The name Miyazaki Hayao (宮崎駿) is no longer a stranger to the ears of many people. This highly prolific director, producer, screenwriter, animator, author, and manga artist had announced his retirement in September 2013. Back then, the director who had on and off retirements even said, “This time is for real.” However, in February 2017, it was confirmed by the producer and general manager of the famous Studio Ghibli (スタジオジブリ), Suzuki Toshio (鈴木敏夫), that the co-founder of the animation studio ended his latest retirement yet again.
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At a pre-Oscars event in Los Angeles in 2017, Suzuki Toshio, who was present for the Academy Award-nominated film The Red Turtle (レッドタートル ある島の物語), revealed that Miyazaki was working on a new feature project. Suzuki said that Miyazaki had given him the storyboards for the project in the summer of 2016. According to a report by Kyodo News (共同通信社 – Japanese only), when interviewed on their latest project, Suzuki said, “Right now in Tokyo (東京), he’s putting all his effort into making [the feature],” Despite having retired, Miyazaki continued going to Studio Ghibli to work.
After stepping away from directing, Miyazaki began to learn how to animate on a computer and was working on a short 10-minute CG feature called “Boro The Caterpillar (毛虫のボロ).” The Japanese press previously speculated that the new film that Miyazaki is making for the big screen could be a full-length version of his CGI animated short, Boro The Caterpillar. But when pressed about the possibility, Suzuki gave no details and said, “All I can say is that it’s really interesting.”
However, speculations were confirmed in the NHK television special, The Man Who is Not Done: Hayao Miyazaki (終わらない人 宮崎駿), where the director was revealed to be unsatisfied with just a short film and wanted to make a full-length version.
Apparently, after directing his 11th feature film, The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ), the director who have just come out from his sixth retirement has been working on Boro The Caterpillar since the summer of 2015. The short film will debut in July 2017 and will be shown exclusively at the Ghibli Museum (ジブリ美術館) in Mitaka (三鷹), Tokyo. The film that tells the tale of a tiny (so tiny that it may be easily squished between your fingers), hairy caterpillar, will be in 100% CG.
This project also marks the first full CGI project for Studio Ghibli. The one-time Oscar-winning director first mentioned plans for the story prior 1997’s similarly nature-focused Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫), making this film a two-decade planned project. The short film joins its nine predecessors, such as Mei and the Kittenbus (めいとこねこバス), a semi-sequel to My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ), and Monmon the Water Spider (水グモもんもん), in a plan of making 12 short films for the Ghibli Museum so that they can be rotated each month.
As for the full-length version, it was planned to be released in 2019, just a year shy from the 2020 Olympics in Japan. However, it was revealed to be impossible by Suzuki at a convention. Suzuki mentioned that Miyazaki has only drawn 20 minutes’ worth of storyboards, which is too slow of a progress to meet their 2019 goal.
The film has not been officially green-lit, but the 76-year-old director decided to start the animation work on the project anyway. He plans to create storyboards for about 100 cuts of footage. When Suzuki was asked by an audience member in the convention on whether the movie could be completed while Miyazaki is still alive, Suzuki dryly answered, “Hmm, I don’t know.”
Each time a Studio Ghibli film (especially those by the master, Miyazaki Hayao, himself) is announced, fans squeal in excitement.
With the director’s age, many people are worried that he might not be able to finish the full-length version of Boro The Caterpillar in time. Despite this, he does not seem to be giving up and this could be due to the fact that there have been many amazing animated films produced during his hiatus. It seems like he does not want to be left out in the competition that he has been participating in for the past 54 years.