At last weekend’s Comic-Con, I was able to interview the incredibly talented animator Hayo Miyazaki and director John Lasseter for their upcoming film Ponyo. Miyazaki is one of the most well known directors in his native country Japan, and although he’s not as well-known in the US, he was put on the map for his film Spirited Away, and is about to become a household name for his work in Ponyo. With help from director John Lasseter, the man behind many Pixar movies including, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, and Cars, they have managed to make a groundbreaking animation. Needless to say, these are two very talented duo, and based of the ten minute clip we saw at Comic-Con, you will not be disappointed.
In the interview, Lasseter discusses the future of 3-D in Pixar films, how Miyazaki inspired him, and how they went about translating Ponyo for US audiences. Miyazaki talks about the personal and environmental themes within Ponyo and much more.
Check out the interview below…
You stated this was your most personal film to date, can you tell us about that?
HM: Ponyo just touches the entry point of my personal qualities. You would have to go much deeper in order to get more personal.
What is the biggest difference between your latest and previous film?
HM: I think the most obvious difference is that I have aged. This film is a result of my aging.
Should we expect the next film to dive any deeper?
HM: It is not in any form quite yet, but it is my position and my role, in Gihbli, is to search for those types of personal depth in films.
You seemed to criticize the English version of Spirited Away, how happy with you are the American version of Ponyo?
HM: I don’t think I criticized the English version before. I think they have always done a good job. I think Spirited Away was a very difficult film to understand, but I think they did the best they could; I think they did a good job with it. I don’t really feel critical of the English version.
How different is the Japanese version from the English version of Ponyo?
JL: The first thing we do is get an exact, word-for-word translation even though the sentences won’t make any sense. It is very important for me to understand what he is saying. Then we start putting it into proper English. Then we go from there and try to make it seem realistic for our ears, like what a mother would say to a child. The way they would normally say things. I never ever change the meaning of anything. I want to protect his vision and I am very dedicated to that. It is about keeping the audience in the same level of understanding as the Japanese audiences. For instance, in Spirited Away, when Sen walks up and sees a bathhouse, all Japanese audiences would know that that is a bathhouse just from the way it looks. No on in this country would know it is a bathhouse, so we added a line offstage saying, “Oh, it is a bathhouse.” It is the subtle things like that that communicate the meaning that much more. Ponyo has a few moments like that. This film was a little easier, although it is set in Japan it is the same level of understanding.
The elements of nature are dominant themes of your film, what elements should we expect in Ponyo?
HM: I think Ponyo’s natural strength is connected to the strength of the sea and ocean. I think when you look deep, the strength of people is connected to nature. That is why, when Ponyo reaches land, she uses the strength of the sea to come. It is not really a film about environmental or ecological issues in it, but more so about the strength and the power of nature.
Where do you see 3-D going in the future and how is the technology evolving in Pixar’s films?
JL: I am always inspired by new technology. Pixar is the studio that created the first computer animated film. What I think is important is to let the filmmakers really understand the technology and what you can and can’t do. All of our computer animated films, at Pixar and Disney Animation, will be in 3-D from here on.
As you start creating a film, you start to get used to it and start to try new things. All of the sudden, you start to see the designers start staging things more dynamically with 3-D. We don’t try to do the “coming at you” stuff all the time because, I believe, that pops the audience out of the film; what we try to do is envelope the audience and suck them into the story that much more.
Are you going to convert any other movies, besides Toy Story, to 3-D?
JL: Right now we don’t have any plans for anything else. It is something we can always do, as we look forward to the future of 3-D. If 3-D gets into the home, we may look at it. We have it, it is all data that we can bring back.
John, as an artist, what have you learned from Hayo Miyazaki?
JL: I think that in Miyazaki’s films, there are so many things that have inspired me as a filmmaker. I think his action sequences are so beautifully staged. They are so clear, but they are so inventive. That really ups our game. I think one of the biggest influences is that his films always celebrate the quiet moments. In American film-making, there tends to be a focus on faster and more action. I think what is so great about his films, in every one, there are all these quiet moments, that are kind of a breath, and they are so beautiful. They add depth to the film. Then it makes what comes after it and the contrast that much stronger. When you watch Up!, there are so many quiet, beautiful moments that come in contrast to action. I think it helps make the film deeper. That has been a huge inspiration.
Hayo, are you currently working on anything else at the moment?
HM: I am not making any feature length films at the time. I am supporting our young staff and currently training young animators.
Ponyo will be in theaters on August 14. Watch the trailer below…