by Jesse Goodwin, Staff Writer
In 2013, legendary Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki of the animation house Studio Ghibli announced he would retire from making feature-length films.
His announcement was made with the intention of concentrating on smaller projects—namely, short films for the studio’s Ghibli Museum, which hosts exclusive screenings of those films and showcases work from the studio’s feature-length films.
This was not Miyazaki’s first retirement from feature-length animation; he had become known to announce his retirement after completing a film.
His most recent retirement was announced shortly before the release of his latest film, The Wind Rises, at a press conference attended by more than 600 journalists.
Later that year, director Isao Takahata, who co-founded Ghibli with Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki, even commented that there was “sufficient likelihood” of Miyazaki coming out of retirement at a press event for his latest film, The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
Indeed, Miyazaki announced his plans to come out of retirement once again in The Man Who Is Not Done: Hayao Miyazaki, an appropriately titled television special that aired last month on the Japanese network NHK.
Suzuki commented that Miyazaki will draw storyboards of animation until he dies, suggesting that no announcement of his retirement will be final.
In the special, he explained that he is not satisfied with a 12-minute CG short film, Boro the Caterpillar, that he has been working on for the Ghibli Museum.
He wants to turn it into a feature-length film, and made a proposal to do so in August of last year.
He has planned the story, which he describes as “a story of a tiny, hairy caterpillar, so tiny that it may be easily squished between your fingers,” and has been working on it for nearly two decades.
The short will debut at the museum next year.
Ghibli announced in 2014, less than a year after Miyazaki’s announcement of his retirement, that it would temporarily close its animation production arm.
Although the special does not show studio executives accepting Miyazaki’s proposal for the film, he is shown working on animation for it.
Now 75 years old, Miyazaki noted that he might turn 80 before he finishes the feature-length film. But according to the schedule listed in his proposal, it could be finished by 2019 and released before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. A Ghibli staffer commented that this release would make the film a hit.
Miyazaki’s films are among the most popular anime and have achieved unprecedented commercial success, both in Japan and abroad.
His film Spirited Away is the top-grossing film of all time in Japan and the top-grossing anime film of all time, having earned 30 billion yen (about 268 million USD) at the box office.
Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, and The Wind Rises, four more of the ten highest-grossing anime films of all time, all made more than 10 billion yen (about 89 million USD).
Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film in 2003, becoming the first anime film to win an American Academy Award and heightening awareness of Miyazaki’s work among American audiences.
Several of Miyazaki’s earlier films have become more internationally known as a result of the Academy Award and Disney’s subsequent distribution of his films in the U.S., including My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Since its founding in 2001, Miyazaki has also been a prolific director of shorts for the Ghibli Museum, including Mei and the Kitten Bus (based on My Neighbor Totoro) and Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess. However, these films continue to be screened exclusively at the museum and are not available for viewing elsewhere.
Ghibli has announced no plans to resume animation production, and it remains unclear whether the feature-length Boro will be released according to Miyazaki’s proposal.