Hayao Miyazaki brought in psychedelic vision to Comic-Con this afternoon, debuting footage of his latest film, “Ponyo,” to an audience of adoring fans.
Before he even uttered a word, thousands welcomed the silver-haired grandmaster of Japanese animation with the kind of standing ovation and sustained applause reserved for rock stars. For this particular crowd, Miyazaki was a rock star. Even John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios and the director of “Toy Story,” couldn’t help gushing.
“I think this guy is one of the most influential people in this community,” Lasseter said in his introduction for the wizened animator.
As with his other films, including “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Spirited Away,” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” his newest work is hard to describe. First off, the movie is about a talking goldfish named Ponyo who makes friends with a little boy, and an adventure ensues. Most studio directors would kick you out of the room after “talking goldfish.”
Another throwback about Miyazaki – his films are old-fashioned two-dimensional animation. No computer graphics of photo-realistic skin or photon-mapped sunlight. With his films, it is the audience that sketches in the details with their imaginations.
It was as if Disney, which opened Comic-Con on Thursday with a trilogy of 3-D films designed to show off the company’s technical wizardry, was performing penance with today’s event featuring hand drawn animations, including the upcoming holiday film “The Princess and the Frog.”
Likewise, “Ponyo,” which is slated to hit 800 U.S. theaters in August, sticks to traditional animation as a simpler, and perhaps more pure vehicle for Miyazaki’s fantastical imagination.
To read a distilled transcript of his brief discussion on stage with Lasseter, click “read more.”
Lasseter: Talk about how you develop your stories.
Miyazaki: My process is thinking, thinking and thinking. Thinking about my stories for a long time. If you have a better way, please let me know.
Lasseter: We have a storyboard team and we re-work our sequences over and over. With Miyazaki, I’ve watched him work. He sits down and storyboards everything by himself. It becomes the layout for his film. It just comes out of his head, and it always amazes me. [pauses] I’m gushing because I’m sitting next to Hayao Miyazaki.
Miyazaki: I think working on a storyboard alone is a custom we have in Japan, in terms of animation. It’s not just I who works that way. Since I’m slow, it seems I’m working on the storyboard all the time.
Lasseter: What was the inspiration for “Ponyo”?
Miyazaki: We just saw a story about a frog. But the first idea I had for “Ponyo” as about a little boy who picks up a frog. But I couldn’t work out a good character for a frog. So I turned it into a goldfish. I was lucky. It was good that I turned it into a goldfish.
Lasseter: This films is one of the most colorful films you have created. Talk about how you chose the colors.
Miyazaki: I wanted to make it a simple story. I wanted to show simplicity through the colors. Since the main character, the goldfish, is red, the other colors had to be brightened as well so they would contrast.
Lasseter: Wait ‘til you see this film. It is so beautiful. This is hand drawn animation that is unlike anything you have ever seen.
— Alex Pham
Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.