Saturday, August 01, 2009

JAPANESE ANIMATION—Onstage Conversation With Hayao Miyazaki and Roland Kelts

As part of its 50-year anniversary, The Center for Japanese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley recently awarded internationally acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki with the 2009 Berkeley Japan Prize, which honors individuals from all disciplines and professions who have, over a lifetime, influenced the world's understanding of Japan. Hayao Miyazaki is the second recipient of the recently inaugurated Berkeley Japan Prize; the 2008 winner was novelist Haruki Murakami. In conjunction with his in-person acceptance of the award, Hayao Miyazaki was also honored with a series of events held on the UC Berkeley campus celebrating his timeless body of film work.

One of those events was an onstage conversation in Berkeley's Zellerbach Auditorium between Hayao Miyazaki and Roland Kelts (Tokyo University lecturer and author of Japanamerica). My thanks to Peter van der Lugt for alerting me to the event and inviting me to transcribe the conversation for Further thanks to Duncan Williams, Chair of the Center for Japanese Studies, for arranging a last-minute pass to what had long been a sold-out event. has faithfully kept track of
Miyazaki's West Coast promotional tour for Ponyo, which has included the trip to the UC Berkeley campus, UCLA, and San Diego's Comic-Con. Variety devoted their July 22 issue to contextualizing Miyazaki's career, via the American promotion of Ponyo, specifically at Comic-Con. In her report, Ellen Wolff quoted producer Kathleen Kennedy that one of her shared frustrations with Studio Ghibli is the "conundrum of how to distribute [Miyazaki's] movies in North America in a way that people realize these pictures can appeal to a wide range of audiences and not just be relegated to arthouses." I find this "conundrum"—that despite global acclaim Miyazaki's U.S. record is hit-and-miss—somewhat difficult to imagine. His capacity audiences seem to refute that. Further, as much as I wish Miyazaki the increased marketability he wishes for his films, I've poised concerns about how this is to be effected in the U.S.

The Variety coverage also included
Erin Maxwell's dispatch from Comic-Con's Pixar/Disney panel, where Pixar's John Lasseter and Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki were honored with Inkpot Awards for "great contributions to pop culture."

Variety likewise gathered tribute testimonials from several industry professionals—Nick Park, Pete Doctor, Jean Giraud, among others—on how Miyazaki has inspired them. And Andrew Stewart reports on husband-and-wife team Don and Cindy Hewitt and the strategic care they have taken with dubbing Ponyo's English translations.

On behalf of Twitch,
Doug Jones has compiled a condensed reaction to Miyazaki's various Southern California appearances and—as mentioned earlier—my transcript of Miyazaki's onstage conversation with Roland Kelts can be found here.

Illustration of Hayao Miyazaki courtesy of
Marla Campbell, Variety. Cross-published on Twitch.

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