Gulliver's Space Travels - Miyazaki Emerges

This is a spectacular find! This is the climactic scene to Toei Doga's 1965 feature animation, Gulliver's Space Travels. But it's also more than that. It's history.

Every dedicated Ghibli Freak knows the story behind Gulliver's Space Travels. It's the story of a young 23-year-old college graduate, who first emerges as a serious creative talent. He was first hired by the studio in 1963, and was employed as a lowly in-between animator for the film Wan Wan Chushingura, a reenactment of the Japanese tale of "The 40 Ronin," with dogs.

Gulliver's Travels would be his second film, again serving as an in-betweener. For animators, this is the entry-level job, the bottom rung on the ladder. But Toei was a special place, full of democratic ferver, its union strong and powerful. The young animator would join the union and eventually become its president. He was something of a hotheaded youth, who aspired to draw comics until the lure of animation took hold. He was full of ideas and he wasn't afraid to share them.

The story of Gulliver's Space Travels involve an aging Gulliver leading a team of young explorers to a distant world, where its robot population was enslaved. They would unite against the oppressed robots and defeat the invaders.

But the young animator was not impressed with the ending. So he got it in his head to change it, and he walked straight up to the movie's director and explained his idea. In this new version, the inhabitants of this world were not robots, but revealed to be people trapped inside the metal shells. At the end, the robot princess would break from her shell and the human princess would be rescued.

The director is greatly impressed. He agrees. The ending is changed, and the movie finishes with a surprise ending that completely changes the nature of the entire movie. Instead of defeating a robot army, the heroes were rescuing a people and saving their humanity.

That is the story of the young Hayao Miyazaki, and that is the scene we are watching here. This story has become the stuff of legend, and it's thrilling to finally be able to see it. It really is a great ending; I only wish there were more than a handful of clips on YouTube.

One last thing I noticed when I was watching. Pay close attention to the dog at 1:05. He pokes his finger against the robot shell. 20 years later, this exact shot would be riffed in My Neighbor Totoro - the shot of Mei poking Totoro's tail.


Stephen Ingram said...

Found this fascinating. I had seen this movie as a child years ago and could not remember its name. Spent a lot of time searching before I finally found it on video and enjoyed it fondly. I was surprised when I originally found out about the tie in with Hayao Miyazaki as I was such a fan of his work. Thanks for posting the information.

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