Hayao Miyazaki Is One Tough Critic

Hayao Miyazaki Is One Tough Critic

Make no mistake. Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli fame doesn’t seem easy to please — even if you are his son. Rather, especially if you are his son.

Stills from the documentary How Ponyo Was Born have been circulating online in Japan. The documentary is not new, and the images are from the sequence in which Hayao Miyazaki goes to see Tales from Earthsea, the 2006 animated feature directing debut of his son, Goro.

The documentary pointed out how Miyazaki wasn’t home when Goro was a kid, and how Goro said that instead of being raised by a dad, he was raised by his father’s works.

Hayao Miyazaki Is One Tough Critic

[Image via NicoLog]

Before the screening, Miyazaki senior is shown fidgeting about. The documentary’s announcer points out that Miyazaki didn’t view his son as a director, because he thought people with no animation experience should not suddenly helm features. Fair enough!

An hour into Tales from Earthsea, Miyazaki bolted from the theatre to have a cigarette, saying, “It feels like I was sitting there for about three hours.”

Hayao Miyazaki Is One Tough Critic

[Image via NicoLog]

Hayao Miyazaki Is One Tough Critic

[Image via NicoLog]

Miyazaki returned and watched the rest of the film. When it finished, he was asked for what he thought. He replied, “I saw my own child. He hasn’t become an adult. That’s all.” He paused and then said, “It’s good that he made one movie. With that, he should stop [making movies].”

In his online blog, Goro Miyazaki later wrote that his dad passed along the following message: “It was made honestly, so it was good.” Goro added that those few words brought tears to his eyes.

Goro Miyazaki followed up his 2006 debut with From Up on Poppy Hill, a film that was far better received than Tales from Earthsea. His father co-wrote the script.

Top photo: Frazier Harrison | Getty


  • The story behind if is a bit more complicated though. Miyazaki Senior actually wanted to do Earthsea many years before that, but LeGuin didn’t want some random Japanese company licensing her masterwork or something, so he eventually gave up. Then suddenly after Spirited Away got him that Oscar, a Ghibli animated film was back on the table. Only the issue was that Miyakaki Senior didn’t want to do it any more, plus he was deep in production on Howl’s Moving Castle which he’d had to pick up because the original director Ghibli had lined up for it, Mamoru Hosoda, had pulled out of the project (he instead went to Madhouse and directed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Ghibli was much poorer off without him IMO). Rather than let the deal fall through, Ghibli threw the directorial duties on Earthsea to Miyazaki Junior.

    I suspect a lot of Hayao’s issues about Earthsea are tied up in the fact that it was a project he’d wanted to do himself at one point and the result was far worse than he’d have made. While it’s not a terrible film, it’s definitely Ghibli’s worst. There’s also probably an element of being against his son getting straight into the director’s chair without having had to do any of the hard work necessary to deserve it.

    • Fantastic insight. This is the kind of thing we should be seeing in the article proper, not the comments section!

    • Thank you, I didn’t know that Hosoda was initially pencilled down for Howl’s Moving Castle… what a movie that would have been (instead, it’s perhaps my second least favourite Miyazaki movie). Perhaps for the best though. It’s hard to imagine a Hosoda movie with the traditional Ghibli aesthetics instead of Sadamoto’s character design.

      Earthsea was pretty bad and Ursula LeGuin was rightfully apalled by it. I think that Hayao might have been a bit too harsh but right on the spot. The movie really reeks of someone inexperienced trying too hard to prove himself.

      • I always felt that the biggest issue with Earthsea was that it just doesn’t make any sense. There are huge plot points that just aren’t in the movie. It’s like they made a three hour movie and then edited it down to the bone to fit the runtime. I mean, yeah… you’ve got a first time director with pretty much zero animation experience, living in his father’s considerable shadow making an adaptation of a beloved story. But making a 2 hour movie adapted from several novels is pretty much always going to end in tears.

        The whole thing feels rushed and unfinished. Character actions and appearances seem random and we don’t really get time to know or care about the characters much. The climax is really underwhelming because there’s very little audience investment in the people involved and the part of the movie that sets the stakes seems to just not exist. It’s actually one of the worst screenplays I’ve ever seen.

  • Tales of the Earthsea is still the only film that I’ve watched in a cinema where I’ve fallen asleep during. I don’t remember much, just that it was terribly boring, definitely the worst Ghibli movie by far.

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