At 68, Hayao Miyazaki sounds like he might be slowing down. The director of such animated classics as Princess Mononoke and the Academy Award–winning Spirited Away seems content to sit back and watch life around him go by, a pleasure he passes on to us through the colorful world bursting from every frame of his latest film, Ponyo….
“For me, it’s more a case of bringing my own experiences as a child into the film and also watching the small children who are currently around me,” he says. “I’ve come to the age when I can finally understand the instant-by-instant experience small children are having. When you’re being a parent yourself, you don’t pay attention to some of those things because you’re so busy being a parent. There’s so much going on.”
Mike’s take: this brief interview actually cleared up a couple of interesting questions I had. First, it looks like he’s publicly denying the story that Sousuke, the boy in Ponyo, is based on his own son Goro and that the depiction of the absentee father is meant as an apology of sorts for his own absentee parenting when Goro was young. Goro and Hayao have worked together recently on a commercial, however, so the overarching story of a possible rapprochement between father and son after the spat over Tales from Earthsea might still be true. In either case, he says it’s actually his experience of the empty nest that inspired his return to exploring early childhood. It reminds me of a favorite line from TS Eliot: “And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”
I’d also heard conflicting reports about whether Miyazaki would be retiring–once again–after making Ponyo. Apparently, if this interview is accurate, he seems to be of two minds. I thought I heard somewhere that he felt he had “two more” films left in him after this one, but considering his age and his stubbornness–he draws much of the movies he makes himself, remember, and you should see how he comes down hard on his staff in the Spirited Away documentary–I get the feeling he’s the kind of man who will die with a pencil in his hand, slumped over the animation desk. That’s the way artists should go. :)