Edit 8:45 pm - I was told that this is actually Saturday's event at UC Berkely, not Friday's Comic Con. An even better scoop for us, since there's no news on Saturday's Miyazaki appearance.)
Writer and longtime Ghibl Freak Michael Burns attended the Miyazaki/Lasseter conference at Saturday's UC Berkely event, and he shares his thoughts with us, including a couple antecdotes that I haven't read elsewhere (I'm still searching for a complete video). Here is Michael's report via email.....
"I wrote to you awhile back regarding your comments on American culture. I still check your blog on a regular basis...it's simply the best thing out there when I slip into Ghibli mode.
"I wanted to let you know I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend a discussion at UC Berkeley last night with Miyazaki-san himself. When he walked into the room, the entire auditorium stood up as one and gave one of the most rousing rounds of applause I've ever heard. Miyazaki-san, perhaps a bit facetiously, broke into applause himself, before finally motioning for us all to sit down.
"The discussion covered many topics, such as the portrayal in Miyazaki-san's films of a desire to oneday see the balance between nature and mankind restored, the dangers of virtual worlds (which, Miyazaki-san admitted, have been around long before video games), the ambiguous, whimsical nature of the portrayal of animals in his films, the cultural dangers inherent in Japan's animators relying on Chinese and Korean labor, and the unfortunate fact that the current government in Japan relies so heavily on its soft power (i.e., its reliance on the export of software, i.e. anime and manga) to attract foreigners.
"Of course much (if not all) of this has been discussed before and can be found in various interviews with Miyazaki-san published online and in print. What really made the evening special was being able to observe many of the personality traits and dark humor of a man who, for so many of us, can seem, at times, more than a man.
"On many occasions during which a questioned seemed to irritate Miyazaki-san, he would utter a long, low grumble at the back of his throat before answering the question. At other times he was so taken with his own twisted sense of humor that he'd have to lean almost into the shoulder of the interviewer to stop himself from laughing. My friends, girlfriend and I were very taken by him. The conversation made me nostalgic for the grandfather I never had.
"In any case, I thought you'd enjoy a quick report. I'm incredibly thankful for aicn for posting the information about this event, but if anyone ends up posting this, I'd rather it be you than them. Your fandom is obvious, and you deserve the scoop. I'll leave you with some choice moments from the evening:
"Miyazaki-san at one point admitted that he hoped he could see the end of human civilization in his lifetime. Later he admitted that, sometimes, when standing in high-rise buildings in Tokyo, he likes to imagine the sea sweeping most of the buildings away as he watches from above.
"Also on the topic of floods, he discussed the regular flooding he and his wife experience in their small-town home. He said that when heavy rains bring floods, the water only goes up as high as peoples' knees, and since it doesn't pose all that big of a threat, old people begin to come out of their homes, play in the water, help eachother, and just generally be happy together in brotherhood with their neighbors. He admitted that, though they have the means to build their home higher to avoid the water completely, he and his wife have decided to leave things as they are, so they can experience the floods along with their neighbors.
"Finally, when one of the audience members posed the question "is there a specific place you like to travel to for inspiration?", Miyazaki-san replied humbly, 'These days, I just walk around my house.' "