Fatherhood and the Family Crown

Again, Twitch has an excellent transcript on their site here from Saturday's Ponyo press conference featuring Hayao Miyazaki with John Lasseter. In this exchange, Goro Miyazaki's Tales From Earthsea is mentioned, prompting this exchange:

Question: You mentioned Tales from Earthsea. Miyazaki-san, since your son directed that film, and it occurred before Ponyo, what has he been doing since in carrying on the family tradition? And Mr. Lasseter, I didn’t realize you had already prepared a version of that. I thought there was a rights issue with the Ursula Le Guin estate. What is the status of that?

Lasseter: We’re just kinda wading through that, and there’s a time limit. It will be released at some point.

Question: But the version is ready to go?

Lasseter: It’s ready.

Miyazaki: My son is now in childrearing.

Lasseter: Which is very important to Miyazaki-san.

Miyazaki: That’s a very important process.

Question: Is there anything more to be said about your son’s interest in animation?

Miyazaki: It’s a difficult question, but I don’t see myself creating a directors dynasty, unless he can crawl up to be a director on his own. It’s up to him. The first hurdle right now is raising his children.

This is a very sensitive subject, as you can see from Lasseter's efforts to deflect the issue (that's what friends do, after all). Besides, Hayao Miyazaki is here to discuss his latest film, Ponyo, not to be caught up in the complicated relationship with his son, Goro. But I am very impressed with his answer. Read in light of news about Goro's Studio Ghibli film short, we have been given a new insight into the inner workings of the studio.

At this point, I think it's safe to say that Goro-san will not be directing any feature film at Ghibli in the immediate future. One thing Gedo Senki revealed, painfully, I think, was his complete inexperience as a filmmaker. That was not only his first movie as director, it was his first movie. And I think that was somewhat obvious. Japanese audiences turned out for Earthsea, making it the year's highest-grossing domestic movie, but that was largely due to loyalty for Father Miyazaki. The backlash against the son, both for his film and his remarks about his father, was very real, and I don't think that's going to be easily forgotten.

Goro has lost the public goodwill, and he will need to win them back. He will have to work and struggle to earn his father's throne and become the heir to Studio Ghibli. That's what the issue is really all about. In retrospect, I believe it was a mistake for Toshio Suzuki to place Goro in the director's chair so soon, all but declaring him the studio's heir apparant. Goro needs time to grow, to learn, to develop a style, to master the skills of a filmmaker, director, and leader.

Toshio Suzuki's business sense has always been spectacular, and his influence on the direction and style of Ghibli's movies is far greater than most Westerners realize. He knows how to push Miyazaki's buttons. He knows how to get things done. There literally wouldn't be a Studio Ghibli without him. And he may yet be proven right by choosing Goro; he may yet be vindicated. For the hope of the studio, I hope this is so. I think he just moved too fast, too soon. Perhaps everyone was blinded by the family name without careful consideration. Isao Takahata's calm teaching at the end of My Neighbors the Yamadas echoes in the hallways: don't overdo it.

Now it appears that Goro will have his apprenticeship period, with the film short being the latest example. There was also an exhibition at the Ghibli Museum where he storyboarded and assembled a story based on a famous Japanese poet. It was not an actual movie project, but much closer to a class assignment at film school. That is precisely the direction he needs to take. And it's very clear that Father Miyazaki's wishes shall be honored. Perhaps this is a period of adjustment for him, as well.

I have no doubt that, on some level, Father Miyazaki is happy to have Son Goro continue the family tradition. After all, Goro was the director of the Ghibli Museum since its founding, and his wife also works at the studio. The younger son, Keisuke Miyazaki, created the woodcut carving of a violin craftsman for Mimi wo Sumaseba. And Akemi Ota Miyazaki, the wife and mother, haunts her husband's work, like Julietta Massina and Frederico Fellini.

I'll bet you weren't expecting this kind of family drama, huh? You just wanted to watch movies about Totoros and goldfish. Such are the lives of great artists.

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