Ronja the Robber's Daughter - A Tale of Revenge, Obsession, and Father's Sons

Ronja the Robber's Daughter

Now, this is going to be interesting.  This I did not expect.

First, a little history lesson.  Back in 1971, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata left the Toei Doga studio, where they began their careers, and followed colleague and de-facto "older brother" Yasuo Otsuka to A Productions.  Otsuka was involved in his pet project, Lupin III "Series One," and Takahata and Miyazaki were brought in as the new "director's team."  But that's not the reason they came to the studio.

Takahata and Miyazaki came to A Pro because they wanted to produce an anime series based on Pippi Longstockings, the beloved Astrid Lindgren children's story.  The two had worked tirelessly on the project, especially Miyazaki, who created character designs, layouts, and artwork.  After assembling a considerable amount of pre-production work, they paid Lindgren a visit to secure the rights.

Lindgren, in one of the all-time great gaffes, turned them down.  She refused to allow them to create Pipi Longstockings.  It was a slighting the young Hayao Miyazaki never forgot, and seemingly never forgave.  When they returned to Japan, the two filmmakers brought back most of the old Toei crew, and poured all that frustration and disappointment into a new 30-minute short film. Panda Kopanda, which was released to theaters in 1972.  Much of the story elements, layouts, and character designs (particularly Mimiko, the little girl) were taken directly from the abortive Pipi project.  A second Panda Kopanda film, The Rainy Day Circus, was created the following year.

If you look closely, you can see the Pipi Longstockings character pop up in Miyazaki's work - Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, Mononoke, House-Hunting (a short film created for the Ghibli Museum).  Father Miyazaki, in case you haven't yet noticed, is a very driven and stubborn man.  It goes with the territory.

And now son Goro, the heir apparent to Studio Ghibli, is directing a new television series...based on another one of Lindgren's stories.  Just try and convince me that Father Miyazaki's fingerprints aren't all over this one.  As I've said, this is going to be VERY interesting.

Ronia the Robber's Daughter is a joint collaboration between Studio Ghibli and Polygon Pictures, a CGI animation studio best known for their work on Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, The Sky Crawlers, Pokemo, and Transformers Prime.  There's a great amount of speculation how, exactly, Ronia will look.  How much will be traditional 2D, and how much will be 3D CGI?  The only media released thus far is a promotional image, shown above.  This does suggest a visual style in the Ghibli tradition, aiming back, as they always do, to Heidi, Girl of the Alps. 

One suggestion is that this production will resemble Ni no Kuni, the Playstation 3 role-playing videogame that combined 3D polygons with 2D animated scenes created by Studio Ghibli.  Perhaps the characters will utilize a "cel-shaded" look?  Perhaps the environments will be rendered with 3D polygons, texture-mapped with Ghibli's artwork?  Nobody really knows yet.  We don't yet know the full relationship between the two studios, or the goals of their collaboration.

I have no idea what Ronia will look like.  I'm honestly surprised that Goro-san and Ghibli are working in television.  This is Ghibli's first TV production since the 1993 movie Umi ga Kikoeru (I Can Hear the Sea), and certainly the first long-form series since the Takahata-Miyazaki heyday of the 1970s.  I wonder what Goro had in mind when he took on this project?  And I wonder just how much influence his father had in orchestrating this production?

Once again, I am left wondering about Goro Miyazaki.  Who, exactly, is this man, beyond a famous father's son?  His identity, his very character, remain an enigma to me.  Perhaps I am clouded by the memories of other sons of famous fathers, like Julian Lennon or Dwezil Zappa, men who were cursed to live forever in their father's shadows, struggling to resolve that inherent conflict and create a unique identity for themselves.  The image of Father Miyazaki literally hounding over his son's shoulder, during the production of From Up on Poppy Hill, haunts me.

Is Goro trying to understand his father, trying to walk in his shoes as Dwezil is now doing with his touring "Zappa Plays Zappa" concerts?  Is he following, meekly and obediently, the family tradition?  Is he obeying the dictates of a stern, demanding father?  Is he still learning the craft, paying his dues, having earned the throne without properly earning it?  Just what exactly is happening here?

Perhaps I am over-thinking this; perhaps not.  Such speculations happen in the vacuum of information.  It certainly speaks well of Goro Miyazaki that we keep him in our thoughts.  We're all rooting for him.  We want him to triumph.  It's all such fascinating melodrama.  The man has become his own exhibition, his own living art.


VM said...

What I expected when I saw the headline was an attempt to draw a parallel between Goro and Ronja and Birk—since Ronja Rövardotter is a story about rebellious kids who question their parents' beliefs. That would be a bit of a stretch to describe Goro today, a 40-something, but who knows? There could be a little bit of that in his decision to direct Ronja.

Unknown said...


Interesting post! It certainly makes sense for Miyazaki to have a certain obsession with Lindgren's works, as they particular styles really do match up really well. Pippi actually less so than some of her other stories, especially ones like The Brothers Lionheart really mesh with the atmosphere and style of Studio Ghibli...

Let's remain hopeful for this adaptation then, and see if it will be as good as it could be!

ms said...

I disagree with the idea that Hayao never left alone the Pippi Longstocking framework for a character . You are assuming every young, female character, in Studio Ghibli's work and in other media, is the same. Maybe young, strong-willed, curious girls are popular because an audience can connect with their struggles. Each main character in Studio Ghibli films is dynamic, in addition to having different personalities from each other. Maybe Pippi's spirit influenced Miyazaki to explore young girls as main characters, but I just don't see how each of them could be based off of Pippi.

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