In this edition of Creations of Chaos, we’re talking photography bans, saving trees, and killing curiosity, as I delve into the Hayao Miyazaki focused book, Turning Point 1997-2008.
Turning Point is a book that covers animation director Hayao Miyazaki’s career between 1997 – 2008. While the previous book, Starting Point 1979-1996, concentrated on the technical and creative aspects of creating animated films, I felt this book focused more on Hayao Miyazaki’s personal life philosophies.
The Ghibli Museum
There were several sections in the book that discussed the Studio Ghibli museum, from its inception, to the imagination behind the exhibits, to the creation of the short films that can only be viewed in the museum’s theater.
My favorite discussion involved the prohibition of picture taking inside of the museum.
I recently read a blog post by someone who visited the museum. He assumed that the ban on museum photography was due to the museum not wanting to ruin the wonder guests experience when seeing the interior for the first time.
The real reason, according to Hayao Miyazaki, is that the museum was built as a place for children to have fun. He wanted children to run, touch, explore, and experience. He stated that while out in similar places, he would see a child longing to be free to run and explore, but said child’s parent wanted to turn the experience into a photography session. Seeing a child who was exasperated by having to stand still and pose for numerous pictures, when he/she just wanted to run and play, made Miyazaki feel sorry for the child. He decided to ban photography in the museum to allow children to be free.
The museum sections of the book kindled my ever growing longing to see the Studio Ghibli Museum in person.
The film Princess Mononoke was heavily featured in the book. Many of the interviews focused on Mononoke with regards to Hayao Miyazaki’s thoughts on the environment.
The one piece of wisdom that I came away with from reading these sections was that small efforts are important.
Hayao Miyazaki admits that he’s not going to single handedly change the world’s environmental problems. When people think that they have to make some huge effort, they get discouraged, and then give up. They end up doing nothing.
Miyazaki volunteers by going out and cleaning a local river. He plants trees. When building Studio Ghibli’s office, they made a commitment not to tear down trees, so the office is built around them. He also helps fund conservation efforts in Japan. He says,
“It is enough that people do only what they can. Saving trees and sweeping up one’s neighborhood are of equal value.”
His thought is that if everyone puts in a bit of effort to do what they can, it makes a difference.
There were interviews that discussed Hayao Miyazaki’s thoughts on the education system in Japan.
He isn’t happy with the current stress that children are under during their school years. He felt that children are being taught too much too soon. He states,
“Cramming too much into young minds is harmful. Just like an ace pitcher in Little League who ruins his shoulder or elbow at a young age, it robs children of curiosity itself.”
He believes that young children should be given more free time just to explore and experience the world. Freedom of exploration develops a curious mind, and curious minds are creative and good at problem solving. The thought is that cramming too much structured information into little minds too soon, and not giving them freedom just to be, kills curiosity. He also wished that schools would balance academic teaching with basic skills teaching. He feels that schools should teach skills such as sewing a button and starting a fire. When children are finished with school, they have plenty of academic knowledge, but lack the basic skills one needs to be truly self-sufficient.
He did implement some of his educational philosophies by opening the Three Bears House, a nursery school for the children of the employees of Studio Ghibli.
Interviews, Interviews, And More interviews
There are speeches and essays in the book, but the majority of the book is comprised of interviews.
Much of the information is redundant, which at times made the book feel like a slow read.
There is one interview conducted by Roger Ebert that was interesting, but mostly because of the difference in interview questions asked by Japanese interviewers vs. an American interviewer. Japanese interviewers seem to ask very in depth, complicated questions, while Ebert’s questions were more on the surface.
My favorite interview in the book involved Hayao Miyazaki being the interviewer, interviewing the creators of Wallace and Gromit.
Since Miyazaki doesn’t seem to be a fan of many other filmmakers or artists (he actually states at one point that people who like Lord of the Rings are “idiots”), it was fun to see him fanboying over someone else’s animation.
Overall I thought Turing Point was worth reading. It’s interesting and peppered with great quotes by Hayao Miyazaki.
Perhaps my one regret, since I am a huge lover of Spirited Away, was that there wasn’t an extensive amount of behind the scenes information. The initial idea behind the film’s creation, the story, and the animation were discussed, but not to the level of detail that the films in Turning Point were discussed.
I couldn’t find a definitive answer as to whether there will be a third installment in this series. Perhaps everyone was waiting to see if Miyazaki would really stick to his retirement. If a third book is released picking up at 2009, I will definitely give it a read.