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

Film­mak­er Hayao Miyaza­ki detests being referred to as the Japan­ese Walt Dis­ney. The great ani­ma­tor and sto­ry­teller admires the gor­geous ani­ma­tion of clas­sic Dis­ney films, but finds them lack­ing in emo­tion­al com­plex­i­ty, the ele­ment he prizes above all else.

Miyaza­k­i’s films are cel­e­brat­ed for their mys­ti­cal, super­nat­ur­al ele­ments, but they take shape around the human char­ac­ters inhab­it­ing them. Plot comes lat­er, after he has fig­ured out the desires dri­ving his peo­ple. “Keep it sim­ple,” he coun­sels in Lewis Bond’s short doc­u­men­tary The Essence of Human­i­ty above. An inter­est­ing piece of advice, giv­en that a hall­mark of his 40-year career is his insis­tence on cre­at­ing real­is­tic three-dimen­sion­al char­ac­ters, warts and all.

Amer­i­can ani­ma­tors are also taught to sim­pli­fy. They should all be able to sum up the essence of their pro­posed fea­tures by fill­ing in the blank of the phrase “I want _____,” pre­sum­ably because such con­ci­sion is a nec­es­sary ele­ment of a suc­cess­ful ele­va­tor pitch.

As Bond points out, West­ern ani­mat­ed fea­tures often end with a con­ve­nient deus ex machi­na, free­ing the char­ac­ters up for a crowd pleas­ing dance par­ty as the cred­its roll.

Miyaza­ki doesn’t cot­ton to the idea of tidy, unearned end­ings, nor does he feel bound to grant his char­ac­ters their wants, pre­fer­ring instead to give them what they need. Spir­i­tu­al growth is supe­ri­or to wish ful­fill­ment here.

Such growth rarely hap­pens with­out time for reflec­tion, and Miyaza­ki films are notable for the num­ber of non-ver­bal scenes where­in char­ac­ters per­form small, every­day actions, a num­ber of which can be sam­pled in Bond’s doc­u­men­tary. The beau­ti­ful­ly-ren­dered weath­er and set­tings have pro­vid­ed clues as to the char­ac­ters’ devel­op­ment, ever since the love­ly scene of cloud shad­ows skim­ming across a field in his first fea­ture, 1979’s The Cas­tle of Cagliostro.

via Devour

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Watch Sher­lock Hound: Hayao Miyazaki’s Ani­mat­ed, Steam­punk Take on Sher­lock Holmes

Hayao Miyazaki’s Mas­ter­pieces Spir­it­ed Away and Princess Mononoke Imag­ined as 8‑Bit Video Games

French Stu­dent Sets Inter­net on Fire with Ani­ma­tion Inspired by Moe­bius, Syd Mead & Hayao Miyaza­ki

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her play, Fawn­book, opens in New York City next month. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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Comments (5)
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  • Louisa says:

    Ani­ma­tion at its best! Miyaza­ki is a genius! Thank you so much for this!

  • Sola says:

    What an insight­ful take into his work. Bril­liant!

  • StellaPolaris says:

    Thank you so much for this Video!

    It is as full with love and pas­sion as Myaza­kis art­work is. Peo­ple like you guys bring me to Hap­py Tears. Thank­ful for hav­ing at least always some in this world Walk­ing more the path of love than decid­ing for igno­rance and hatered — even if we all have both of it always in us ;)

  • Liz says:

    Cry­ing. This was beau­ti­ful.

  • Cindy says:

    Thank you for this doc­u­men­tart. The video is a gem through which we got to under­stand the spir­it and phi­los­o­phy behind the pro­duc­tions of Miyaza­ki san. Very good shar­ing for us, thanks!

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