Also known as Tales from Earthsea
Goro Miyazaki on Gedo Senki pt 1: director talks about his first film, and dealing with his father
Two years ago, Goro Miyazaki found himself in a terrifying position. Anime producers Studio Ghibli tapped him to direct his first feature film, Gedo Senki, based on the classic novel Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. LeGuin had released the rights to Earthsea on the proviso that Goro’s father, Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), direct the flick. Unfortunately, Hayao was unavailable so Ghibli brought in Goro, who had never worked in film before.
Adding to Goro’s woes, Hayao publicly claimed that his 39-year-old son wasn’t capable of directing a feature film. So Goro had to learn his craft on-the-job with his father sabotaging his efforts.
Gedo Senki flopped both with critics and Le Guin (the author told Goro, “It is your movie. It’s not my book. But it is a good movie.”). However, it was box office gold, becoming the most successful Japanese movie of all time at the domestic box office.
At the Taipei International Book Exposition, Goro Miyazaki fielded questions from both the moderator and members of the audience. Despite his self-deprecating attitude towards his sudden success, Goro is still visibly bitter towards his father, a man who is his biggest inspiration and his nemesis.
Producer Toshio Suzuki was (initially) not satisfied with your storyboarding and lent you ‘storyboard examples from two great Ghibli directors.’ Was Mr. Hayao Miyazaki one of them?
It is quite difficult for us with little experience to draw storyboards, yet you could draw them even though it was your first time directing. How did you do that? Was it because of your experience in architecture, or because you were influenced by your father since early childhood?
“Starting from early childhood, I never stop (sic) sketching. In the architecture industry, we have to draw finished conceptual designs in sketches, in addition to blueprints. Although I have never been trained with animation techniques academically, I can draw most sketches without much difficulty. The other of the two ‘great Ghibli directors’ is Mr. Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), who has very limited drawings on his storyboards – a human face was simply a circle with two dots, but he specified positions of characters and camera angles with great details.
“I felt myself greatly improving after I kept drawing throughout the production phase. I told myself, ‘I’m such a good illustrator now!’ The animation staff all stared at me after hearing those words.”
Where was (Hayao) Miyazaki? He must have known the film was being produced. Did he provide any support or give you any opinions or suggestions?
“When I had finished about 80% of the storyboards for the movie, he summoned me to meet him and asked, ‘Have you been concentrating on this movie or not?’ I replied, ‘Of course I have!’ with the same volume. We didn’t talk after that until near the end of last year, after one and a half years had passed.
“He . . . hindered my operations in many ways. Without my knowledge, he summoned the animation team and told them, ‘You have been working behind schedule and will never be able to catch the premiere, so why not just drop it and hold a strike?’ He kept suggesting that the animation staff quit working on the project; I didn’t know it until much later.
“As a father, he never supported me becoming an anime director like him, and that’s probably the reason he is always in my way. However, as a creator, it is natural to slow down the progress of your opponent with every possible mean (sic).”
It is tough being a father—helping you with his storyboarding, while stimulating you with hardships.
“Those were two sides of the same matter. However, I believe he had been stimulated by my project. Right now, he is preparing the next Ghibli movie (Writer’s note: now titled Ponyo on a Cliff), and in the past, he was very slow at drawing storyboards and could never catch the schedule, but this time, he is much faster than his old self. From what I’ve learned, the storyboards are about to be completed.”
Both of you directed your first film at 39, and both faced lots of difficulties. What is your most and least favorite part of this lengthy production phase?
“The voice acting part, post-production, and the music part are the most interesting ones during their execution. Before a movie has finished, I already have a set of images of how the animation will look in my mind, so that part is rather predictable. However, voice acting can have unexpected effects, and that’s really fascinating. The most difficult part was persuading the animation staff that Goro Miyazaki would become the director of the film.”
Watch the movie trailer below at Youtube