Tag Archives: studio ghibli

MIFF 2014 – The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013)

Director: Mami Sunada
Featuring: Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata, Hideaki Anno, John Lasseter
Tagline: “Oh no! I left the goats out!”


Covering the production of Hayao Miyazaki’s final film the Wind Rises, we see the daily workings of Studio Ghibli and watch the master at work. He is the very personification of the kindly Geppetto as his creations come to life on screen. It was a very warm festival audience that I saw the film with so people laughed at everything.

Although Isao Takahata was mentioned and did appear, they did not follow the work on a Tale of Princess Kaguya apart from saying there were issues with the production and they didn’t think it was ever going to be finished.

With the recent announcement of Studio Ghibli scaling back production and moving to a model where they hire artists on a per-project basis, you can see why that it is from the things said here. Miyazaki complains that he is getting to old to be drawing every day, and uses a 6B pencil to draw, where children only need to use a 5B pencil.

Miyazaki is the star and is only upstaged by the studio cat (Ushiko) once or twice. I was surprised at how candid Miyazaki was as even the narrator mentioned that he changes his mind about his fellow creator Isao Takahata from day to day and there is creative tension between them as rivals within the same company.

Some of the staff also seemed to discourage people from working at the company as the best people often do not last long due to having more demands put on them.

It was also interesting to see Toshio Suzuki, the producer of many of Studio Ghibli movies and you do not get to hear from the producer of the movie that often even they are ones ultimately responsible for getting the film done.

The Japanese work culture was interesting with everyone smoking at work and people stopping and doing exercise as a group (this would be a good thing for a lot of desk-based jobs). I did like the part where everyone stopped and went up to the roof to look at the garden they have there. Miyazaki spends part of his day waving to children in the child care at the company.

Having seen the Wind Rises it was interesting to see how the production of the film was worked out and even the part where Miyazaki received a letter from a survivor of an air raid during World War II made it into the documentary.

While mainly recommended to fans of Miyazaki’s work, if you have an interest in the creative process or animation I would also put this forward as something you should see.

MIFF 2014 – The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Director: Isao Takahata

Based on the folk story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter we see a simple bamboo cutter finding a tiny girl inside a bamboo stalk, who turns into a baby once he hands her over to his wife. The baby is no ordinary baby and seems to be growing at an extraordinary rate, leading her friends to call her Lil’ Bamboo while her adopted father calls her Princess.

After finding a bamboo stalk full of gold and one full of fine kimonos, the father decides that his princess should live in the city and take her place amongst nobility. His daughter is not so sure, but goes along with it any way.

Fitting in with the Japanese nobility at the time isn’t easy, but the princess tries her best and even ends up with five suitors. As she wants them to prove their love, she asks each of them to bring her something that is impossible and they leave disappointed. Things do not turn out as expected as three years later they return claiming to having done the impossible and now even the Emperor of Japan is interested in her.

This film is quite extraordinary. From the “other” director at Studio Ghibli , Isao Takahata, I can see why it took so long to finish. In the documentary Kingdom of Dreams and Madness they were worried it was never going to be finished as the director seemed like he did not want to finish it. I can see why you would not want to finish it as if you could keep working on your best work forever you would want to do that.

More than any of the other Studio Ghibli films, you can tell this film is all hand drawn as the style starts off all sketchy and broken up during the scenes in the country and gets more refined as the characters move into the world of the nobility.

At times it does go back to being sketchy and strange when emotion is being shown. Some of the characters have funny shaped heads even though most of them are meant to be human, but it just gives them more character.

There is a lot of emotion in the movie with the woodcutter prone to blowing up and also crying. I should have expected as much from the director after seeing Grave of Fireflies.

It does not really explain why the Princess came to be where she was or how she manages suddenly to have super powers but these things do fit with the story.

I would recommend this film if you are a fan of this director or folk stories as it is a great example of a good story told well.