(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
Just recently, Japanese network NHK aired a special episode of its series, "Professional." For three months last summer, a director and camera followed Hayao Miyazaki around the Ghibli studio as he was beginning the production of the next movie. This footage marked the official debut of Ponyo on a Cliff (Gake no Ue no Ponyo) to the Japanese public.
Thankfully, I know someone from Japan who Tivo'd the show, and sent me five short clips to watch. Naturally, I uploaded everything to YouTube, so we can all watch together. I'm pretty certain this is the first real footage seen anywhere in America, so I'm proud to be able to present to you the first footage from the making of Miyazaki's next film.
And, as always, I wish to thank my Japanese contact, who very graciously sent these clips to me. It hadn't even occured to me to ask. Hmm. Maybe I should send him my copy of the Gedo Senki subtitle file, and see if he can clean it up a bit.
Anyway, here are the five clips from NHK Professional:
Clip One - Explaining Ponyo
Miyazaki explains the basic plot to Ponyo, and we see character drawings of Ponyo the fish-princess and Sousuke the boy. We also see Ponyo as a fully human girl, continuing the themes of metamorphosis from Porco Rosso and Howl's Moving Castle.
The heroine is a goldfish princess named Ponyo. The boy is a five-year-old named Sousuke. Says Miyazaki, "I want to make a film that audiences feel that 'Ponyo is so cuts,' and 'Sousuke did a good job."
Clip Two - Ponyo on a Jellyfish
Miyazaki at his desk, sketching and painting. We see character designs pinned to the walls, and some impressive drawings of Ponyo riding on a pack of jellyfish. Hey, look at that! Heidi Tree! Surprise!
The title to this segment is, "making anime isn't logic." Miyazaki explains that it's easy for a movie to be dull if it's made by logic; its scope will be narrow by logical thinking. "I'll try to destroy logical making," he says. "Kids easily feel that...because they live without logic."
Clip Three - Big Tsunami and Ponyo
My favorite moment by far - Miyazaki pulls open his desk and brings out a box of pastel sticks. What a great thrill, in this age of plastic CGI, to see a great artist create the old-fashioned way. Pencils, paintbrushes, watercolors, pastels. These clips give us a great insight into his drawing style. We see a painting of Ponyo riding a fish during a storm, and Miyazaki painiting the film's title cards.
Am I the only one who really digs this studio? It has such a terrific atmosphere, more like a treehouse than an animation studio. It's much freer and more open. Little wonder, since the Ghibli building was designed by Miyazaki himself.
Clip Four - Preview of Gedo
Miyazaki attends the June 28 studio screening of Goro Miyazaki's Gedo Senki, with his lifelong collaborator and friend Michiyo Yasuda in tow. He sits near the front, apart from everyone else. After the first hour, he walks out of the theatre, visibly agitated and tense. He's clearly upset, and spends the rest of the time talking about this to Yasuda. This is a surprising contrast from the official story, in which Ms. Yasuda later speaks to Goro and the studio of Father Miyazaki's approval. Did that story really happen, or was she merely being diplomatic?
Strangely enough, I had pretty much the same reaction after watching the first five minutes of Goro's picture - I got as far as the title card before I had to split for the day job, and I was just agitated and upset all damned day. Still haven't watched the rest of the movie, but I can understand now just why the whole Goro backlash happened.
I really enjoyed seeing the amount of affection and comraderie between these two old friends, Miyazaki and Yasuda. Watching them giggle and goof off and bump into one another. Another favorite moment.
Clip Five - Storyboard and Ending
July 17, The Ghibli animators arrive with pencils and brushes in tow. Pencils! What a rush. Many more of Miyazaki's watercolor drawings on display. It seems the first act is finished and everybody's ready to go. Miyazaki begins work on the e-konte, which serve as the "shooting script" or final storyboards of the movie. This is the first time I've seen these in their actual size (I bought the e-konte book for Horus last year).
Interviews with Ghibli President Toshio Suzuki and again with Michiyo Yasuda, who is the chief color designer as always. Her art book has been out of print for many years, and I'd kill to see it someday.
We finish with a first peek into an actual animation cell of the film, Ponyo peeking her head out. That's the final tease, kids. You'll have to wait until the first trailers are released, hopefully by the end of this year.