You're Off by About Twenty Years

Disney seems to have this strange and slightly creepy habit of erasing much of Hayao Miyazaki's film career.  The "Behind the Microphone" feature from the 2006 DVD featured actors like Shia Labeouf declaring how happy they were to be working on "Miyazaki's first film."  Of course, he's off by twenty years, which is worth a slight chuckle.  Slightly more strange was the making-of-Ghibli featurette, which originally appeared on the Japanese DVD; the American version edited out footage from pre-Ghibli films such as Horus, Prince of the Sun and Castle of Cagliostro.

And now here's the text description on the back of the new Nausicaa Blu-Ray cover, which was released today (I'll bold the appropriate text):

"For the first time ever, the magic of Blu-Ray high definition reveals the exquisite details in Hayao Miyazaki's epic masterpiece, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.  Experience the film that launched the Academy Award-winning career (2002: Best Animated Feature, Spirited Away) of one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animation!

Yes, it seems Miyazaki is so celebrated that Disney is going to completely ignore everything he did before Nausicaa.  Which also just happens to be the earliest movie in the Ghibli-Disney distribution contract.  Imagine that.  Normally, this isn't the sort of thing I'd think twice about, but I have read more than a couple website proclaim Nausicaa as the start of Miyazaki's career, and I'd like to set the record straight.


Andrew said...

Eh I get what you're saying, but I think you're going a bit overboard. Nausicaa IS the launching point of Miyazaki's career, (and the manga perhaps his seminal work) even though it isn't his first film.

In comparison, it wouldn't be false to say "Jaws" was the film that launched Spielberg's career; however it was far from the first thing he did. He worked in TV (like Miyazaki) and even directed the movie Duel before his big breakout...

Also, the edits to the Ghibli Documentary were most likely due to the distribution contract that you referenced. No matter how much respect they have, they're not going to reference or show clips of a movie without permission.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

A better comparison would be to say that Spielberg's career was launched with Schindler's List.

Nausicaa is not the "launching point" to Hayao Miyazaki's career, not by a long shot. That honor would go to the Toei Doga era, 1963-72. His directorial debut was the first Lupin III series in 1971-2. There was the Yuki's Sun pilot, which Miyazaki solely directed, and the abortive Pippi Longstockings project with Isao Takahata, which evolved into the two Panda Kopanda short films.

Heidi, Girl of the Alps ushered in the anime boom of the 1970s, and became a beloved classic around the world (everywhere but the States). 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother followed in 1976, Future Boy Conan in 1978, and Anne of Green Gables in 1979. And, as we all know, Miyazaki-san left Anne to write and direct on Castle of Cagliostro at TMS.

After that Miyazaki and company closed out Lupin III Series Two, then worked on the Meitantai Holmes/Sherlock Hound project, which was tragically cut short after six episodes.

It was during that time that Miyazaki and Takahata and Yasuo Otsuka (and others) were involved for a time on the Nemo movie project with the Americans. That fell apart due to creative differences, and this would be the low point of Miyazaki-san's career. He returned to his first love, manga comics, creating Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind in Animage Magazine, publishing a couple books, and amassing a number of unfinished projects like Mononoke Hime and My Neighbor Totoro.

Only after all of those things would Toshio Suzuki and Tokuma Shoten (Animage's publisher) persuade Miyazaki-san to write and direct an anime version of Nausicaa in 1983-84.


Most Americans are simply unaware of this history, and that's understandable as most everything before Cagliostro has never been commercially released here. It's only due to the internet and the fansub community that I'm able to talk about everything today. We are still playing catch-up. That's the critical point to make, and it's precisely why we need to keep our histories straight.

DmL said...

This is in fact incredibly creepy. Weird.

greentea said...

Creepy? I think Nausicaa is what really started Miyazaki's acclaim, at least on a more universal level. And I do think of it as Miyazaki's first; isn't the one he had story, directing, writing, the most control over before the others? Wasn't it Ghibli's first big movie?

In any case, I don't know all the history and I don't mean to set aside the stuff he did before. But I don't blame Disney for considering it his first or the one that 'launched his career'.

Adziu said...

'Wasn't it Ghibli's first big movie?'

Well, when Nausicaa was made, Ghibli didn't exist. It slightly irks me in the same way that that blurb irks Mr. MacInnes when I see it considered the first Ghibli film - although this is something Ghibli themselves have done.

Nausicaa was made by Topcraft, and its success it what allowed the studio to essentially be transformed into Ghibli, with a few key figures going off to join/found the likes of Oh! and Pacific Animation Corp.

So Nausicaa is really pre-Ghibli. As for creative control, Cagliostro really wasn't too far off from this, and he had ample experience directing, with the World Masterpiece films and Panda Kopanda et al.

Disney could have used many bits of blurb here: the film where Ghibli began, the first film where Miyazaki showed the world his own unique vision, the film that paved the way for later works...but saying it launched a career when Miyazaki was already a veteran and calling it his first are both plain wrong.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Terrific points by everyone. Thanks for all the comments and insights.

It's always important to remember that most Americans know nothing of Hayao Miyazaki's career before Studio Ghibli, and certainly nothing before Cagliostro. I remember how impossibly difficult it was to find information when I began writing Ghibli film reviews in 2003.

Then there's that weird element of a corporate brand only recognizing the history of their products on store shelves. It's not something to ever feel upset about, of course. You just arch your eyebrow and smirk a little, and use the appropriate Simpsons quote.

I do believe that Nausicaa is a crucial turning point in Miyazaki's career. It obviously led to Ghibli and all that international success that followed. And as a film, it marks a real turning point from the young Miyazaki, who embraced cliffhanger serials and slapstick humor, to the older, more emotionally complex, film director.

Maybe we just have to sit people down and make them watch the pre-Ghibli Miyazaki anime? Here, watch Conan! Watch Horus! Watch Heidi! Watch Lupin! We're probably going to have to go door-to-door on this one, folks.

Adziu said...

It's hard enough just to persuade people to watch non-Miyazaki Ghibli films, honestly.

Oh, I realise it sounded like I meant Miyazaki directed Panda Kopanda, which he didn't. I was trying to make a point about creative input there and failed. D'oh.

Andrew said...

I get that he did good stuff before Nausicaa, but are you saying Lupin, Girl of the Alps, Anne of Green Gables or 3000 Leagues is in the same category of artistry and creativity as Nausicaa, Princess, Totoro, Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky?

This is a legitimate question because I haven't seen these shows (though I did just get my hands on the Future Boy Conan series.)

Basically what I'm saying (and I believe what Disney is getting at) is that Nausicaa was the movie that began Miyazaki's turn to true film greatness.

It's quite common in a film maker's career to begin strong and show signs of brilliance, but not quite be there yet. It takes time to develop confidence, not only in yourself but by production backers, to ever achieve the level of control where you can make real art. I don't think it's a mistake saying that Nausicaa was that point for Miyazaki. But you can correct me if I'm wrong.

Andrew said...

It also may really come down to personal interpretation. From what I've read, it sounds like pre-Nausicaa Miyazaki (like you said in your other post) had a different tone and was more sophomoric. While there's merit in doing that genre well, I have a hard time considering it in the same artistry as his post Nausicaa films. I believe they were international successes because such a change in tone, not necessarily because they were international sucesses.... if you get what I mean.

Either way I do plan to watch as much pre-ghibli miyazaki as I can get my hands on to see for myself. Your blog has tons of cool discussion, debates and information to point me in the right direction; keep it up!

John Smith said...

The reason Disney edited out the TMS/Toei footage is because they probably didn't have the rights for it.

Good eye that they "removed" it.

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