Hayao Miyazaki: Life and Filmography of the Brilliant Anime Film Maker
Hayao Miyazaki is a celebrated Japanese anime film maker, animator and screen writer who has directed and drawn several famous movies over his life. He is regarded as the godfather of anime and a skillful storyteller and is a self proclaimed pacifist. Miyazaki also co-founded Studio Ghibli, which went on to produce famous movies like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbour Totoro.
The majority of the characters he creates for his movies are based on real people in his life. He was born January 5th 1941, in the middle of WW2 and was evacuated to a different city in 1944, and another city in 1945 after the first one was bombed. He was the son of the owner of Miyazaki Airplane, which manufactured, among others, rudders for the feared warplane Mitsubishi A6M Zero during the war.
There are some events or places he felt connected to or people close to him that inspired or became integrated in the April 1988 movie My Neighbour Totoro, set in postwar Japan. One such person was Miyazaki’s very own mother, who inspired and influenced several other Ghibli Studio movies was bedridden with a severe case of spinal tuberculosis from 1947 to 1955. She at first had to stay in a hospital, but after a while she could be nursed from home. The mother of the two protagonists is hospitalised in the movie, therefore representing his mother.
Furthermore, the hospital that the mother stays at for the entire movie is called Shichikokuyama Hospital, which is a fictional hospital and not even mentioned in the movie but appears in the book versions of it, but there also is a Hachikokuyama hospital, which is entirely real and known for treating tuberculosis patients like Miyazaki’s mother. The movie is also set in postwar Japan, and with his mother being sick from 1947-1955, a period right after WW2, and the mother in the movie also hospitalised postwar, there is more than a passing resemblance between the two.
My Neighbour Totoro is also set in a real city in rural Japan, Tokorozawa city, which is in the Sayama Hills area. Hayao Miyazaki himself is rumoured to also live in the Sayama Hills area, which could explain why the movie is set there: he may feel a connection to it and therefore want to include it in at least one of his movies. As stated earlier, when Miyazaki was 3 years old, his village was bombed and he had to move house, which relates to the start of the movie, when the two protagonists, Mei and Satsuki, move with their father to a rural village in order to be closer to their ailing mother, who was hospitalised. Almost all of Miyazaki’s movies contain some sort of grandmotherly figure, representing his own grandma, whom he loved dearly. During the movie, Mei and Satsuki encounter a grandma who lives close by multiple times, thus proving there is a grandmotherly figure in the movie.
Miyazaki actually hand drew My Neighbour Totoro frame by frame with only a few others to help him, using a 2B pencil, coloured pencils, watercolours and occasionally ink. This affects the audience by adding what feels like a degree of authenticity and effort to the movie, since it is not just easily done all on a computer. According to Miyazaki, hand-drawing is the fundamental of animation and it adds life to the movie, and sheds light on and recreates how cartoon movies used to be made, by drawing it frame by frame, which has become obsolete since the introduction of computer animation.
He also paid great attention to detail, perfecting every frame and drawing all of the key scenes himself. He also overlooked all of the technical perfection, like making sure the frames ran smoothly and the audio was perfectly dubbed. This greatly enhanced the movie for the audience as the movie was vastly improved and was tied together much better, including both audio and video. This created much smoother, more flowing animations, perfectly matched by the in-sync voices and sound effects for an unmatched movie.
Miyazaki receives influence and inspiration for his movies from a number of fantasy writers, artists and other directors and cartoonists, with him citing inspiration from the various works of names like Ursula K. Le Guin, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Jean Giraud and Osamu Tezuka. He is sometimes called the ‘Walt Disney of Japan’, but he hates that title as he does not wish to be compared to Disney. Miyazaki frequently makes references to nature, ecology, and pollution by humankind in his films. My Neighbour Totoro is a great example of this as the entire movie is set in rural areas, surrounded by thriving woodland and seemingly endless, water filled rice paddies. His films usually focus on young people as the protagonists or have children that play key roles in the plot of the movie. Studio Ghibli movies frequently include scenes or sequences in which characters fly, such as in My Neighbour Totoro, when Satsuki and Mei fly while holding onto Totoro, and also while they are travelling in the Catbus.
Miyazaki often produces films that involve young human protagonists entering a strange, unknown land that is forbidden or otherwise inaccessible to ordinary people. An example of this would be Totoro’s home in the giant tree in the Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro, which is inaccessible unless you are young, innocent and pure of heart. Another fact about Miyazaki movies is that they usually includes scenes or stills during the closing titles that let the viewer see what happened to the characters after the events described in the movie. Films involve scenes with labour or hommages to working class people and children or women helping out.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below