(For Miyazaki’s first four films, check out The Castle of Cagliostro & Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Castle In the Sky & My Neighbor Totoro)
Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese film animator, producer, screenwriter, and director. He joined Toei Animation in 1963, working as an in-between artist on various animation projects. After working on several other feature films, he left Toei to work for several companies, including Mushi Production, A Pro, Nippon Animation, and TMS Entertainment. He worked on some more TV projects and shorts before finally making his feature directorial debut in 1979 with The Castle of Cagliostro. After a few years, he was able to direct his second film, 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. With the success of that film, Miyazaki was able to help secure funding for a new animation studio called Studio Ghibli. Once established, Miyazaki started work on Castle In the Sky and My Neighbor Totoro. For this installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be looking back at his next two directorial efforts, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso.
Directed by Miyazaki, 1989’s Kiki’s Delivery Service centers on a 13 year-old witch who goes out to live on her own for a year (as tradition dictates) and follows her adventures in the port city of Koriko. Featuring the voices of Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille, Janeane Garofalo, Matthew Lawrence, Brad Garrett, Debbie Reynolds, Edie McClurg, Kath Soucie, Jeff Bennett, and Debi Derryberry (from the 1997 English language dub produced by Disney), this critically acclaimed film cost $6.9 million to make and grossed $18 million in Japan. Based on the novel by Eiko Kadono, Miyazaki started on the film as a producer since neither he nor Isao Takahata were available to direct. He hired Sunao Katabuchi to direct, and after finishing My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki discarded the first draft of the screenplay and wrote the second draft himself. While researching landscapes and elements of the film’s setting in Sweden and Australia, Katabuchi became intimidated, resulting in Miyazaki taking over as director. Miyazaki made a lot of changes when adapting the novel, deciding to focus on Kiki’s hardships while growing up (the novel was much more episodic). The first English dub for the film was actually produced by Streamline Pictures for Japan Airlines’ international flights. The film also marked the final voice-acting performance of Phil Hartman, who died in 1998. Among the film’s accolades are three Anime Grand Prix Award wins (including Best Anime), a Mainichi Film Award win for Best Animated Film, two Japan Academy Prize Award wins, a Golden Cross Award win, two Japan Cinema Association Award wins (including Best Film), and a Tokyo Metropolitan Cultural Honor Award win for Best Film.
Directed by Miyazaki, 1992’s Porco Rosso centers on a cursed Italian fighter pilot who works as a freelance bounty hunter, chasing air pirates in the Adriatic Sea in 1929. The curse placed on him had transformed him into an anthropomorphic pig, and he soon became known as Porco Rosso (which is Italian for “Crimson Pig”). Featuring the voices of Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, David Ogden Stiers, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley (in the English language dub produced by Disney), this critically acclaimed film grossed over$34 million on a budget of $9.2 million. Based on Miyazaki’s own three-part watercolor manga The Age of the Flying Boat, the film began production as a planned short in-flight film for Japan Airlines but soon expanded into a feature-length film. The film was originally set in Croatia, but a war in Yugoslavia broke out during production and resulted in a switch in location as well a shift to a more serious tone. This film also marks one of the few times that the geography and the time period are clearly defined in a Miyazaki film. Among the film’s accolades are two Mainichi Film Concours for Best Film Score (Joe Hisaishi) and Best Animated Film as well as an Ishihara Yujiro Award.