Anime Legend Hayao Miyazaki Explains His Retirement

Japanese animator explains retirement, leaves door open for other projects

Hayao Miyazaki
Courtesy of Hayao Miyazaki

TOKYO — Expanding on an earlier announcement by Studio Ghibli president Koji Hoshino, anime maestro and studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki told the media on Friday that he will definitely not direct any more feature films. But he left the door open for other projects.

In a statement handed to a packed hall of nearly 600 journalists at a Tokyo hotel, Miyazaki said that he intends to keep working ten more years (“if all goes well”). Noting that the intervals between his films was becoming longer – his latest, “The Wind Rises,” was five years in the works, Miyazaki added that if he keeps stretching out production periods to six or seven years  “the studio can’t survive.”

Admitting that he had often spoken of retiring before, he told reporters “I’m really serious this time… My era of animation is over.”

“In place of feature animation, there are various things I want to try and do,” he added. One example he gave was exhibits at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. “I may even put myself on exhibition,” he wisecracked. Asked if he would make short films, he replied, “I’m free. I don’t want to use my brains now for that sort of thing.”

As for the post-Miyazaki future of Ghibli, which has made Miyazaki’s biggest hits since its 1985 launch, including the animation Oscar winner “Spirited Away” (2001), producer Toshio Suzuki noted that “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” directed by longtime Miyazaki colleague Isao Takahata, is scheduled for a November 23 release. Another film, whose details he declined to announce, is in the works for a summer 2014 release. “I expect that our young staff has more ideas they want to make – I’m depending on them,” Suzuki added.

Asked if he would script, supervise or otherwise involve himself with future Ghibli features in a non-directing-capacity, Miyazaki answered with a flat “no.”

While saying he is in good health, Miyazaki added his speed and concentration were declining with age. Also, he had no intention of changing his working style, which includes taking his own pencil to thousands of drawings for a feature film. “I started as an animator so that’s the only way I know how to do it,” he explained. “If I had come up with a better method I would have used it long before this.”

Born in Tokyo in 1941, Miyazaki joined what is today Toei Animation in 1963. His first theatrical feature as a director, “The Castle of Cagliostro,” was released in 1979. Based on his own comic, Miyazaki’s 1984 film “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” was instrumental in launching the anime boom in the West, while establishing his name as an animation master. Though his early Studio Ghibli films “Castle in the Sky” (1986) and “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988) did less than spectacular BO, they have since become well-loved classics.

After “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989) became the number one domestic hit of the year, Miyazaki never lost his stranglehold hold on the Japanese B.O., while his films won increasing critical acclaim abroad. A peak was reached with “Spirited Away,” a fantasy about a girl’s stay in a world of goblins that earned $304 million domestically – making it Japan’s biggest hit of all time, and scooped a Golden Bear award at the Berlin film fest, in addition to its Academy Award.

Miyazaki’s latest, “The Wind Rises,” a highly fictionalized biopic of “Zero” fighter designer Jiro Horikoshi, still atop the Japanese BO a month and a half after its July 20 bow and is on track to finish near the $150 million mark.