When Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from feature filmmaking last year, it signalled the end of a remarkable career, stretching from his debut, The Castle Of Cagliostro, to his swansong, The Wind Rises.
That body of work, which includes the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, was celebrated at a private ceremony last week, in which Miyazaki was awarded an honorary Oscar for his filmmaking achievements. The ceremony also handed awards to writers Jean-Claude Carriere, Jean Hersholt, actress Maureen O’Hara and singer, actor, and social activist Harry Belafonte.
Happily, Miyazaki’s retirement from feature animation isn’t quite the end of his filmmaking career – something many suspected, given his tireless dedication to his work in the past.
At a press conference in Los Angeles, Miyazaki said that he will concentrate his energies on making short films, which will be shown at the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.
“One of the good points of making such short films is that I don’t have to worry about it having financial success,” Miyazaki said. “The people who come to the museum are forced to see this film when they go into the little theatre there. So even if it’s a little bit boring, they’ll probably sit through it and not raise a fuss.”
Miyazaki’s being decidedly modest here, at least in our experience. We went to the Studio Ghibli Museum in 2012, and the little theatre happened to be showing Mei And The Kittenbus – a wonderful 12-minute film featuring some of the characters from My Neighbour Totoro. The room was so full, we ended up sitting on the steps in the aisle, and the response from the audience – whose ages ranged from the very young to the decidedly old – was little short of rapturous.
Of his decision to keep working on more self-contained projects, Miyazaki added, “That makes me very happy. I will continue to make animation work until I die.”
The only downside to this news, for those of us who live thousands of miles from Japan, is that these short films are only ever shown at the Ghibli Museum. Unless the studio changes its mind and releases them on disc, a lengthy pilgrimage will be required if you want to see Miyazaki’s future work.
On a final note, here’s a video of Miyazaki-san receiving his honorary Oscar. His speech is typically humble and amusing.