I try and give people a motivational boost in these articles by talking about inspirational people.
Subjects have typically been sporting greats that moved people in and out of the competitive field.
However, today is a little different. I am going to talk about the inspirational greats of Japanese animation, in particular Hayao Miyazaki.
Miyazaki and his contemporaries had to break down barriers in the animation/film industry, driven on by their passion for the work, in the process creating a better world for those who would come later.
They inspire with their good deeds as well as excellence at their craft equally.
I’ve been reading about the life and work of Hayao Miyazaki in a fascinating book called Miyazakiworld by Susan Napier. In it Napier talks about his revolutionary attitude to filmmaking, work ethic and creative drive.
The Japanese film industry, like country as a whole, was ruled by hierarchy but Miyazaki was brave enough to stick his head above the parapet for the good of the art.
He first did this when he was a lowly animator at Toei Studios in the 1960s.
There he met his mentors, heavyweights Yasuo Otsuka and director Isao Takahata.
Miyazaki was bold enough to suggest changing the ending of one of the studio’s movies when, at the time, he was at the bottom of the pecking order.
Napier writes: “What Toei employees remeber most about the movie is a totally unexpected ending twist suggested by a young animator, Miyazaki.
“Kotabe and Okuyama, who worked with Miyazaki during that period, also remember the incident vividly. They explain how incongruous it was for a newbie to push himself forward in that way.”
This didn’t always win him allies. Napier continues: “This attitude did not always play well with his colleagues, Otsuka describes Miyazaki as rolling forward like a heavy tank.”
She writes: “Senior colleagues displayed undisguised opposition to the young upstart.”
Animation greats, Takahata and Miyazaki worked hard at the studio to forge a better working life, fighting for their peers in the union.
The result was an improved culture at the studio. Napier writes: “..Takahata levelled the playing field, pulling in directors, artists and finishers who had been on different fields and collecting them in one place.”
Miyazaki’s first time in the director’s chair would be in a Tin Tin style caper called Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. He is quoted in Napier’s book as having no desire for that power, it was all about the craft.
“Miyazaki downplays his desire to become a director insisting that it was simply his ‘turn to shoulder the burden.'”
Miyazaki of course went on to lead the iconic animation house Studio Ghibli. His directed works at Ghibli are inspiring simply in how well written, stunningly drawn and full of real meaning they are.
The visionary director worked tirelessly at his art producing some of the best examples of it and left the industry a better place than how he found it. That’s something to aim for.