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Secrets of “Japanese Disney”: Why Hayao Miyazaki’s cartoons are so different from Western

The great master of Japanese animation creates completely unique works. Each of his films immerses the viewer in a separate, fully-fledged world. It seems that outside the frame, its inhabitants continue to exist according to their laws. To better understand the famous animator, you should look into his creative laboratory, because Miyazaki creates special paintings and he does it by his own rules.
The fate of Hayao Miyazaki can serve as an example of the fact that “real talent will always break through,” because in childhood, it seemed, nothing could help this boy become a famous animator. He was born in 1941, and in the first years he was forced to experience all the horrors of the bombing and evacuation with his family. His father was the director of a factory for the manufacture of aircraft parts, his mother for many years suffered from a serious illness of the spine and was often in hospitals.

Post-war Japan was clearly not a place where there would be excellent conditions for the development of artistic talent. But it’s precisely in the childhood of the master that you can find echoes of those important topics that he will then rethink and reflect in his work an infinite number of times: war, fear of losing parents, military equipment and machines that often resist nature, but can become quite independent and positive characters.

It was the technique that became the first touchstone for the young artist. The boy dreamed of becoming a mangaka – a master of creating manga, and even at school tried to draw, but here he was waiting for the first disappointment. It turned out that he fatally does not know how to portray people, and nowhere to learn this. But the cars turned out great, it was them that he painted for many years. In graduation class, Hayao saw two cartoons, which, according to him, forced to finally accept their choice of profession. This “The Legend of the White Snake” is the first Japanese feature film and, surprisingly, our “Snow Queen” by Lev Atamanov. By the way, in an interview Miyazaki admitted more than once that his favorite director is Yuri Norshtein (“Hedgehog in the Fog” is a masterpiece of all time!). So we can talk about the “Russian trace” in modern Japanese animation.

However, the dreams of becoming a professional artist did not seem to find support in the Miyazaki family, and therefore, after school, the young talent entered the university at the Faculty of Politics and Economics. However, having finished it, he immediately got a job in an animation studio and then continued his own development only in this direction. As a result, he never received a special art education, but, as his fans believe today, maybe for the better, because the lack of cliches and an independent, unique approach to animation have become the main components of his author’s style. So this minus master brilliantly turned into a huge plus.

Throughout his life, the self-taught Miyazaki in his work was completely free to do without many things that professional animators consider necessary. For example, scripts. Only a few of his works are created along this dull beaten path. In most cases, the master was based on the image itself and on the new universe. Sketching with a pencil and watercolors the character and his environment, he begins to fantasize and imagine what could happen to this newborn creature in this world. By detecting with a stopwatch the scenes scrolling in the head and sketching them, the master gradually creates a storyboard. We can say that Miyazaki’s cartoons are a visualized stream of his consciousness. As Hayao himself said, “All the beauty of the world can easily fit in the head of one person.”

Another great idea, which explains a lot in his work, was expressed by the animator in a conversation with Western journalists:

“Most modern films are based on one idea: first you need to portray evil, and then destroy it. Everyone does it, but, in my opinion, this idea smells of carrion. Like from another popular idea – that at the source of any villainy – in life, in politics, anywhere – is a specific person who can always be blamed and who can always be punished. This is the most hopeless thought I’ve ever heard. ”

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