Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Miyazaki On Miyazaki: The Animation Genius On His Movies
From Lupin to Ponyo: A look back at the films of Studio Ghibli

submit to reddit

1 2 3 4 5
Back 4 of 5 Next

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Mononoke was Ghibli’s most expensive movie, and went on to become Japan’s biggest-ever grossing picture. Following a young warrior mortally cursed by a diseased boar-demon, it takes us deep into Japan’s primeval forest, as its gods of nature resist humanity’s industrial progress. Arguably unsuitable for Ghibli’s younger audience, it features brutal combat scenes and monstrous mutations, entwining the theme of aborted innocence with its overt environmental concerns.

Princess Mononoke

Miyazaki on Miyazaki “It was a huge risk, totally different from when I was making Kiki. I’d had that experience with Porco Rosso, the war happened (in the former Yugoslavia), and I learned that mankind doesn’t learn. After that, we couldn’t go back and make some film like Kiki’s Delivery Service. It felt like children were being born to this world without being blessed. How could we pretend to them that we’re happy?

“I think I really exhausted the animation staff with this film. I knew that was gonna happen, but felt that we had to do this. But when I finished, I didn’t understand it: ‘What did I make?!’ At first I decided, ‘This is something children shouldn’t see,’ but in the end I realised, ‘No, this is something that children must see,’ because adults, they didn’t get it — children understood it. So again children helped me out. Again I was able to make the next film!”

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Despite the pain of making his last two films, accompanied by hints that he was going to retire, Miyazaki returned to the drawing board with his second literary adaptation, this time of Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle. Like Mononoke, it centres on a cursed protagonist, this time young wallflower Sophie, aged by a witch into an old crone. Like all Miyazaki’s films it teems with astonishing detail, but is his least focused story and features his least satisfying denouement.

Howl's Moving Castle

Miyazaki on Miyazaki “Diana Wynne Jones... I was snared in a trap by her. Her story has great reality for the female reader, but she doesn’t care anything about how the world is set up. And all the men in her novels are like her husband: kind of sad, standing there quietly (laughs). And magic without any rules… you know, it kind of loses control. But I didn’t want to make a movie that explains the rules. That’s just like making a video-game. So I made a film that doesn’t explain the logic of the magic and everybody got lost! (Laughs)

“We don’t know why, but it had very extreme reactions: people who really loved it, and people who didn’t understand it. It was a horrible experience. I’ve been so tired out since Princess Mononoke. And to continue in this complicated direction, I thought, ‘We can’t do this anymore!’ Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl... We decided to change direction. And that’s why we did Ponyo the way we did.”

Spirited Away (2001)

Sixteen years after the foundation of Ghibli, Miyazaki finally found success in the West. Heaped with critical praise, and also an Oscar, his colourful tale of a sulky girl named Chihiro trapped in a world of spirits, demons and gods after her parents are polymorphed into pigs proved pleasantly flummoxing to its Western audience. It takes a sudden twist of direction midway through, shifting focus from Chihiro to hungry spectre No-Face, then sending the girl on a mission to absolve dragon/boy Aku rather than freeing her parents. This was less due to Miyazaki’s grand plan than the need to solve a problem he’d made for himself…

Spirited Away

Miyazaki on Miyazaki “There were these girls I’d known since they’d been babies. They were daughters of my friend. And they grew to be ten and 12 and I said, ‘I can distance myself from them now, they’re going to blossom into women and I don’t have to play uncle anymore.’And I was wondering how they would live from now on, and I thought of Spirited Away as a gift to those girls.

But it was a hard film to make. After I started production, the key animator, the art director and the producer came out on holiday with me and we had this blackboard and tried to draft out which direction the film was going in. I explained, ‘I think we’ll be able to do this kind of story, with this kind of ending,’ and then Suzuki-san (the producer) said: ‘Ah. That will take three hours. I don’t want to make a three-hour movie!’

Spirited Away HeadsI said, ‘Okay. I’ll make the story shorter.’ And there was No-Face — he just happened to be a bystanding character. We decided, ‘Oh, let’s use that one,’ so that character suddenly came and we were able to make a sort of short two-hour movie (laughs). But the bath-house and the old lady that’s there, and the gods… I like that kind of world. They’re very intriguing. That other world has much depth and there’s a lot of different kinds of people inhabiting it — that’s what I like to work with. It’s not a small contained world, it’s actually a world that stretches out, a place that it’s normal that when it rains there’s a sea the next day… So that’s why Spirited Away evolved into that kind of film. And it was so much pain and care and labour I don’t know why I do these things!” (Laughs)

1 2 3 4 5
4 of 5

Have Your Say
Register or login now to let us know what you think.

Your Comments

i love all of his movies and every other movie from Studio GHIBLI. Miyazaki Hayao is GOD! More

Posted by mbembet on Wednesday August 3, 2011, 15:21

2 Errors spotted!
The films are in the wrong order, makes the reading slightly confused. Please consider fixing this... great interview though! More

Posted by La Mouche on Saturday July 30, 2011, 13:36

3 One Of The Best Directors In The World...
.... never mind just in animation. It's a crime that Miyazaki is still so underrated in the west - he should be a household name the world over. Ghibli and Miyazaki are responsible for many of my favourite films, like Totoro, Kiki's, Porco Rosso, Spirited Away... just all fantastic stuff. More

Posted by Artoo02 on Thursday July 28, 2011, 23:32

I have seen every one of these films (excluding Tales of Earthsea and Ocean Waves) multiple times, and every one of them is extraordinarily fantastic in its own way. The only movie I did not like was Pom Poko, but the rest of them are outstanding. More

Posted by seankeating0816 on Thursday July 28, 2011, 23:16

5 Thank you Empire
excellent read and well put together. Please disable the ability to comment as to avoid fanboys, useless flaming, adverts and brown-nosers such as myself. More

Posted by hemibell on Thursday July 28, 2011, 21:28

Studio Ghibli have done more than 11 films, just saying. More

Posted by kylereborn on Thursday July 28, 2011, 20:51


Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you

Dan Stevens: The Breakout Star Of 2014
We congratulate The Guest star on his year to remember

The 15 Most Memorable Character Deaths Of The Year
2014’s RIP honour roll

Review Of The Year: 10 Best Soundtracks Of 2014
The scores and OSTs to add to your playlist

Watch: Night At The Museum's Cast Share Their Favourite Robin Williams Performance
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Ben Kingsley pay tribute to the actor

Watch: Jack O'Connell And Luke Treadaway Talk Unbroken
On POWs, panto and how to name your bomber

Review Of 2014: The 15 Best Cameos Of The Year
Our favourite one-scene movie-stealers

8 Things You Can Learn From The BFI's Star Wars Exhibition
The original crawl, a 'grotesque' villain and a very different princess

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)