Watch 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki Free Online: A Four Part-Part Documentary on the Unstoppable Japanese Animator

When Conan O'Brien found himself temporarily out of a late-night television hosting job a few years ago, he went on tour with a stage show instead. If the documentary chronicling that period of his career wasn't called Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, a similar title could equally fit the recent films that have captured Hayao Miyazaki's oscillation between work and "retirement." In 2013's Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, previously featured here on Open Culture, we thought we witnessed Miyazaki animating the final frame of his final feature. But his subsequent withdrawal from filmmaking proved short-lived, and his preparation for re-emergence (including his gone-viral critique of experimental computer animation) provides the subject for 2016's Never-Ending Man.

This year, Never-Ending Man director Kaku Arakawa returns with 10 Years With Hayao Miyazaki, a four-part documentary available to watch free at NHK's web site, and whose trailer appears at the top of the post. "Whereas Never-Ending Man tracked the director’s career from his short-lived retirement in 2013 to the germination of his forthcoming feature How Do You Live?, this series covers the decade running up to 2013," writes Cartoon Brew's Alex Dudok de Wit. Those were busy years for Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, involving as they did the production of Ponyo and The Wind Rises, as well as two films directed by Miyazaki's son Goro: the Ursula K. LeGuin adaptation Tales from Earthsea and the 1960s boarding school-set From Up on Poppy Hill.

Tales from Earthsea came out in 2006, and at the time Miyazaki felt that Goro was unready to make his debut. As awkward as the period of estrangement between Miyazaki père et fils during that movie's production may feel — especially given how often they're in the same office — it reflects the near-impossibly high standard to which the man who directed My Neighbor TotoroPrincess Mononoke, and Spirited Away holds not just his successor and his collaborators, but himself. Above all himself, as revealed by the candid footage Arakawa's decade of access to Miyazaki's life allowed him to gather.

"We see him at work in his private studio and at Studio Ghibli, and relaxing at home," writes Dudok de Wit, "insofar as he’s capable of relaxation." What Miyazaki says to Arakawa about his craft, his worldview, and his life suggests a mind perpetually at work, even during the rare times his hands aren't. 10 Years With Hayao Miyazaki ends with the making of The Wind Rises, but Arakawa must surely have known not to take the animator's pronouncements of it being his final feature seriously: Hayao Miyazaki can't stop, nor do we want him to.

Watch 10 Years With Hayao Miyazaki online here, and find it listed in our collection of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Related Content:

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The Essence of Hayao Miyazaki Films: A Short Documentary About the Humanity at the Heart of His Animation

Watch Hayao Miyazaki Animate the Final Shot of His Final Feature Film, The Wind Rises

Watch Moebius and Miyazaki, Two of the Most Imaginative Artists, in Conversation (2004)

Hayao Miyazaki Meets Akira Kurosawa: Watch the Titans of Japanese Film in Conversation (1993)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Animated Series Drawn & Recorded Tells “Untold Stories” from Music History: Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, Blind Willie Johnson & More

Who hasn’t tasted the pleasures, guilty or otherwise, of VH1’s Behind the Music? The long-running show, a juicy mix of tabloid gossip, documentary insight, and unabashed nostalgia, debuted in 1997, a totally different media age. Its original viewers were the first generation to use email, shop online, or download (usually pirated) music. People were willing to sit through episodes of an hour or more, without a pause button, whether they liked the music or not. (Some of the best shows profile the most ridiculous one-hit wonders).

Behind the Music is still on, and you can stream old episodes all day long, pausing every few minutes to check email or social media, stream another video, or download an album in seconds. But with so many distractions, it’s easy to lose the thread of Huey Lewis and the News’ rise to stardom or the thrilling life and times of Ice-T. We need stories like these, but we may need them in a smaller, more self-contained form.

Enter Drawn & Recorded: Modern Myths of Music, an online series that delivers the frisson of Behind the Music in a fraction of the time, with the added bonus of whimsical, high-quality animation and narration by T. Bone Burnett. Now in its fourth season, the award-winning series, directed and hand-drawn by animator Drew Christie for studio Gunpowder & Sky, brings us anecdotes “sometimes hilarious, occasionally tragic, always compelling,” writes Animation Magazine.

Those stories include “Leonard Cohen’s escape from Cuban authorities after being detained under suspicion of espionage” (see the trailer here) and the origins of Kurt Cobain’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (above), a story we covered in a previous post. Drawn & Recorded has differentiated itself from the aforementioned pop music documentary show not only in its length and aesthetic sensibilities but also in its willingness to venture deeper into music history.

The episode below, for example, features tragic bluesman Blind Willie Johnson, who made modern history when his music traveled into outer space on the Voyager Golden Record. Given their lengths of under five minutes, each Drawn & Recorded must prune its story carefully—there’s no room for meandering or gratuitous repetition. Each of the vignettes promises an “untold story” from music history, and while that may not always be the case, they are each well-told and surprising and often as strange as Christie’s animations and Burnett’s haunted, raspy baritone suggest.

In the episode below, country legend Jimmie Rogers, whose influence “would range from Hank Williams to Louis Armstrong to Bob Dylan,” arrived in Kenya a decade after his death, by way of British missionaries toting a phonograph. The native people became fascinated with the sound of Rogers’ music. They pronounced his name “Chemirocha,” a word that came to mean “anything new and different.” This became a song called “Chemirocha,” about a half-man/half-antelope god.

It’s a fascinatingly odd little tale about cross-cultural contact, one that has little to do with the biography of Jimmie Rogers, and hence might never make it into your standard-issue documentary. But Drawn & Recorded is something else—a handmade artifact that streams digitally, telling stories about musicians famous, infamous, and rarely remembered. Other episodes feature a canny mix of the contemporary, classic, and golden age, including Grimes, David Bowie, the Beatles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, MF Doom, and more. Find them, notes Animation Magazine, “on the Network, available on DirecTV, DirecTV Now and AT&T U-verse” or find scattered episodes on Vimeo.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The History of Europe from 400 BC to the Present, Animated in 12 Minutes

What does the future of Europe look like? Geopolitical times such as these do make one ponder such questions as, say, "In what shape (if any) will the European Union make it through this century?" But as any historian of Europe knows, that continent has seldom had an easy time of it: European history is a history of conquests, rebellions, alliances made and broken, and of course, wars aplenty — a major piece of the rationale behind the creation of organizations like the European Union in the first place. As a result, the division of Europe by the many groups and individuals who have laid claim to pieces of it has, over the past 2500 years, seldom held steady for long, as you can see on the animated map above.

The Roman Empire did manage to paint the map red, literally, in the second and third centuries, but during all eras before and after it looks as multicolored as it was politically disunited. In earlier times, Europe was home to peoples with names like the Gauls, Iberians, Celts, and Scythians, as well as empires like the Achaemenid and Seleucid Empire.

After the First World War, though — and the dissolution of such entities as the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth — the labels start to look more familiar. Most of us remember the event marked by the last big change to this map, the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (Many of us even spent years thereafter in classrooms whose world maps still depicted the USSR as one mighty bloc.)

The map's animation begins in 400 BC and ends in 2017 with Europe as a collection of nation-states, each of which we now regard as not just politically but culturally distinct. But watching the full two-and-a-half-millennia time-lapse reminds us that every country in Europe has broken off from, joined with, or otherwise descended from another place, indeed many other places, most of which have long since ceased to exist. In the 21st century, one often hears Europe described as essentially unchanging, stuck in its ways, ossified, and an afternoon spent watching the proceedings of European Union bureaucracy would hardly disabuse anyone of that notion. But then, wouldn't observers of Europe have felt the same way back in the heyday of Rome?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Voice Actor Dee Bradley Baker (Clone Wars,American Dad) Defends Cartoons on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #9

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Are cartoons an inherently juvenile art form? Even animation aimed at adults is still typically considered genre fiction--a guilty pleasure--and the form enables tones and approaches that might simply be considered awful if presented as traditional live action. So what's the appeal?

Dee's voice can be heard in substantial portion of today's cartoons, especially for animal or monster noises, like Boots in the new big-screen adaptation of Dora the Explorer, Momo and Appa in The Last Airbender, Animal in the new Muppet Babies, etc. He's also a deep thinker who proudly defends cartoons as providing primal delights of humor, justice, and narrative meaning.

Mark, Erica, and Brian engage Dee about his experience as a voice actor (e.g. as Klaus German fish in a Seth MacFarlane sit-com, figuring out what Adventure Time was actually about, doing all the similar-but-distinct voices of the various clones in Clone Wars, coming up with a language for The Boxtrolls, and recreating Mel Blanc's voices in Space Jamand other Looney Tunes projects), his role in collaborative creation,  the connection between cartoons and vaudeville, how live-action films can be made "cartoonish," graphic novels, cartoon music, and more. We also touch on Love & Robots, A Scanner Darkly, Larva, the documentary I Know That Voice, and the 1972 film What's Up, Doc? Introduction by Chickie.

We did read a few articles in preparation for this about the phenomenon of adults watching kid cartoons:

There's also a lengthy reddit thread that we mined for perspectives.

This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Lemony Snicket Reveals His Edward Gorey Obsession in an Upcoming Animated Documentary

Had the gloom-haunted Edward Gorey found a way to have a love child with Dorothy Parker, their issue might well have been Lemony Snicket, the pseudonymous author of a multivolume family chronicle brought out under the genteel appellation A Series of Unfortunate Events

- Gregory Maguire, The New York Times

Author Daniel Handleraka Lemony Snicket—was but a child when he fortuitously stumbled onto the curious oeuvre of Edward Gorey.

The little books were illustrated, hand-lettered, and mysterious. They alluded to terrible things befalling innocents in a way that made young Handler laugh and want more, though he shied from making such a request of his parents, lest the books constitute pornography.

(His fear strikes this writer as wholly reasonable—my father kept a copy of The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Work by Ogdred Wearyaka Edward Gorey—stashed in the bathroom of my childhood home. Its perversions were many, though far from explicit and utterly befuddling to a third grade bookworm. The exceedingly economical text hinted at a multitude of unfamiliar taboos, and Gorey the illustrator understood the value of a well-placed ornamental urn.)

Interviewed above for Christopher Seufert’s upcoming feature-length Gorey documentary, Handler is effusive about the depth of this early influence:

The gothic setting. (Handler always fancied that an in-person meeting with Gorey would resemble the first 20 minutes of a Hammer horror movie.)

The dark, unwinking humor arising from a plot as grim as that of The Hapless Childor The Blue Aspicthe first title young Handler purchased with his own money.

An intentionally murky pseudonym geared to ignite all manner of wildly readerly speculation as to the author’s lifestyle and/or true identity. (Gorey attributed various of his works to Dogear Wryde, Ms. Regera Dowdy, Eduard Blutig, O. Müde and the aforementioned Ogdred Weary, among others.)

Even Lemony Snickett’s website carries a strong whiff of Gorey.

In acknowledgment of this debt, Handler sent copies of the first two Snickett books to the reclusive author, along with a fan letter that apologized for ripping him off. Gorey died in April 2000, a couple of weeks after the package was posted, leaving Handler doubtful that it was even opened.

Handler namechecks other artists who operate in Gorey’s thrall: filmmakers Tim Burton and Michel Gondry, musicians Amanda Palmer and Trent Reznor, and novelist Neil Gaiman.

Perhaps owing to the spectacular popularity of Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events, Gorey has lately become a bit more of an above-ground discovery for young readers. Scholastic has a free Edward Gorey lesson plan, geared to grades 6-12.

More information about Christopher Seufert’s Gorey documentary, with animations by Ben Wickey and the active participation of its subject during his final four years of life, can be found here.

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Edward Gorey Illustrates H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in His Inimitable Gothic Style (1960)

The First American Picture Book, Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats (1928)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Ray Harryhausen’s Creepy War of the Worlds Sketches and Stop-Motion Test Footage

Most of us know The War of the Worlds because of Orson Welles' slightly-too-realistic radio adaptation, first broadcast on Halloween 1938. But its source material, H.G. Wells' 1898 science-fiction novel, still fires up the imagination. Its many adaptations since have taken the form of comic books, video games, television series, and more besides. Several films have used The War of the Worlds as their basis, including a high-profile one in 2005 directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, and more than half a century before that, George Pal's first 1953 adaptation in all its Technicolor glory.

In recent years materials have surfaced showing us the midcentury War of the Worlds picture that could have been, one featuring the stop-motion creature-creation of Ray Harryhausen.

"Well before CGI technology beamed extraterrestrials onto the big screen, stop-motion animation master Harryhausen brought to life Wells’ vision of a slimy Martian with enormous bulging eyes, a slobbering beaked mouth and 'Gorgon groups of tentacles' in a 16 mm test reel," writes Den of Geek's Elizabeth Rayne.

"The result is something that looks like a twisted mashup of a Muppet and an octopus." Harryhausen had long dreamed of bringing The War of the Worlds to the big screen, and anyone who has seen Harryhausen's work of the 1950s and 60s, as it appears in such films as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts, knows that he was surely the man for this job. He certainly had the right spirit: as his own words put it at the beginning of the test-footage clip, "ANY imaginative creature or thing can be built and animated convincingly."

"I actually built a Martian based on H.G. Wells description," Harryhausen says in the interview clip above. "He described the creature that came from the space ship a sort of an octopus-like type of creature." Harryhausen's also presented his vision with included sketches of the tripod invaders laying waste to America both urban and rural. "I took it all around Hollywood," he says, but alas, it never quite convinced those who kept the gates of the Industry in the 1940s.

"We couldn't raise money. People weren't that interested in science fiction at that time." Times have changed; the public has long since developed an unquenchable appetite for stories of human beings and advanced, hostile space invaders locked in mortal combat. But now such a spectacle would almost certainly be realized with the intensive use of computer-generated imagery, a technology impressive in its own way, but one that may never equal the personality, physicality, and sheer creepiness of the creatures that Ray Harryhausen brought painstakingly to life, one frame at a time, all by hand.

via @41Strange

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Hear the Prog-Rock Adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: The 1978 Rock Opera That Sold 15 Million Copies Worldwide

Hear Orson Welles’ Iconic War of the Worlds Broadcast (1938)

The Mascot, a Pioneering Stop Animation Film by Wladyslaw Starewicz

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Why Should You Read Haruki Murakami? An Animated Video on His “Epic Literary Puzzle” Kafka on the Shore Makes the Case

Haruki Murakami's vast international fan base includes people dedicated to literature. It also includes people who have barely cracked any books in their lives — apart, that is, from Murakami's novels with their distinctive mixture of the lighthearted with the grim and the mundane with the uncanny. Since the publication of his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, 40 years ago in his native Japan, Murakami has become both a literary phenomenon and an extra-literary phenomenon, and different readers endorse different paths into his unique textual realm.

The TED-Ed video above makes the case for one fan favorite in particular: 2002's Kafka on the Shore, an "epic literary puzzle filled with time travel, hidden histories, and magical underworlds. Readers delight in discovering how the mind-bending imagery, whimsical characters and eerie coincidences fit together." So says the video's narrator, reading from a lesson written by literary scholar Iseult Gillespie (who has also made cases for Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and Ray Bradbury).

Murakami tells this story, and keeps it fresh through more than 500 pages, by alternating between two point-of-view characters: a teenager "desperate to escape his tyrannical father and the family curse he feels doomed to repeat," who "renames himself Kafka after his favorite author and runs away from home," and an old man with "a mysterious knack for talking to cats."

When the latter is commissioned to use his unusual skill to track down a lost pet, "he’s thrown onto a dangerous path that runs parallel to Kafka’s." Soon, "prophecies come true, portals to different dimensions open up — and fish and leeches begin raining from the sky." But it's all of a piece with Murakami's body of work, with its novels and stories that "often forge fantastic connections between personal experience, supernatural possibilities, and Japanese history." His "references to Western society and Japanese customs tumble over each other, from literature and fashion to food and ghost stories."

All of it comes tied together with threads of music: "As the runaway Kafka wanders the streets of a strange city, Led Zeppelin and Prince keep him company," and he later befriends a librarian who "introduces him to classical music like Schubert." Safe to say that such references put some distance between Murakami's work and that of his character Kafka's favorite writer, to whom Murakami himself has been compared. Kafka on the Shore showcases Murakami's storytelling sensibility, but is it in any sense Kafkaesque? You'll have plenty more questions after taking the plunge into Murakami's reality, but there's another TED-Ed lesson that might at least help you answer that one.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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