A year inside the world of Studio Ghibli.
Filmmaker Mami Sunada‘s THE KINGDOM of DREAMS and MADNESS (2013) documentary follows animator Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki and Isao Takahata over the course of a year as Studio Ghibli prepares to release The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s last animated film. Miyazaki, a man who cries at the ending of his films, offers Ghibli fans some insight about why he never knows how his films will end, until finished. Meanwhile, Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli co-founder, director, and animator is busy completing The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, scheduled to be released simultaneously alongside Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises.
Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki is also featured in the film as he goes about the business of promoting Miyazaki’s upcoming release. In addition to Miyazaki’s son Goro Miyazaki, who seems unwilling to take on the family’s business of filmmaking, relent after understanding the value as a Ghibli co-founder. We get to observe to some extent, a few of the company meetings and the day to day operations at the studio. Meet with a few of Ghibli’s animators and colorists who stand by patiently for Miyazaki to complete, one at a time, storyboards. In an audience with Miyazaki and Suzuki as they ensure that Hideaki Anno accepts the voice lead in the Japanese version of The Wind Rises. Then there is a cat. Ushiko, the office cat and at times, the tail-end of Miyazaki’s provocations. Even one of Studio Ghibli’s animators jokingly states that Miyazaki, whom at the time said that he was having trouble animating a plane, the Zero, that the plane…
“…is hard even for him [Miyazaki]?“
The documentary is often reflective as Miyazaki ruminates on the studio’s origins, his life-long friendships and saying his goodbyes to those of whom are respectfully silent as Miyazaki’s thanks them for their hard work. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is, after all, a documentary about endings. The future is clear, however, that on a cloudy day, in the moments before the press conference where Miyazaki will announce his retirement, Miyazaki looks out of a window and philosophically states:
“See him watering his plants? He has no idea we are watching him. See that house with the ivy on it? From that rooftop what if you leaped onto the next rooftop, dashed over to that blue-green wall, jumped up and climbed a pipe, race across the roof and jumped to the next? You can in animation. If you can walk the cable, you can see the other side. When you look from above, so many things reveal themselves to you. Maybe race along the concrete wall and suddenly, there in your humdrum town is a magical movie.”
I believe that it is at times selfish to wish that Miyazaki reconsiders his retirement decision. Perhaps it is one of the “human ties” that he briefly mentions in the film. The desire to go on, to continue on working even when you know that deep down inside that you’ve done all you can do. Miyazaki makes it seems that it is okay to end things at the right time. It is indeed, mystical in thinking. So too, in thinking that one day Miyazaki will return to his drawing desk at Studio Ghibli.
After viewing The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, you cannot help but to come away feeling somehow enlightened.
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