Follow your dream
“Always do what you want to do.” In the movie The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness we see how the 72-year old Hayao Miyazaki, director en animation artist at the world famous Studio Ghibli, lives by this philosophy.
For ten days our city is the center of the cinema industry, with the International Film Festival Rotterdam in venues all over town. That’s why Sanne, Melanie and I decided to meet up for a movie instead of having our planned meeting at home or in a café. It became a very inspiring morning: the story of the Ghibli-director made me want to watch oldtime favorites and instant classics like My neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away and Ponyo once again.
The workplace of Ghibli doesn’t look like wat I expected of a Japanese company at all. No hightech machines and clean desks: here we see the workflow of creative talents, laughing around and making a mess of their office, in a beautiful townhouse-like building. Lots of Ghibli-gadgets in every corner, like pencil cases, key hangers and stuffed animals. The Totoro cuckoo’s clock is definitely a prize winner (you can find it on Pinterest and – if you love it like I do – start saving up…). For the studio employees, there’s even a gymnastic pause everyday. Director Miyazaki knows how to take care of himself: a full set of probiotic drinks is delivered to him weekly.
We get to know the animation master as an ambiguous personality. He’s mainly cheerful and sympathetic, especially when he works together with his assistant, a giggling young Japanese woman. He waves at the pre-school children in his street everyday and relaxes on the green rooftop of the studio building – a perfect hideaway to think and rest.
But, on the other hand, Miyazaki often seems grumpy too: bitter about the company’s policies and future destination, ambivalent about creative director and studio colleague Isao Takahata and unhappy with the workload of making a new movie (in this case, The Wind Rises – watch the trailer and see how beautiful it is). The movie also shows how the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011 had a huge impact on the Japanese society. People refer to events either before or after the tragedy, Miyazaki included.
The best parts of the movie are the moments where we see the master at work. Sketching away, working on his storyboard with beautiful watercolors, chatting – Miyazaki can easily talk and draw at the same time. He doesn’t need a script either: the drawings tell him where the movie is going. His talent is unquestioned, his artistic legacy enormous. Hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy more of his work. At the press conference announcing his official retirement, he stated that he wanted to keep working for ten more years. As long as the ideas keep coming, who can stop him? “The children keep me going”, he says – and that’s what they’ll do, forever more.