Toshio Suzuki surprised the world on his radio show Ghibli Asemamire: Hayao Miyazaki was busy at work on his latest film. The unnamed project is a 10-minute short film for the Ghibli Museum. There is no word yet on the title or its contents, but we should expect a release this year.
According to Suzuki-san, most of Ghibli's staff is busy working on Arrietty (The Borrowers), leaving Miyazaki free to draw the key animations personally. This is a thrilling development for the workaholic director; after Mononoke, where he touched up and revised as much as a third of the animation cels, he "retired" those duties and settled squarely in the director's chair. This is the heart of all the "Miyazaki is retiring" rumors that have followed him ever since (at least, that's my understanding).
Given Miyazaki's hunger to rush in and take over every situation - it's how he made his name since the beginning - I wonder if Suzuki offered this short film project as a way to get the director out of the way, and leave The Borrowers' first-time director Hiromasa Yonebayashi alone.
GhibliWiki has this following exchange regarding Miyazaki's role in shaping The Borrowers:
According to Toshio Suzuki, Miyazaki wrote the project paper and the script for Arrietty then asked Suzuki "Who directs it?" Suzuki answered, "Maro" (Hiromasa Yonebayashi's nickname) immediately. Miyazaki was surprised and asked "Why?" It was a snap decision at the time as Suzuki recalls, "I had not spoken with Maro about being the director. I said his name as the question was asked Miya-san." They called Yonebayashi to the Miyazaki's sub-studio (Nibariki) and Miyazaki said, "You do the direction!" Yonebayashi was stunned, but he accepted after a few minutes. Yonebayashi decided to do the storyboards work without Miyazaki's assistance and when informed Miyazaki replied, "You are right, You are a man!" However, Miyazaki is very much interested in the film, and Suzuki worries about when Miyazaki will break into the project.
This, of course, is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but there's also a lot of truth behind the smiles. Even in his late '60s, Hayao Miyazaki is still champing at the bit, eager to prove himself, eager to dive into another project. You will remember that Kiki's Delivery Service and Howl's Moving Castle began with different directors, before Miyazaki rushed in and took over. He's been like this ever since Gulliver's Space Travels.
He does recognize, naturally, the importance of letting the young Yonebayashi have free reign over his film. It's important for the future of the studio. But the temptation in insert oneself, nudging, offering advice, suggesting edits...it's very strong. But before you know it, Miyazaki has muscled the animators aside, and he's blazing away once again.
Whoever came up with the idea of having Miyazaki animate and direct a new Ghibli Museum short was very smart.
There was one new major development on Toshio Suzuki's radio show. Ghibli President Kouichiro Tsujino (Suzuki's groomed successor) has been a guest on the show the past two weeks. Tsujino has recommended that Miyazaki's upcoming Ghibli Museum film be made available on Youtube. Suzuki concurrs, and reveals Miyazaki supports the idea.
This is a major development if it comes to pass. Hayao Miyazaki has firmly opposed releasing the Ghibli Museum movies on the commercial market. To him, the Museum is a haven for children, away from the pressures of commercialism. He will not turn his works into theme park rides and cynically manipulate children's affections for profit (vestiges of the '60s radical in him). This means no theatrical releases around the world, and no DVD releases of the short films.
Youtube may be a game-changer. The format is free and open to all. It's far closer to the ideal of screenings in children's museums than the multiplex. And there's no question that the world hungers for these many wonderful, inventive little movies. It's a side of Studio Ghibli, and Miyazaki, that hasn't been seen before.
If Miyazaki is at least open to the idea, then Suzuki and Tsujino will be able to convince him on the merits of releasing his short film on Youtube. And if that indeed comes to pass, expect Ghibli to follow with the entire Museum catalog.