Japan's Miyazaki keeps computers out of cartoons

VENICE (Reuters) - Revered Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki has no intention of swapping his pencil for computer graphics and will keep hand drawing his films for as long as he can, he said on Sunday.

Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki poses for photographers during a photocall at the Venice Film Festival August 31, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Miyazaki’s new animation “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” already a big box office success in his home country, is vying for top prize at the Venice film festival, where the Oscar-winning director received a career award in 2005.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale “The Little Mermaid,” the film tells the story of a little goldfish who longs to become a human to be with her love, five-year-old boy Sosuke. It uses hand-drawn art throughout.

“I think animation is something that needs the pencil, needs man’s drawing hand, and that is why I decided to do this work in this way,” the silver haired, notoriously shy director told reporters after a press screening.

“Currently computer graphics are of course used a great deal and, as I’ve said before, this use can at times be excessive,” he added, speaking through an interpreter. “I will continue to use my pencil as long as I can.”

An economics and politics graduate who developed an interest in children’s literature at university, Miyazaki toiled over hand drawings for Japan’s Toei Animation before creating Studio Ghibli, which he still heads despite repeated announcements of his retirement, in 1985.

Now 67, Miyazaki said he planned to recruit young cartoonists for future projects.

“When I do my next work I’ll be more than 70, so I think I’ll probably have to get help from a younger generation.”


Early reviews of Ponyo, which features Miyazaki’s trademark blend of the everyday and magic, were full of praise and the film was warmly applauded in Venice.

“It is a work of great fantasy and charm that will delight children ages 3 to 100,” wrote the Hollywood Reporter, adding: “Excellent commercial prospects loom.”

Miyazaki, who won an Academy Award for best animated film in 2003 with “Spirited Away,” has directed three of the top five selling movies in Japan in the past seven years. Ponyo, released in its home market last month, has already become one of Japan’s most popular movies.

Miyazaki’s films have often failed to match that success abroad, although he has a cult-like following among fans of the animation genre.

He said that by placing a Western classic like Andersen’s tale in a contemporary Japanese setting, Ponyo “appeals to anybody in the world” and that, while it was primarily meant for children, he had not targeted a particular audience.

Japan looms large over the Venice film festival this year, with another animation film, “The Sky Crawlers” by Mamoru Oshii, and Takeshi Kitano’s “Achilles and the Tortoise” also featuring in the main competition of 21 titles.

Editing by Robert Hart