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Hayao Miyazaki’s legacy and influence challenged as Studio Ghibli seeks new path under new ownership

  The world-famous Hayao Miyazaki animation actually has a team called Studio Ghibli behind it to turn creativity into images. As Hayao Miyazaki gets older, the subsequent development of Ghibli has also been questioned.
  In the second half of this year, Studio Ghibli held a press conference in Tokyo and stated that Nippon Television plans to acquire equity and make it a subsidiary to take over the management work. After the acquisition is completed, Nippon Television will own 42.3% of the studio’s voting rights. Mibon Sugiyama, president of Nippon Television, emphasized: “We are laymen when it comes to animation, and we will respect Ghibli’s creative system to the greatest extent.”
  For Japanese animation fans around the world, even if they learn that Ghibli has received support from large companies, After passing through the difficulties of survival, I can’t help but feel sad. As a Japanese netizen commented: “In other words, there is no successor to Hayao Miyazaki, right? It’s the same as Osamu Tezuka’s time.” Ghibli
  ’s “time-honored” brand has been preserved, but can the taste remain the same? ?
“Writerism” Tradition

  In Koganei City, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan, there is a three-story white building, quiet and unique, with lush vegetation. At the work table by the window of the small building, an old man was staring at the drawing paper, as if he was challenging the limits of his imagination. Wearing a beige cotton and linen apron, black-rimmed glasses, and gray beard and hair, he looks like a complete craftsman. In his own words, he described it: “If it were Sherlock Holmes, he would probably look at me and say, ‘You are an animator. Right’.”
  This is the first place where many Hayao Miyazaki animations were born – Studio Ghibli.
  Studio Ghibli is an animation studio founded in 1985 by director Hayao Miyazaki and his friends Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki. At first, this was just a “stronghold” for the “Iron Triangle” team to create freely. In the blink of an eye, 38 years later, the studio has produced and released more than 20 feature-length animated films. Ghibli’s works are famous for their rich imagination, fresh and natural 2D hand-painting, and sincere and beautiful emotions. They have not only won the annual box office crown in Japan many times, but also frequently won awards at international film festivals, becoming an important oriental force in the history of world cinema. strength.
  Generally speaking, animated films form projects around scripts, but Hayao Miyazaki is accustomed to using original paintings as the starting point for creation. He would first draw dozens of fantastic concept drawings, and then draw storyboards containing character actions and dialogue. These manuscripts are the “seeds” of a new work. Then, Ghibli’s painting team of hundreds of people began to devote themselves to creation. Their task was to make the static storyboards “move”. Because of the insistence on hand-drawing, a 5-second animation usually takes a week to complete. Not only that, all drawings must be reviewed and modified by Hayao Miyazaki himself.
  ”Creating here is like hanging a fishing line in his brain.” Studio Ghibli president and producer Toshio Suzuki once said. The three words “Ghibli” guarantee the director’s absolute freedom in creative style, but it also means absolute rigor in painting execution and talent screening. Some commentators even pointed out that Ghibli is basically Hayao Miyazaki’s “personal store”.
  In the 1950s, French New Wave filmmakers such as François Truffaut proposed the “auteur theory”, believing that the most important “author” behind a film is the director, not the director as is often mistakenly thought. other popular elements. By the 1960s, this theory had become the mainstream thinking in film creation around the world. Translated into Japanese, it is “writerism.”
  Over the past 38 years, the studio has produced and distributed more than 20 feature-length animated films.

  A more direct manifestation of the impact of “writerism” on post-war Japanese animation was the film “The Naughty Prince vs. Snake” released by Toei Animation in 1963. The film’s director Yugo Serikawa’s innovative editing and composition attempts initiated a shift in Japanese animation creation from animator-centered to director-centered, pushing the industry into a stage of rapid development. Coincidentally, the director’s assistant on this film is Isao Takahata. It was also that year that Hayao Miyazaki, who had just graduated from university, entered Toei and began to work as an animator under Isao Takahata.
  In 1978, Toshio Suzuki, who had been an editor at Tokuma Shoten for six years, was transferred to participate in the preparation for the founding of Japan’s first animation magazine “Animage”. Suzuki, who didn’t know much about animation at the time, got acquainted with Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki due to a stumbling interview invitation. Later, he used his unique publicity skills to promote Miyazaki’s work “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”. comic series and film production. In 1985, with the investment of Tokuma Shoten, Studio Ghibli was officially established.
  The curtain opened, and Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, who were over 40 years old, were finally able to create independently. Toshio Suzuki served as their producer and was responsible for the promotion and management of the studio. This “writer-ism” mode allows the talents of the two directors to be fully burned. However, everyone knows that time and physical strength are not inexhaustible fuel. Five years ago, Isao Takahata unfortunately passed away due to lung cancer.

  Because we insist on hand-drawing, a 5-second animation usually takes a week to complete.

  ”Inadvertently, Miyazaki Hayao is 82 years old and I am 75 years old. It’s time to wake up to the disadvantages of old age.” At the acquisition press conference, Toshio Suzuki said helplessly, “After many attempts, we discovered that How difficult it is to find and develop a promising director to follow in Miyazaki’s footsteps.”
Another “Miyazaki Animation”

  In fact, when the studio was first established, Hayao Miyazaki realized the importance of talent training and proposed many innovative measures. For example, it breaks the “piece-work” work pattern in the Japanese animation industry, hires regular employees for a long time, and implements step-by-step training for newcomers from short films to movies. However, he is far from an excellent “teacher” when it comes to cultivating animation directors who are worthy of his successors.
  When cultivating new talents, Ghibli has always adopted a relatively flexible “project-centric system”, that is, the project-centered system of first determining the script and then organizing the production team. However, Hayao Miyazaki has been accustomed to being at the center of creation for many years, and is not the kind of person who can wait and see how things develop once a project is finalized. When the animation style of his juniors was inconsistent with his ideas, this “genius master” always had to give some “guidance”.
  For young creators, if they actively accept and enjoy it, they may become a poor imitation of Hayao Miyazaki; but if they use the author’s spirit to fight to the end, they will inevitably become physically and mentally exhausted under the high pressure, and even part ways. This is the contradiction in Ghibli’s management and talent development. Therefore, even though a number of works led by young directors have emerged here, and most of them have achieved very outstanding results, Toshio Suzuki still admitted that the attempt to cultivate successors “ultimately failed.”
  In 1993, the first TV movie “Hear the Waves” produced by Ghibli’s young team appeared on Japanese television. This youthful story with a sweet and sour taste made Japanese young people in the 1990s feel bright. “It is something that grandfathers like Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata couldn’t make.”
  However, after the film was aired, Hayao Miyazaki criticized it as “too realistic” and “it’s rare to make animation without adding imagination.” I don’t know if it was because of the author’s ambition that Hayao Miyazaki also chose a youth theme for his next work. He was personally responsible for the screenwriting and original animation, and promoted his “favorite disciple” Kondo Yoshifumi to challenge the director’s position. This movie is the 1995 box-office champion of Japanese local movies “Listen Ear”.

  Kondo Yoshifumi is a very talented animator. He was a junior who sat next to Hayao Miyazaki in his early years. He has always played an indispensable role in Ghibli’s works. It is said that when he heard that Kondo was assigned to the painting team of “Grave of the Fireflies”, Hayao Miyazaki complained: “I just said that I had tenosynovitis and I would be hospitalized tomorrow. I didn’t want to be pointed out by others. I feel unhappy that I was robbed because of Kon.”
  Even for such an animator who is so trusted and favored, when he actually creates alongside Hayao Miyazaki, he cannot escape a “battle” with him. At the production site, Hayao Miyazaki and Kondo clashed one after another, causing their relationship to take a turn for the worse. Three years after the film was completed, Kondo died prematurely due to illness, which became everyone’s regret.
  Despite this, Ghibli has not stopped exploring another kind of “Miyazaki animation”. Later, the studio implemented a more thorough “projectism” route, from planning to scripts being completed by the producer, and then handed over to young directors for original painting production. Hayao Miyazaki also began to avoid talking too much with the director, and did not even go to the scene or check the storyboards, but only participated in test screenings.
  Among them, “Arrietty the Borrower” (2010) by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and “A Hillside with Blooming Poppies” (2011) by Hayao Miyazaki and Goro Miyazaki are more successful representatives. They were both Japanese films of that year. The local film box office champion was also recognized by Hayao Miyazaki. However, Hiromasa Yonebayashi established his own studio in 2014, and Goro Miyazaki has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of inheriting his father’s company as a “second generation”. At this point, Ghibli had to start seeking support from large companies to continue operations.
  ”To be honest, Mr. Miya and I are both willful and do things based on our own preferences. Therefore, we are ‘lazy’ in many matters such as talent training.” Toshio Suzuki said at the acquisition press conference.

  The “Ghibli style” that combines high quality and high recognition also means low output efficiency, large capital investment, and a high concentration of director power. In recent years, as the core creators have gradually aged, the studio’s lack of subsequent development has become more and more prominent.
  It can be said that this acquisition news is like a crescendo towards the end of the music, revealing the unsustainable problem of Japanese commercial animation that has always believed in the director-centered system.
  The “authorism” of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata retains the personal imprint and handmade texture of the film to the greatest extent. In contrast, the “projectivism” of Disney is aimed at longer-term development and more commercialization possibilities, which is quite Respected by today’s young creators. In an era where CG and AI technologies are surging, the cultivation and transformation of animation talents is a road full of challenges, both for Ghibli and the entire Japanese animation creation system.

  In an era where CG and AI technologies are surging, the cultivation and transformation of animation talents is a road full of challenges.

  Looking back, Ghibli’s acquisition of Nippon Television is both a well-founded and easily accepted choice by fans. Since “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” was first broadcast on television in 1985, Nippon Television has been exclusively broadcasting Studio Ghibli’s works on its film program “Kim Yao Road Show”, using “Kiki’s Delivery Service” as an opportunity and also as a financial sponsor Long-term collaboration with Ghibli with promotional partners. It is worth mentioning that in Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece “Spirited Away”, the prototype of the heroine Chihiro is the daughter of Okuda Seiji of the Nippon Television Film Department. He has been responsible for Ghibli-related business and work for many years. The studio creators get along well with each other.
  Talking about Ghibli’s future operational direction, Toshio Suzuki believes that “the studio needs real operators.” On the one hand, Ghibli has always only produced long-form commercial animations, but a more suitable approach is to “give young people opportunities by producing animated series, because directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata also grew up in this way”; on the other hand, Ghibli IP derivative industries such as character peripherals, exhibitions, art galleries, and theme parks are gradually on the right track and require continuous development and maintenance.
  ”If the operators have sound ambitions and don’t give up easily, Ghibli has the opportunity to become a global animation company.” He added.
  Over the past 38 years, Ghibli’s works have been responding to the times, using a kingdom of love and fantasy to accept people’s confusion, opposition and loss. This has also truly pushed the Japanese animation market from children, otakus and other groups to Audiences of all ages and all over the world. Hayao Miyazaki once said: “You have to be determined to change the world with movies, even if nothing changes. This is what it means to be a filmmaker.” After the acquisition is completed, no matter where this studio designed for him will go, This ideal has become his most valuable asset to the animation industry.
  In recent years, I have heard a lot of talk about the post-Ghibli and post-Miyazaki era, mainly referring to rising directors such as Makoto Shinkai, Mamoru Hosoda, and Hideaki Anno. Each of their works has breakthroughs and characteristics, and many of them are teams that are skilled in using new technologies such as CG. Today, they have to face new challenges such as the popularity of online video platforms, the refinement of animation fans’ needs, and AI-produced content. The new era has new era practices, and tomorrow’s trend will naturally be different from today’s.
  Who will be the next person to seize the trend?

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