 PM on July 16, 2009 
Whisper of the Heart / If you Listen Closely was actually one of my favorite Ghibli titles, and unless I'm forgetting any, easily my favorite non-Miyazaki Ghibli film. During a Japanese course, we met some Japanese exchange students, one of which told me she lived right by the Ghibli Museum. Going there would be like dying and going to heaven.
Reply J. Conrady
12:03 PM on July 17, 2009 
I don't know anyone who hasn't cried on Grave of the Fireflies. It's a very powerful film.

I sadly have not seen Whisper of the Heart. Off to netflix!
Reply toosmartforbond2
12:13 PM on July 17, 2009 
You'll hate me for this, but I didn't like Grave of the Fireflies. It's about the only one of those films that I found myself bored with. I can't explain it, but there it is.