This July, there will be a gallery exhibition of Studio Ghibli's storyboard artwork. If you happen to be in Toyko anytime between July 26 and September 28, be sure to attend and enjoy.
Peter from GhibliWorld first shared the news with us, and as always I'm deeply grateful to him for all his hard work. Whenever I need some news about Ghibli, his site is the place to go.
Back to the E-Konte exhibition. This is a terrific showing, and of course these are all familiar to dedicated Ghibli fans, thanks to the E-Konte features on all the DVD's. These are essentially the final storyboards for the movies. Dialog is included on the pages in a seperate column, and important details such as length of shots and other directoral notes are included. Ghibli also sells their storyboards in book form for all the major Takatata/Miyazaki works. I have the E-Konte book for Horus, Prince of the Sun, and it proved to be a revelation in understanding the film, as well as learning where those "lost" 30 minutes from the original two-hour running time went.
On the dedicated gallery exhibition website, a page is devoted to some short notes by Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. Thanks to Peter from GhibliWorld, whose Japanese is far better than my own, here are their remarks:
Isao Takahata: "We animators often have a poor man's mentality. If we make e-konte or a layout without imagining the result, it can incur a big waste. So we make a detailed plan in advance of production to avoid such a waste. For me, in such a situation, I needed a reliable cooperator and I was very lucky. I did not think "layout" to be a "system," but I premised I had the excellent talent of Miyazaki. For me, it had a big meaning to meet Miyazaki. Maybe it was the same for him. I guess he learned much from the works that he did with me, but not from me. I think the reason Miyazaki became big world wide is not because he draws very well, but because his layouts already have a side of directing (a layout might be seen as a distorted picture, if you see it as a tableau though). Animation must show lies. We are struggling on how we can show the moving of flat pictures to close to reality."
Hayao Miyazaki: "I've worked on animation for more than 40 years on struggling how we can show interesting things. However, there is no right way to do it. The world we draw is not the one seen through a lens, but the one seen by naked eyes. The world seen by naked eyes shows the curious things in large, but ignores the things we don’t care for. That is the way it goes. When cutting out and drawing a scenery like that, the result is a world that we used to see somewhere, sometime. If you ask if my layouts fit to the perspective an architect draws, they never do. If we draw perspective lines before we begin making a layout, then the pictures will surely become dull. Animation movies are 'ayakasi', so to speak ('ayakasi' means "deception"). For the audiences, how they are tricked is the amusement of watching animation."
Toshio Suzuki: "If I would explain what 'layout' is with one word only, then it is a 'camera man & live action film director.' It indicates the positions of characters and acting and backgrounds and camera works.
"Miyazaki says he was unbelievably busy during the time they worked on Heidi. The director, Takahata, just drew simple e-konte (Suzuki says it was 'chon-maru,' probably referring to circles and lines). These were re-drawn cleanly by Miyazaki and made into layouts, who soon had meetings with all parts of the staff. About sakuga with the animators, about backgrounds with the art staff, about color with the finishing section and about camera works with the filming staff. On top of that, Miyazaki had one more job: the job of being an animator. If he had free time, he drew and drew. Because of this, he returned home only once a week, the days on which the program was aired.
"One day he heard Takahata was arguing with the producer for a long time. 'Why must we make one episode in a single week!?' From the bottom of his heart Miyazaki wished that Takahata should have given him an next order, instead of wasting time.
"One of his profound thoughts I once heard was like this: 'I devoted 15 years of my youth under Paku-san (Takahata). I wish he will give it back to me some day...' What he devoted during his youth were the so many days of drawing and drawing layouts. After that, when he became a director and managed the entire production, he muttered 'I need one more me!' In this case, 'me' meaning a 'layout' man.
"Later on, Miyazaki began drawing more detailed e-konte. When he made Mononoke Hime, he enlarged the size of e-konte. Basically, e-konte indicates the acting of characters and backgrounds just roughly and sets the length of cuts. However, Miyazaki tried to make detailed e-konte and replace it into layouts.
"As you can see, layout is the key-point of producing animation. It's unique and secret. It depends on one's capacity for imagination if the visitors can find the secret of Takahata/Miyazaki anime."
I added bold to some lines for my own amusement, a few lines that really jumped out at me. My favorite is that line Takahata gives about animation. "Animation must show lies." I just may have to print that onto a t-shirt. Thanks again to Peter from GhibliWorld for all his hard work.