Hayao Miyazaki, the Studio Ghibli founder and prolific animator, has spoken about his decision to return to the animation studio for one last feature film, titled How Do You Live, despite being told by peers that his best work was behind him.
The filmmaker previously announced his retirement in 2013, following his last feature film The Wind Rises, though he did return in 2018 to make the short film Boro the Caterpillar. Since then, the studio has also released his son Goro Miyazaki’s Earwig and the Witch, though the reception for the 2021 film — and its reliance on fully CGI animation — was frosty, to say the least.
Questioned, in a rare interview with the New York Times, on the motives behind his return to Studio Ghibli to helm a new production, Hayao Miyazaki’s response is relatively straightforward, with a playfully defiant edge. “Because I wanted to,” he says.
Producer and Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki offers a little more insight, explaining that Miyazaki came to him with an idea for another film just over a year after his retirement. “I was like, ‘Give me a break,’” says Suzuki, adding that he tried to talk him out of it, suggesting that his best work has already been made. However, Suzuki eventually relented, admitting: “The whole purpose of Studio Ghibli is to make Miyazaki films.”
Goro Miyazaki also discussed his father’s restlessness earlier this year, saying that he found his life in retirement “so aimless” that he “needed to create something in order to live”. “He started with making a short film for the (Ghibli) museum, and then he went on to making his new feature-length film.”
While details about the new project are mostly being kept under wraps, we do know the title — How Do You Live — and the source material, a 1937 novel by Genzaburo Yoshino, which was one of Miyazaki’s favourite childhood books. The story of the book follows a mischievous 15-year-old boy in Tokyo, whose father has recently died, though Suzuki describes the film as “fantasy on a grand scale”.
Asked if the film aims to answer the titular question (of “how to live”), Miyazaki also reveals that it will not, in fact, provide a thorough guide on how to live your best life. “I am making this movie,” he says, “because I do not have the answer.”
Find the full New York Times interview with Hayao Miyazaki here, and revisit the recent retrospective of his work at LA’s Academy Museum of Motion Pictures here.