Although the recent Studio Ghibli creation, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, didn’t receive the coveted American Academy Award for Best Animated Feature this past February, there’s good Ghibli news to be had too!
Last Saturday, Mitaka no Mori, the Studio Ghibli museum in Tokyo, held their 12th annual “Animation Festival” at the Mitaka City Arts Center. As usual, the event showcased some animated work (unrelated to the studio), but also featured a special screening of the studio’s most recent release, When Marnie Was There, followed by a talk by the director, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who also hinted about upcoming projects!
The first part of the event, called “Music and Animation,” explored the use and importance of music in animated works. The session featured six short animated films hailing from Japan, America and Canada, all with extraordinary accompanying music.
▼ Tom and Jerry (!!!) were even part of the program.
The second session of the event turned out to be the hot topic of the day. It started with a screening of the studio’s July 2014 release, When Marnie Was There, a touching and beautiful film based on a book of the same name by British author Joan G. Robinson. Studio Ghibli’s founder Hayao Miyazaki proclaimed this book as one of his top fifty most recommended children’s books. The Ghibli adaptation was nominated for the Japan Academy Prize for Animation, although was beat out by Stand by Me Doraemon (because… Doraemon!).
▼ Marnie is the most recent Studio Ghibli film, released in July 2014.
Marnie is the second film Hiromasa Yonebayashi has directed for Studio Ghibli, after his debut film The Secret World of Arrietty in 2010.
If you are not familiar with Ghilbi’s version of Marnie, the story follows Anna, a young girl who moves to the countryside of Hokkaido due to illness and melancholy. She finds herself drawn to an abandoned house where she has an interesting encounter with a blonde-haired girl. The connection with her strange new friend helps Anna grow, find herself and become well again, with a lot of other interesting stuff along the way, of course.
▼ The girls share a special bond, in an illusionary kind of way.
Constantly shifting between illusion and reality was a challenge for the filmmakers, despite the otherwise simple animation of the film. The head animator, Yohei Taneda, said, “The illusionary world was portrayed as beautiful and ideal, while the real world was drawn to mimic the less-than-perfect environment around us.”
On Saturday, during the post-screening discussion, Yonebayashi gave the audience a glimpse of his past. Before joining the studio himself, he’d watched the Ghibli film, Whisper of the Heart, the directorial debut of now deceased director, Yoshifumi Kondo. Yonebayashi was impressed by the film’s fresh feeling, which drove him to join the Studio Ghibli team himself, wanting to make similarly influential films. He admits that a lot of the inspiration behind Marnie came from Whisper of the Heart.
During the Q&A portion of the event, Yonebayashi was asked the one question that was on everyone in the audience’s mind (and is constantly on the mind of every Ghibli fan), “When is your next film coming out?”
After gently reminding the audience that there was a four-year gap between the release of his first and second films, he also joked that if you take too long between films, people may forget who are, poking fun at fellow Ghibli director Isao Takahata, who took eight years to complete The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
Yonebayashi continued with some juicier details. He explained that while he sees the need for and importance of “quiet” films such as Marnie, he agrees with Ghibli poducer Toshio Suzuki, who, for the sake of the animation itself, would prefer to do a film with more movement and excitement. On that note, Yonebayashi suggested that his next film could quite possibly be the direct opposite of Marnie and could be more along the lines of the playful and active Ponyo.
▼ “Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo…”
As he has only just started cooking up some ideas, there isn’t much more to be said at this stage. All we know is that we really hope it won’t take four years to complete! Less lectures, more movies, guys! Just kidding, we always love taking peeks into the heads of the geniuses behind the Ghibli films.
If you have yet to see When Marnie Was There, you’ll have to wait until March 18 for the Japanese DVD release (March 19 for South Korea) or Americans can see it in theaters starting May 22. Remember, the Manga-Anime Guardians would really appreciate it if you didn’t just illegally download it!