By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) – Oscar-winning Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki said on Friday he will make no more of the full-length films that have brought him global fame, confessing that his real love is drawing and – at age 72 – he is tired of directing.
Miyazaki’s latest film, “The Wind Rises”, claimed a coveted competition slot at the current Venice Film Festival. He won an Academy Award for “Spirited Away” and many other Japanese and international prizes.
But Miyazaki told a packed news conference that the stresses of directing long films made with the hand-drawing techniques he swears by were starting to wear him down.
“I have never once thought I was glad I became a director but I have been glad I’m an animator many, many times,” he told about 600 journalists gathered at a Tokyo hotel.
“To be an animator, if you are able to perfectly capture the water or the wind, you’ll be really happy for the next few days … But if you’re the director, you have to make all the judgments. It’s not good for my stomach.”
A bit of a break lies ahead but Miyazaki said he intended to work “for the next 10 years or so, as long as I can still drive a car to the studio”. He has numerous projects in mind, including renewing the exhibits at the popular Ghibli Museum west of Tokyo that showcases the work of his studio.
“The Wind Rises,” Miyazaki’s 11th feature film, is based on the life of the man who designed Japan’s feared Zero fighter plane used in World War Two and highlights the dangers of war and nationalism.
It triggered a wave of unprecedented criticism of Miyazaki, ranging from people saying he glamorized war to others who accused him of being a traitor.
The theme was underlined by Miyazaki in a scathing essay in mid-July about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposals to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.
Known for vivid colors and loving depictions of landscapes, Miyazaki’s films – which include “Princess Mononoke” and “My Neighbour Totoro” – still rely primarily on hand-drawing each frame. Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli employs a team of animators but he developed the storyboards and drew many of the frames.
A recent television documentary on the making of “The Wind Rises” showed a disgusted Miyazaki heaving a pile of drawings into the rubbish. He is said to have redrawn thousands of frames of “Princess Mononoke” when they did not meet his standards.
Miyazaki said on Friday it was taking longer for him to direct and complete a film. “The Wind Rises” took five years, while at the start of his career the gap was much shorter.
“Every animation director does it differently but since I began as an animator, I have to draw,” he said, pulling off his glasses and leaning forward to show how he works.
“No matter how much I try to build up my strength before starting a film, the truth is that my concentration decreases year by year – and I feel it.”
Commentators said while the latest film was unusually personal and may have left Miyazaki with a rare sense of completion, they doubted his retirement would hold, noting he had “retired” several times in the past.
“He’s the kind of person who really burns himself up directing a movie and I believe he feels that every one is his last,” said film commentator Yuichi Maeda. “After some time off I think he’ll recover and want to make a movie again.”
But Miyazaki said this time was different, adding if his next movie took six or seven years to complete “that’s it for my 70s.” He said his dream was to rest on Saturdays but he was not sure he would achieve it.
“A rest for me looks like work to other people,” he said.