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[FILM] Goro Miyazaki's "Earthsea" & Conflict w/Hayao Miyazaki (Father)

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  • madchinaman
    Gedo starts with a father-son clash Hayao Miyazaki had long wanted to create an animated Earthsea. His novice son did. By Bruce Wallace, Times Staff Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2006
      'Gedo' starts with a father-son clash
      Hayao Miyazaki had long wanted to create an animated 'Earthsea.' His
      novice son did.
      By Bruce Wallace, Times Staff Writer

      TOKYO — Through the fantasies of animation, director Hayao Miyazaki
      has spoken to children and adults around the world, his language of
      color and movement creating some of the best-loved movies of our
      times. Yet plunked into the real-world intimacy of home and family,
      Miyazaki the father never had much to say to his eldest son.

      "To be honest, we're not that close; we don't know how to
      communicate," Goro Miyazaki says when asked whether his father had
      spoken to him about the commercial success of "Gedo Senki" (Tales
      From Earthsea), the son's debut as a director.

      Released in Japan on July 29, "Earthsea" has been the country's top-
      drawing film for four of the last five weeks; the film screened at
      the Venice Film Festival on Sunday but cannot have a release in the
      U.S. until an American TV series' copyright expires in 2009.

      "I heard from other people that he thought it was an honest film,
      but frankly I think it was wise he never said anything to me
      directly," the younger Miyazaki says. "We would probably have ended
      up shouting and fighting. It would have been a messy situation."

      It is that cold relationship between father and son — the father an
      icon of the Japanese animation industry, the son trying to step out
      of that shadow, making his first feature film at the late age of 39 —
      that makes it hard to call it coincidence when "Earthsea" opens
      with a son's murder of his father.

      It is a foul murder: the prince named Arren sneaking up on the king
      and plunging a sword through his chest. The father dies bewildered
      as to the motive, and Arren flees into rootless exile. Only later
      does he confess to a companion that his father was "a great man" and
      that he has no inkling of what led him to kill.

      He is merely filled with an inner rage he can't explain.

      "No, I never felt I wanted to kill my father — because we didn't
      have that much of a relationship to begin with," says the younger
      Miyazaki during an interview in the Tokyo offices of Studio Ghibli,
      the animation house Hayao Miyazaki built with the success of such
      films as "My Neighbor Totoro" and, more recently, "Spirited Away"
      and "Howl's Moving Castle." "I never thought that scene was about me
      when I was making the film.

      "It's not an experience of my own, but the experience of the young
      people I have met," he continues. "Arren represents the young
      generation in Japan. They are under mental stress. They have a rage
      inside them. And it is some of these kids who might feel like
      killing their parents."

      But before the youngsters watching "Earthsea" get any murderous
      ideas, they're going to have to get their heads around a universe
      drawn with an almost old-fashioned look. This is not "Cars" with
      dragons or "Over the Hedge" in a bigger landscape. "Earthsea's"
      backgrounds look like they've been drawn by English landscape
      artists, the skies could be canvases of a Dutch Old Master. You can
      see the brush strokes on screen.

      Something is amiss in this world as the movie opens. The livestock
      have become listless. There is a drought in the provinces. Magic
      chants are forgotten. More ominously, the dragons that long ago
      opted out of man's world have returned and begun to fight each other.

      "The setting is Europe, but the characters are a portrait of the
      young generation of Japanese," Miyazaki explains. He describes Japan
      as a society in which children are pampered and showered with
      material plenty, yet lead lives devoid of purpose: no injustices to
      rail against, as Miyazaki said he did when he was young, no older
      generation's values to overthrow.

      "In the past, parents did not dote so much on their children," he
      says. "They were busy at work, didn't have so much money. The
      children had to grow up on their own, but they were stronger
      mentally because of it."

      Miyazaki says his father was, like so many fathers of the generation
      that grew up in postwar Japan, singularly focused on his work. "It
      was really just me and my mother when I was growing up; any advice I
      needed I got from her," he says. "Until I left home to go to
      university, my father was too busy and didn't have the opportunity
      to even chat with me."

      Animation was not something he discussed much in the Miyazaki home,
      nor a field to which the young Goro aspired. He studied forestry at
      Shinshu University and started a career in landscape design,
      planning parks and gardens and working on urban tree-planting

      But in 1998 he took on responsibility for the design of the Ghibli
      Museum, a theme park the studio was building in a rare splash of
      green space in a Tokyo suburb. The museum showcases animated
      characters from the studio's catalog of films and has a hands-on
      exhibit of an animation studio. Miyazaki became the museum's
      managing director in 2001, a job he gave up last year when he
      started messing around in the real studio with the "Earthsea"

      Hayao Miyazaki had wanted to make a film version of the "Earthsea"
      book series more than 20 years ago but had been rebuffed by Ursula
      K. Le Guin, the author. By the time she relented, the older Miyazaki
      had announced his retirement from making films (a vow he has since

      Instead, Ghibli's powerful producer Toshio Suzuki handed the project
      to Goro, who had started to hang around animation study groups and
      present ideas of his own.

      There was great resistance to his arrival. First, other young
      animators at the studio ironically saw it as a case of paternalism.
      And Le Guin has complained that she was assured Hayao Miyazaki would
      supervise the project and has sniped at Goro's finished version,
      saying that it is too violent and lacks subtlety in its portrayal of

      There was criticism too from Hayao Miyazaki, who made it clear —
      publicly — that he didn't like Goro invading his turf.

      "It was because I was completely inexperienced," Goro says, who
      consistently refers to his father in formal terms as "Miyazaki
      Hayao." "Not only had I never directed a film, I had never been in
      the animation industry. Suddenly I was about to make a feature film,
      and he was appalled."

      Miyazaki says he wanted to make a human drama, different from his
      father's films, which he says he finds "too simple." (Hayao
      Miyazaki, who rarely speaks to the press, declined to be interviewed
      for this story.) He was on his way to making a movie without dragons
      or magic when Suzuki intervened and told him to "bring the dragons

      "It's a Studio Ghibli movie," Miyazaki says with a shrug. "It's a
      commercial film and it has to be entertaining."

      Critics here have debated just how entertaining "Earthsea" is. Some
      reviewers have called it "immature," and many have complained about
      what the Japanese see as excessive dialogue for an animated movie.

      But the movie has pulled in Hayao Miyazaki-like numbers at the box
      office. It has buried this summer's animated rivals like "Cars" and
      the Japanese horror flick "Brave Story."

      The reason may lie with the power of the Miyazaki brand in Japan.
      Sure, the elder Miyazaki's worlds are ravaged by the folly of adults
      and the pestilence of war, and environmental degradation threatens
      his beloved bucolic landscapes. But he always saw hope in the
      innocent wisdom of children.

      And, Goro Miyazaki is asked, does "Earthsea" not send a similar
      message? Is it not a movie where parents abuse and abandon their
      children, but the children rise to make the right moral choices in
      the end? Where the happiest scenes are on the farm, an idyll where
      the work is honest and the people are free?

      Does "Earthsea" not share a vision, then, with the films of Hayao

      "Yes," the son says quietly. "Yes, it does."
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