Meeting with Hayao Miyazaki, the Worlds’ Best Creator of Animated Film

My husband and I just came back from a special full-screening of the movie “Ponyo”, which is the latest animated film created by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki made an appearance and talked about the film prior to the movie. In order to get in the theater in downtown San Diego, my husband went there to get in line and waited for a few hours. After I got off work, I joined him and waited some more, during which I wrote most of this post.

6a00d8341c630a53ef01157231e806970b-500wiAs some of you may know, San Diego is the home to the internationally renown Comic Convention, the biggest of its kind in the U.S. My husband decided that it’s time for him to participate in this event this year, being an avid Japanese animation enthusiast and growing up on cartoons such as Robotech, Transformers, He-man which he claims helped to shape the person he turned out to be. He has lived in San Diego for the total of at least 12 years and had never made the time or effort of learn more about it, much less attend. I am not a huge comic/animated film fan, with one exception of the films by Hayao Miyazaki. He created “Spirited Away” “Princess Mononoke”, “Howl’s Moving Castle” among others. Today, 2nd full day of Comic Con 2009, there was a Disney panel where Miyazaki made a rare appearance (more than likely one and only) in front of the U.S. fans. I asked my husband this morning if he’d go to the panel, and asked him to bring the DVD of Princess Mononoke just in case he’d have a chance to ask Miyazaki for his autograph. I then went off to work.

Around 11:30am, I got a call from him, asking what questions I’d ask Miyazaki if he had a chance, knowing what a gift it would be for me. He said he would try to ask them for me at the Q & A if he got the chance. I briefly thought about it and sent a message to him by email. Around 2:30pm I got another call from him, and he told me excitedly that he got to ask my questions. What happened was that people who wanted to ask questions lined up at a designated area once they found a seat in the auditorium which was where the panel as being held (the famous Hall H for those Comic Con fans out there). Once the session began, a Q&A coordinator quietly started asking the people in line what questions they had and for whom, as there were others on the panel besides Miyazaki. At the end of the panel, the Q&A session opened up. The coordinator arbitrarily decided the order and the lineup based (it seemed) on content as well as who the question was directed to. My husband showed her the questions he got from me on his iPod, and she decided that it was “quality” question to ask and pulled him out of the line and moved him up. In the end, time was running out and even though there was another person in front of my husband (he was the 2nd in line at that point), they gave him the floor, and his question became the closing one. I asked my husband what Miyazaki’s answer was, but he couldn’t remember – he said he was shell shocked. There were about 6500 people in the hall and he got picked to ask a question to Miyazaki. Even though my husband pretends that he is not a big fan, he still got nervous and excited that he didn’t remember what Miyazaki’s answer was. Luckily, his friend recorded that portion of Q & A, so hopefully I’ll get to see it later.

When I learned what had happened, I was really happy and also strangely inspired. I have written about two of his movies in last month, and I also discussed these movies with my friend recently, but it is not like I am a rabid fan. There are some of his movies I have yet to see, and I don’t follow his every foot step. But somehow, a month after I wrote about his movie “Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind”, I got a chance to ask him my questions (via my husband), and what is more, I saw him in person, making an introduction to his new film. When my husband told me over the phone that Miyazaki will make an appearance this evening at this special screening, and asked if I wanted to go, I thought, how perfect, because I had already arranged a babysitter tonight so I could work on my project. If you are a parent, you know how tricky it can be to arrange a babysitter when you have less than 2 hours to do so. I choose to believe that what you put your focus on, you will attract. Yes, it is a streak of good luck, but Oprah says “Luck is preparation meets opportunity”. I believe things got aligned perfectly so we could go to the theater tonight because I put my love for those films out there by writing about them.

Seeing Miyazaki talk in person at the screening was truly special. He is an adorable old man and seemed very approachable too. To hear him speak of his film with such love and childlike twinkles in his eyes – I could not believe how fortunate I was. I happened to sit next to two other Japanese girls who were wearing the hand-made costume of Kiki, from “Kiki’s Delivery Service“. I loved the fact that we, a few Japanese people among the audience, got his message first hand and laughed at his funny remarks, while others had to wait for the interpreter to tell them. He told us a story that a 5-year-old boy called up his grandmother after seeing “Ponyo” and said, “Grandma, I just watched a movie made by a 5-year-old”. He added that he considers this as a supreme compliment. When I saw the audience getting up for a standing ovation as soon as he walked in the theater, I felt really happy that his films have spoken to so many people internationally, touched their hearts and created an undeniable impact upon their lives. He is our treasure, not just for Japanese people but for people around the world. I will be sure to introduce his films to our kids. “Ponyo” is probably the best one to start,  as I later learned,  Miyazaki wanted to make it the first movie that children will ever see in their lives.

P.S. My husband’s friend posted the clip and I watched it this morning. Unfortunately, something got lost in translation and he only answered the first question about his inspiration for “Nausicaa” movie, and didn’t answer the question which must have earned my husband the spot to ask the final questions in the first place. But seeing him read my words “the first movie, “Nausicaa of the Vally of Wind” was very innovative and had such a huge impact on us…”, and hearing the audience responding to that remark by applauding excitedly, I felt like I got to tell Miyazaki personally what the movie meant to me. It was really a special moment even though I wasn’t there in Hall H.

6 comments on “Meeting with Hayao Miyazaki, the Worlds’ Best Creator of Animated Film

  1. Awesome experience Etsuko, seeing in person one of the world greatest and most successful animators. That would be pretty thrilling; especially considering, from reading the news reports, he rarely makes an appearance in the US, to boot.

    Interestingly you’ve been posting a little on Miyazaki’s movies lately. And you just recently finished watching “Spirited Away” again, which is his biggest hit I believe boxoffice-wise, and possibly one of the most touching animation films I’ve seen.

    Seeing him in person, especially for Japanese people, or those passionate fans of the animation genre, would be like me seeing live someone like Joseph Barbera or William Hanna ( after growing up watching Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, and Yogi Bear.

    I was thinking, if Robotech, Transformers and He-man have shaped Peter into who he is, who has Fred Flinstone molded me into? LOL

    A couple video clips of Miyazaki at Comic-Con that have showed up so far:

  2. First of all, I am jealous that you got to see “Ponyo” in the presense of Mr. Miyazaki himself!! LOL Second of all, if this enchanting evening would have happen to anyone, I’m glad it happened to you. I could feel the enchantment as I read your article, and that’s not just because I love Miyazaki’s movies and would have loved to be there myself, but also because you have painted such a beautiful picture of an one of a kind experience with your words.
    I think it’s true that everything was coming together for this to become possible for you. Now you and your husband would be able to share and treasure the memory of the evening forever.

    Thank you Etsuko, for sharing this extraordinary experience with us too.

  3. Thank you, Henry & Yuko for reading my long post and for leaving comments. This might be the longest post I’ve written. Believe it or not, I’ve re-read and re-written a few times since last night, but it’s still not perfect. Oh well, I’m an ESL person so I should just accept that it will not be perfect. In any case, I hope you could feel how excited I was (still am) about what happened yesterday, even today I kept thinking back about it. Like Yuko said, now that I have put them in words, I can always read this and relive the excitement.

    Also, I felt like I was a real blogger when I thought about bringing my lap top and write about it while waiting in line 🙂 The Q&A clip will be on YouTube if Peter’s friend remembers her password. At the end of Q&A after Miyazaki finished answering, Peter said the word Ohimesama – just so you know, he doesn’t always call me that, it was just he was practicing saying “Please sign on this Princess Mononoke DVD for my princes (me)” in Japanese in case he gets close enough to him to ask for autograph. He meant to say “On behalf of my princess I would like to thank you” but he mumbled in the end and you can’t really hear it clearly. そんなのがパブリックに流れるのはちょっと恥ずかしいですが・・・

    As for what Henry said, I wouldn’t know since I don’t know who Fred Flinstone is 🙂

  4. Etsuko,

    You projected your positive energy into the world by expressing your interests and that energy turned into an awesome experience. With all of the time, energy, and focus you put into your writing, you deserve to have something special like this to happen. I am happy for you!

  5. Etsuko, please do let us know when the video is up on YouTube! Fred Flinstone Henry spoke of is a character from an animated sitcom called The Flinstones.

    Henry, as I was thinking about how to explain who Fred Flinstone is to Etsuko, I learned that his character was partially based on Ralph Kramden from The Honemooners and I went oh yes of course!! LOL I bet you are warm, fun loving and loyal to your friends. 🙂