To call Hayao Miyazaki the “Japanese Walt Disney,” as many do, is to miss the point. Disney wasn’t actually a particularly gifted animation writer or director, and he didn’t actually direct most of the classics—Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, Dumbo and the rest—that bear his name. His gifts were those of the visionary and the impresario. Miyazaki’s got some of that as well—he just designed a Tokyo clock; he has helped make his co-founded Studio Ghibli one of the most well-known and financially successful in Japan; the studio’s museum has much of the hands-on whimsy and spectacular charm of Disneyland.
Unlike Disney, however, Miyazaki is primarily a filmmaker. Over the past thirty years, there hasn’t been a more nimble, more socially conscious, more graceful, or more humane animator than Miyazaki. His oeuvre is one of the most wide-ranging and dynamic of any filmmaker—Japanese or otherwise, animator or otherwise—and yet his work is immediately recognizable. He’s written and directed slapstick comedies, social realist parables, mythological fantasies, and surreal dreamscapes. His work is so beautiful that it sometimes hurts the eyes. His characters are complex, and their relationships with other characters and their own environments can be even more complicated. In such films as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke, his compositions and narrative structures can be so challenging as to approach the avant-garde, but he’s never less than accessible.
For these reasons and many more, I propose a Hayao Miyazaki blog-a-thon. I propose it for May 12-14, and I hope you’ll join me in writing about the man and his work. All aspects of Miyazaki—from his prickly personality, to his work on 1970s TV shows, to work that he’s written but not directed, to (of course) his movies—are fair game. Neophytes and dissenters are welcome. Send me links to your essays, and I’ll make sure to post them here.
So, May 12-14, 2006. Miyazaki festival. Pass it on, people.