Studio Ghibli's Kokuriko-Zaka Kara press conference was held in Japan today. In attendance was Goro Miyazaki, the director, Toshio Suzuki, the producer, and Hayao Miyazaki, among others. Much of the focus of the day was on the recent earthquake, which has severely impacted Japan and Kara's production. However, despite the recent tragedy, Ghibli insists they will meet their July 16 release date.
In a telling sign of the times, Ghibli's press conference was held without microphones in order to save electricity.
Toshio Suzuki revealed that Kara is currently 50% complete and is "considerably late." He explains: "Because all of the data of the server may vanish by a blackout, we do the computer work at night, but it does not progress at all. The influence of the earthquake is serious. But it's our duty to release the film on July 16. We will do it somehow!"
Hayao Miyazaki delivered a moving speech to the people of Japan, of their resolve, and the need to continue to create art. This is his first official statement since the earthquake struck Japan. You can read his complete remarks (in Japanese) here. Some translated notes of his remarks are as follows:
"In this country which have many people who are not yet buried and is losing the part of the country, we continue working with awareness making an animation."
"Now is not the time talk careless about civilization from the high place. Hundreds of thousands of people shake with starvation and cold, and I feel thanks and boastfulness for much sacrifice of the people still working by nuclear power plant and other place." (Miyazaki wipes tears)
"Our island has been attacked many times by an earthquake, a volcano, a typhoon and a tsunami. I think that this land is worth making an effort to do in the beautiful island where a human being lives in once again even if there is much difficulty."
"Now is not the time to make a fantasy. Must be drawn life-size human now."
"I'm thinking now that this project (Kokuriko-Zaka Kara) was not a mistake. A wish of Umi (heroine) is necessary in times from now on."
"It is the pride of Ghibli not to make popular things. The person of the mail carrier continues sending mail, and a busman continues running in a traffic jam(under this disaster). Therefore we make a movie."
The highlight of today's press conference was the debut of the movie's theme song, "Sayonara no Natsu: Kokuriko-zaka Kara (Summer of Good-bye: From Kokuriko Hill)." The song, originally written in 1976, will be released on June 1, and the soundtrack CD, "Kokuriko-zaka Kara Song Collection," will be released on July 1. The song is now available for mobile phones.
The song was performed live by singer Aoi Teshima. Also in attendance were the songwriters, Koichi Sakata (music) and Yukiko Marimura (words). Ms. Teshima's performance visibly moved the audience - reporters, staff, and Miyazaki-san - to tears. It was a touching moment of beauty in light of the tragedy.
One extra note: Koichi Sakata was the music composer for 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, the 1976 TV series of the World Masterpiece Theater. I can testify that the rich music, spanning from Italy to Argentina, is one of the show's highlights. This is a gifted songwriter.