Mononoke Hime wa Koushite Umarete - The Making of Princess Mononoke

As you can tell by visiting my politics-n-pop blog, Videogames of the Damned, I've been very busy working through the US election. Because of this, I haven't been able to write here on the Ghibli blog these past few weeks. I just want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who still visits every day, posts comments, and otherwise checks up on me. In a perfect world, I'd have a couple other bloggers to help lighten the load for me, but I'll do my best.

I have a real surprise for all the Ghibli Freaks this weekend. This is a tv documentary from Japan called Mononoke hime wa Koushite Umarete - or, in other words, The Making of Princess Mononoke.

This lengthy documentary was two years in the making, as director Toshio Uratani followed Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli with videotape camera in hand, recording over 300 hours of footage. The film was released as three series, which runs roughly three hours.

In Japan, Mononoke achieved the rank of cultural phenonemon, smashing domestic box-office records and propelling Studio Ghibli to the top of the film world. Miyazaki began a new phase of his career, one of unparalled success. This began his epic period, which continued with The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chiriho, and Howl's Moving Castle, films which paint on larger and larger canvasses, more extravagent and stylish, more broadly thematic. These are Miyazaki's double albums, his Physical Grafitti, his Electric Ladyland.

That epic period has now passed, and with Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea, Miyazaki is back to painting on a smaller canvas. The densely-packed storytelling has given way to something more economic, more iconic and accessable. I don't think you'll need to consume the entirety of Miyazaki's career to understand Ponyo, as was necessary with Howl and (to a lesser degree) Mononoke. You can just walk into the theatre with a blank slate and enjoy Ponyo on its terms.

And we can now look back at Ghibli's blockbuster era, and try to understand how it all came to be.

One more note: unless I'm mistaken, this documentary is available in Japan on DVD. Unfortunately (surprise), there are no English subtitles on the disc. This is a bit of a surprise, since the disc comes on the Ghibli ga Ippai label. But most television documentaries on their label do not include subtitles. Takahata's The Story of Yanagawa Waterways is the only exception to the rule.

I'll post the documentary on the next three posts. Be sure to pass along to your friends. Oh, and don't tell YouTube. No need getting anybody into trouble.


Anonymous said...

Good to see this wave of posts by you Daniel, it had been a few weeks. =)

I'm really looking forward to watching Iblard Jikan and the Making-of for Princess Mononoke.

You mentioned that in an ideal world you would have a couple other people to help you with the blog. Not sure if you meant anything by it, but if you were ever interested in keeping this site a little more active, I'd be more then happy to do a few posts here and there to keep things a little more 'happenin'on the blog. I love Ghlibi and I enjoy writing, so I have that going for me, haha.

It was just a thought, if you were at all interested. If not, then that is fine as well and I will continue to wait for your next post. (while engaging in other aspects of my life in between of course)


p.s. As a Canadian in Vancouver, I myself am hoping for an Obama victory this Tuesday. Although I don't want the Democrats to have too much of a majority in Congress as historically that hasn't been as good for us terms of Economical/Trade issues that is. But it does beat the alternative

David said...

Excellent ! Thank you for posting these Daniel.

( I hope they leave it up. I'll be sad if YT takes these down. Do you know where I can buy the DVD ?
This looks like something I'd like to keep and not depend on the whims of YT . )

Just8 said...

Because of this post, I remember having seen this 'making of':
In 2005, I was in Paris, France, for a week, and i saw an exhibition dedicated to both Moebius and Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle was showing in french movie theatres at the time; I saw it in japanese with french subtitles).
You probably know that Jean Giraud (who uses the pseudonym Moebius) is a french comic book artist who has also done some work for films.
The exhibition contained sketches, storyboards, drawings and comics of both artists, and also some video material: "The making of Mononoke Hime " was shown, and I enjoyed it very much.
Also shown was a conversaton between Giraud and Miyazaki. It was clear they admired each other's work.
What also was interesting was that Giraud's dealings with the film industry were less fortuitous than Miyazaki's: Miyazaki was involved with Ghibli, which gave him a lot of artistic freedom, and he only had to deal with Disney where international distribution was concerned.
Giraud, on the other hand, did not have a production company such as Ghibli; he had to deal with Hollywood directly, and a couple of movies he worked on, or wrote scripts/drew designs for were not completed because of various stages of 'development hell'.

Having just read your post from Nov, 1 (Miyazaki in America), I completely agree with you: it seems that a lot of movie executives don't know how to deal with an animation movie that is not targeted at 8 year olds.
And they also don't know what to do with the work of Moebius.
Well, at least Miyazaki is able to make the movies he wants to make, where as Giraud has been producing mostly comics, and was involved with relatively few movies.

One more thing: you write in your blog:
"I don't think you'll need to consume the entirety of Miyazaki's career to understand Ponyo, as was necessary with Howl and (to a lesser degree) Mononoke. You can just walk into the theatre with a blank slate and enjoy Ponyo on its terms."
Funny thing is: The first movie of Miyazaki I saw was Princess Mononoke, and I did "just walk into the theatre with a blank slate".
I didn't know anything about Miyazaki; but I had read that Neil Gaiman was involved with the english translation (and I really enjoyed Neil Gaiman's Sandman), so when Mononoke was shown in the cinema in my hometown (in the Netherlands), i went to see it, only knowing that it was a japanese animation fim that was supposed to be quite good.
Of course, it's great to see this movie on a large screen. And not knowing what to expect made the impact greater, I think. From then on, I was hooked.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

That was a great post. Thanks for sharing. It's writing like this that makes me wonder just how deep things would get with heavier traffic. You'd probably find better reading material among all the comments.

Great work!

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