While Hayao Miyazaki remains, for the moment, happily retired, Isao Takahata remains active, hot on the heels of an Academy Awards nomination for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. And so speculation is rife with questions over his future plans.
Speaking in France in promotion of Kaguya's theatrical release in that country, Paku-san has revealed some details over his possible future plans at Studio Ghibli:
"I have not started working on a new project" explained the director. "But I had a project on which I had started to prepare before The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and the producer, Yoshiaki Nishimura, asked me to make a short film. Osamu Tanabe, the central animator [animation director] on Princess Kaguya, is also interested in the project. Thus, most of the conditions for a production have been satisfied. However, for my part, I have not really even started to work on it.
"You will be kind enough to treat this information as conditional," the director concluded with a laugh.
I have often said that several conditions must be met before Takahata can direct another film. There must be a willing and supportive producer. There must be the necessary funding, perhaps even with a willingness to forgo turning a profit. There must be an animation director willing to undertake the task (Paku-san is not himself an animator). And Takahata himself must be committed with a compelling story and script. As of now, most of those conditions have been met.
It's quite telling that Studio Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, who inherited the reins from Toshio Suzuki, wants another Takahata film. And he is more interested in long-term strategy, in crafting a movie that will be revered 20 years into the future, than turning a profit for the studio. It's safe to say that he isn't willing to make such a move for anyone else but Paku-san, the legend, the revolutionary.
Crafting a Takahata movie is much like dragging a stone up a mountain (an image visualized perfectly by Hayao Miyazaki during the Horus production of the 1960s). The final piece of the puzzle remains Takahata himself. Can he commit to the necessary preparation and planning? Can he create a story up to his standards? And can Nishimura keep him focused and on-track?
Given his recent comments, and given Kaguya's Oscar nomination, I do suspect that Paku-san wants to create another film. But what kind of film, which topic, and what format (short or feature length) remains up in the air. He seemed ready to accept retirement after his latest masterwork, and indeed, Kaguya has that same Abbey Road feel as Miyazaki's The Wind Rises. The Oscars have given him a new lease on life, a new currency. And he intends to spend it.
Watch this space. Studio Ghibli isn't finished yet.