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"What's New" Archives: March 2006

March 31, 2006:

ADULT ANIMATION: I'm deep in Disney biography work—again—but I wanted to pass along these amusing thoughts from Eddie Fitzgerald:

"With regard to the debate over what constitutes adult animation: whatever adult animation is, I think we should scrap it. Kids like cartoons and adults don't, not really. Adults are sedentary and unimaginative. Their minds are full of insurance forms and job problems. Why waste time making films for people like that?

"Have you ever watched a DVD with a kid? They get so excited they can't contain themselves. They squeal, jump up and down on the sofa and punch pillows. If an adult likes the same movie he might, if he's in a really flamboyant mood...smile. Kids will sometimes change the direction of their whole lives based on images they see in films. Adults never do. To heck with adults! We should hunt where the ducks are.

"P. S. I can think of adult animation that I absolutely love and can't imagine living without. I didn't mention it here because doing so would show how horribly conflicted and hypocritical I am on this issue."

March 27, 2006:

FRED MOORE: Jenny Lerew's excellent blog now includes rare photos of the great Disney animator. It's wonderful to see such material surfacing. Moore was, to my mind, a more important animator than any of the "nine old men," as good as some of them were, and his relative neglect in favor of his successors has been unfortunate. Jenny's memories of Maurice Noble are very much worth reading, too.

SYNTHETIC HARE, CONT'D: Milt Gray wrote in response to my March 14 posting on casting by character, but before going on to his comments, let me also refer you to the illuminating posts on character animation by Jenny Lerew and visitors to her site. Milt writes:

"Your comments on the ongoing subject of one animator per character are interesting, but I keep thinking that you are really trying to find a way to make animation more respectable, and the notion of perfection in character animation seems to me to be nit-picking while overlooking a much more fundamental issue. We already know that bad writing, lacking in real character personality that resonates with real world experiences, is the reason that cartoons have lost the hearts of audiences, and thus also their respect. And the cause of such bad writing is the rigid corporate control of an art business. Animation simply has to once again be the product of real artists, as it used to be in the Golden Age—then everything will almost automatically fall into place, regardless whether one or ten animators draw a single character in a single film. Does it really hurt a Will Eisner Spirit comic book story if Wally Wood and Jules Feiffer help do the drawings?

"One almost might as well argue that a live-action film should be shot in a single day, much like the performance of a stage play, to insure that a single actor's performance is not polluted by distractions that occur over several weeks' time. In animation, in films where an effort is made to make all the animators' work look reasonably consistent, only a rare individual, like a Mark Kausler or a Greg Duffell, can identify with accuracy which animator did which scene. I don't think the general public (or even most cartoon fans) are ever aware of such miniscule variations (at least, where they are miniscule).

"You mentioned that the best writing for animation is that which allows itself to be expressed by the animation, rather than a story that just stands on its own, making the animation irrelevant. And I totally agree. Yet in your pursuit of respectability for animation, you also mentioned a trend in cartoons that seemed to suggest that excellent, lifelike animation is possible only in children's films. Perhaps you should write an essay (and spark a debate?) that defines adult cartoon writing that could accommodate great character animation.

"There would seem at first glance to be a clear contradiction. In animation, broad actions and caricature are the most accessible elements, and broad actions are usually associated with children's activities -- running, tumbling, and other energetic movement. Adults moving with broader gestures are usually deemed immature, or as behaving like children. Adult actions, except in sports or combat, are more generally thought of as being underplayed -- dignified and subtle -- actions that are better suited to the literalism of live action. It would seem that animation should not attempt to compete with live action on its own terms, but how would you define other terms that would be better suited to animation with adult content?"

MB replies: Actually, a lot of the acting in live-action features is as superficial and inconsistent as a lot of animation. The actor's physical reality and personal mannerisms are the glue that holds the performance together, just as the character design and voice hold together the "performances" by a great many animated characters. It's the exceptional screen actor who overcomes the obstacles that the fragmented nature of live-action filming imposes and really gets inside a role.

As I've suggested in writing about Bill Tytla's animation (Hollywood Cartoons, pp. 204-205), one of animation's great—and greatly underutilized—assets is that its practitioners can escape the trap of superficiality by approaching their work not as if they were actors in live-action films, but in the spirit of the best stage actors. That is, they can use the repetition and the glacial working pace that animation almost invariably entails to deepen their characterizations. If animation is conceived in those terms, more rigorous casting by character becomes the logical next step, so that an animator's growing understanding of his character doesn't collide with another animator's different understanding of that same character (as happened in Snow White—see Hollywood Cartoons, pp. 217-220). I think that the result, if more animation were approached in that manner, would not be more "respectable" animation but more animated films deserving of respect.

I didn't suggest that "excellent, lifelike animation is possible only in children's films." That's the underlying attitude I detect in the Disney features of the fifties and sixties, in particular, but it's not a point of view that I endorse. Films like The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book are unnecessarily childish. The books on which those films are based offered abundant cues as to how they could have been made into films that were accessible and appealing to children but still far more substantial—far more "adult"—than what wound up on the screen. Instead, those features were doomed from the start by their makers' embrace of stories as heavily weighted as any sixties sitcom with tiresome dialogue and broadly conceived gags. There's no way that even the most refined animation (like Milt Kahl's of Shere Kahn) can be more than a bright spot in such darkness.

"Broadly conceived gags" are not be confused with the "broad actions" that Milt mentions. I don't think there's much to be gained from parsing actions as "broad" or "subtle." All that matters is whether a character's actions are appropriate to that character.

Likewise, I don't see the relevance of Will Eisner's Spirit to any discussion of casting by character in animation. I don't recall that Eisner, Feiffer, and Wood ever drew their own versions of the Spirit in the same story, unless it was clearly intended as a joke. Only if they had done so would there be any resemblance between the Spirit stories and the cartoons in which the same character is divided up among animators with distinctly different styles.

But Milt is right about the constricting nature of the stories for today's animated films, and about the origins of those stories in the severely limited imaginations of animation's corporate overseers. If you set out to make a Shrek II or a Chicken Little—or maybe even a Cars—you've already sharply limited what the animators can do. Combine jejune stories with today's baseline computer animation, which is at once technically dazzling and expressively neutered, and you've closed the door on anything worth watching.

One final thought: I can't emphasize enough that I'm not wedded to the idea that there's any single right way to make animated cartoons—or, for that matter, animated films of any kind (I love Fischinger's Motion Study No. 1, after all). It's even fine with me if multiple animators animate the same character in a single cartoon—if the director can find some way to make such an arrangement work as well as Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett did.

My point is simply that any art form worthy of the name has to have something deeply serious at its core, something that everyone practicing that art has no choice but to measure themselves against, even if they do so while rejecting it. Anyone writing a ambtious novel has great artists like Dickens and Tolstoy looking over his shoulder; anyone attempting an ambitious musical composition can't escape comparisons with time-tested predecessors ranging from Bach to Shostakovich. The best Disney features are the closest that character animation has come to creating such standards of excellence. Those features, as good as they are, aren't good enough to fill that particular role; but it was the opportunities they offered for individual animators to align themselves with particular characters that was crucial to the excellence they do possess.

What I see in the Disney features I love, like Snow White and Dumbo, is the shadow of animated films that never got made—not just films whose animators were cast by character, but films that tapped the potential of the medium for the mature artistic expression that is almost never found in films of any kind, and only in the greatest work in other mediums. It's those ghostly films that today's animated filmmakers should have in their minds, not Peter Pan or Lady and the Tramp.

March 25, 2006

CRUMB: The New York Review of Books, always surprisingly generous in the sympathetic attention it gives to the comics, has a longish piece on R. Crumb by Ian Buruma in the current (April 6) issue. You can read it online by clicking here.

March 24, 2006:

COMICS MASTERS, CONT'D: Back from Washington, where I uncovered a few more nuggets for my Disney biography. While I was gone, Dana Gabbard responded to my essay on the "Masters of American Comics" exhibit that recently closed in Los Angeles and is coming to Milwaukee and New York later this year. Dana writes:

I twice visited the comic strip exhibit at the Hammer and once the comic
book exhibit at MOCA. The highlights to me were the McCay art, the watercolored Herriman pages and the amazing use of black by Caniff. One small human touch I noticed was Schulz inscription of a strip (signed "Sparky") to Patrick McDonnell of "Mutts" fame.

To absent Carl Barks and Jack Cole from the comic book creators represented in favor of such as R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter, and Chris Ware seems a crime to me. Lyonel Feininger is a historical footnote for strips. It was nice to see the Frank King Sundays but he is definitely second tier among strip creators. I would argue Harold Foster and Roy Crane were the sort of pioneers of the form who deserved to be represented.

It does seem a fine art/snobbery angle underlies many of the choices made. Which isn't surprising as even Cartoonists often worry about appearances to support the desire that comics become "respectable" as this anecdote from Mark Evanier about the banquet that was too cheap illustrates. Just imagine if Barks had been included, they'd likely focus on the oil paintings to give a gloss of fine art.

And what is the message of the exhibit? As you note, it seems to have been random. And your reaction to sequential narratives (the Gould and Eisner pages) shows how treating the artwork outside the context in which they existed really doesn't do them justice. What a shame.

March 14, 2006:

SYNTHETIC HARE, CONT'D: John Richardson writes: "I'm sure you're familiar with the practice in some experimental theater productions in which different actors would play Hamlet at different moments, depending on whether this is the character's caring self, or paranoid self, or bored self, etc. In such a situation, it may be true that we see different 'characters' playing the same 'role' all in one play, or even scene, or even sentence. This can be disconcerting or ineffective, depending on how it's handled, but it isn't, in itself, considered bad theater. What if this has been an accepted practice in some animated cartoons for a long time, almost by accident, so that some cartoons make good use of the situation and others don't? Different characters representing Bugs, all in the same film, is a situation I think I can enjoy, and maybe not just because of my inattention. Has Bugs ever played Hamlet, incidentally? I'm trying to remember."

MB replies: I don't recall Bugs ever playing Hamlet, but there was one Hamlet-themed Bugs Bunny cartoon, A Witch's Tangled Hare (1959), directed by Abe Levitow with Chuck Jones's unit. According to Chuck (in a 1979 interview), Levitow directed that cartoon for him while Chuck directed a Bell Science TV special.

As for different actors playing the same role at different points in a play, it was my comment last fall on a New York Times review of such a production about John Lennon that led to this string of postings about consistent characterization, casting by character, virtuoso animators, and so on.

Certainly there's nothing terribly wrong with the multiple-actor idea. It's just that it would have to be done with some goal other than encouraging a suspension of disbelief. I can't think of a more effective distancing device. And I think that's what happens in a lot of animation; audiences, without being fully aware of it, become alienated from the characters. If that's the effect that animated filmmakers want, fine; but I'm afraid many of them kid themselves into believing that they're doing something else.

As for what that "something else" is, or could be, I remember Milt Gray's once telling me about what happened when he flipped through an animation scene from Lady and the Tramp; this would have been in the sixties, when Milt was a new inbetweener at the Disney studio. The animation—I seem to remember it was an Ollie Johnston scene of Jock—was so lifelike that it startled Milt, and he almost dropped the stack of paper.

That's what I wish animation did more of—startle its audiences, by being wonderfully, unbelievably lifelike. The great virtue of Disney films like Lady and the Tramp was that they showed that such animation is possible. Their great vice was that they seemed to say, in a louder voice over time, that such animation is possible only in children's films. As a result, the temptation, if you're making more "adult" films, is surely to shrug off the Disney animators' lessons; but there's no way, if you're doing that, to achieve the emotional strength of their best work.

A lot of animated filmmakers seem to think that they can work around that problem by making "story" their mantra, or by simply ignoring the question of how to give animated characters a vivid presence on the screen. But such dodges never succeed. It's only by meeting head-on the challenge of making the characters in their films as real as the best live actors—as startling—that animated filmakers will ever escape from the ghetto to which they have been, so far, rightly assigned.

March 13, 2006:

CHRONICLING WALT: I'll be away from the site for a week, starting Wednesday, while I'm in the Washington, D.C. area. I'll be visiting old haunts and doing some down-to-the-wire research for Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney by watching a few old TV shows and poking into Robert Feild's papers, among other things

As some of you know, another Disney biography has been in the works for years, this one by Neal Gabler, author of An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood and other books. Gabler's book, called Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, has just been announced for publication on November 7 by Alfred A. Knopf; you can go to the amazon.com page by clicking here. No details yet, except for the price.

I'm as curious about this book as anyone else, especially since I seem to have crossed paths with Gabler no more than a couple of times (and we've never met). I'm not aware that we've shared any sources apart from the Disney Archives and one veteran Disney researcher. I had no choice but to seek out new sources, of course, since I was denied access to the Disney Archives for this book, after doing a great deal of research there for Hollywood Cartoons. Gabler had full access to the Archives.

I have to assume that his book will differ considerably from mine, in content and focus. Gabler hasn't had much good to say about Walt in the past, dismissing Snow White and Dumbo as "treacle cartoons" in a 1995 Los Angeles Times piece and carelessly repeating (in Empire) a dubious slur from Leonard Mosley's contemptible book Disney's World. In an interview a few years ago, Gabler said of his Disney biography: "I never write a book simply to tell a story. I always write a book to use the life metaphorically to examine our culture. I'm not interested in what the reader is gonna know about Walt Disney. I'm interested in what Walt Disney knew about us."

My book, by contrast, tells a story, the story of a man's life, and I think he comes alive in its pages as in no other biography, thanks to the revealing detail I turned up. Whether such a book about Walt Disney stands a chance in today's publishing world is an open question. The two academic reviewers who've passed judgment on the manuscript have praised its "impeccable" research and its writing style, but one of them recommended against publication unless I took fully into account the contemporary Disney "scholarship" that obsesses over Walt's "regressive, right-wing populism," his supposed anti-Semitism, and the persistent rumors that he was cryogenically frozen. That's not a condition I can go very far toward meeting.

Because Gabler's book will inevitably receive a lot more attention than mine, I hoped that my biography would appear simultaneously with his, if not before. Apparently that's not possible. When and how Animated Man will be published is now up to the University of California Press. Stay tuned.

March 12, 2006:

THE DISNEY STRIKE: If you know much about the traumatic 1941 strike at the Disney studio, you know that a crucial point of disagreement between Walt Disney and his striking employees was whether Disney would recognize the Screen Cartoonists Guild on the basis of signed membership cards (as the union insisted) or only after a secret ballot (as Disney insisted). As a recent New York Times article explains, that disagreement persists, sixty-five years later, not at Disney but in other union recognition disputes all over the country.

COMICS MASTERS: If you were in the Los Angeles area today, this was your last chance to see the two installments of the exhibit called "Masters of American Comics" at the Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood and the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles. The exhibit moves in the spring to Milwaukee and then later this year to New York, where it'll be split between the Jewish Museum and the Newark Museum of Art.

I would have expected the Whitney Museum to be involved at the New York end, but such is not the case. Perhaps someone there decided that the exhibit was not going to be very good. I made a point of seeing both halves of the exhibit when I was in L.A. last month, and if that's what the people at the Whitney concluded, I'm afraid they were right. To see why I think so, click here to read my essay on the exhibit.

March 11, 2006:

SYNTHETIC HARE, CONT'D: I've been distracted by Disney-biography-related matters for the past week, and so I'm late in posting what Mark Mayerson wrote in response to my March 3 posting about the draft for Hillbilly Hare: "I don't think you and I will ever agree on this, but like it or not Bugs Bunny is a suit of clothes that any animator (and director) can put on or take off. Just as we got past the characters and the voices to get to the directors, we're now getting past the directors to get to the animators. I think that this is a necessary historical step and I don't think it's any different than writing about the work of cinematographers or editors. I wouldn't privilege those jobs above others, but that doesn't mean that I'm not curious to know as much about them as I can in studying a particular film.

"I think that a fundamental question we need to answer is 'How central is the animator to the animated film?'In the beginning with McCay and Cohl, the animator was everything. The growth of the studio system and the introduction of sound took control away from animators and moved it to directors, story departments and voice actors. We're at the point now
where many productions, even in features, think of animation as a service on par with catering; just put it out for bids and go with the lowest figure.

"Anything we can do to clarify the contribution of animators is a historical amplification and an argument for their continuing importance. If you're willing to differentiate between directors' versions of Bugs Bunny, why hesitate when it comes to animators? If the 'ability to create life on the screen' is what's most important, why not attempt to determine the animators' contributions to that creation?"

MB replies: Certainly with CGI the general tendency seems to be to regard the animators as all-but-interchangeable technicians, but I would guess that's because so much effort has to go into designing the characters and preparing the "rigging" that permits the animators to move the characters. Once that work is done, the actual animation may seem secondary, but in important respects it is secondary.

At the Pixar panel at WorldCon in San Francisco last month, one of the Pixar animators—and I'm sorry I don't recall his name, but all the Pixar animators are pretty much anonymous, I'm afraid—said, as I recall, how surprised he and the other animators often were by how their work looked on the screen after it had been rendered with hair and light and shade and all the other realistic effects that CGI makes possible. I doubt that the creators of hand-drawn animation have ever felt nearly so much surprise; but CGI's center of gravity has always been in such rendering, and not in the animation as such. It's to their credit that Brad Bird and some of the people at DreamWorks have been trying to move CGI away from its preoccupation with surfaces and toward the sort of precisely caricatured expression that makes the best hand-drawn animation so memorable. They have a long way to go.

In contrast to CGI animators, the most important creators of hand-drawn animation have been celebrated more than neglected, as witness whole books like Canemaker's Nine Old Men. Many animation fans who would have trouble identifying directors like Wilfred Jackson or David Hand revere Ward Kimball and Frank Thomas. I don't think there's any cure for the anonymity of CGI animators in further exalting the most celbrated hand-drawn animators of the past. They've already received plenty of applause, sometimes more than enough.

It's true that the work of many hand-drawn animators has received less attention than it deserves, and I certainly have no problem with critiques that examine various animators' versions of a character like Bugs Bunny. I don't think of Bugs as a "suit of clothes," however, but as a great role, like Falstaff or Willy Loman. Because a great role is open to many different interpretations, I'm not at all troubled by distinctly different versions of Bugs—but I am troubled when there are distinctly different versions in the same film. Such cartoons may be a feast for the animation connoisseur, but, as I've said repeatedly, and to no avail, in them the character shrivels, because the animation is at war with the very idea that what we're seeing is a real character—the same character for the length of the film—as opposed to cleverly manipulated drawings.

March 3, 2006:

DRAFTS: Michael Sporn and Jenny Lerew have been posting pages from drafts (scene-by-scene records of who animated what) of Disney cartoons on their exemplary blogs. I want to remark on a few side issues that have been raised in comments on those drafts and that I think deserve a wider airing. My points:

The Bambi draft is uniquely misleading. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston told me that when I interviewed them in 1987:

Thomas: Well, the draft's real screwed up. As supervising animators, you don't get credit for the scenes that we planned and made drawings for and then had to give to Phil Duncan or Bill Justice or somebody else; they get the credit for it. The way they had the drafts run at that time, the last person to work on that scene was the one whose name was on there, so if you'd wanted to find out where the scene was, you called the name on the draft. So it was usually an assistant in the effects department and someone from scene planning, the two names that were on the scene.

Johnston: The only way you can judge is if it was somebody who was working with you, then you can tell that was something you participated in.

Thomas: All that stuff of the girl and Thumper; Milt did all of that. It's unmistakably Milt's drawing and Milt's timing, Milt's everything. On the draft, it's all Phil Duncan. Once you got a scene down to where it was foolproof, and where it was working, or where it was so definite the guy couldn't really screw it up, then you had to give it out to one of these younger guys. Then, more than that, they always screwed it up, and you had to come back and make little changes in it and put it back the way it was. It was a tough job. You didn't have anyone who really gave you a lift and who did something better than you thought they were going to.

Grim Natwick wasn't deprived of proper credit for his work on Snow White. Some scenes in the Snow White drafts are credited to "Ham/Grim," that is, jointly to Ham Luske and Natwick, and the notion lingers that such joint credit was unfair to Natwick, or that Luske took credit for scenes that were really Natwick's. That simply wasn't true. Natwick was not the principal animator of Snow White. Luske was always in charge, initially in the shooting of the live action of Marjorie Belcher, and then in the actual animation of the girl, when he animated himself as well as supervised a group of animators made up of Natwick, Bob Stokes, and Jack Campbell. (When their animation was being sweatboxed, the notes typically assign the animation to "Ham," but the actual animator was credited on the draft.)

James Algar, Milt Kahl, Bernard Garbutt, and Eric Larson, who animated Snow White's animals, were also members of Luske's unit. Natwick, Larson, and Stokes all got the same salary, $125 a week.

Walt Disney said in a December 1935 memorandum about the casting of animators on Snow White that he envisioned Natwick and another animator, Eddie Strickland, acting "in a way as assistants to Ham, handling [action] scenes under his direction, with Ham concentrating on personality entirely. I feel sure that both Natwick and Strickland will gain a great deal of knowledge by working this way with Ham." Things didn't work out as Walt expected—Strickland (who by mid-1938 was the head cleanup man) didn't do much animation for Snow White, and as I explain in Hollywood Cartoons, there was a lot of friction between Luske and Natwick. Snow White quite possibly would have been a more interesting and provocative character if Natwick's conception of the girl had prevailed. But it didn't.

SYNTHETIC HARE: Speaking of animator credits, let me recommend Jaime Weinman's excellent analyses of the animators' work in a number of Warner cartoons, such as Bob McKimson's Hillbilly Hare. Jaime has based his analyses on credits assigned by Greg Duffell, one of the most discerning students of different animators' styles. If Hillbilly Hare is a good measure, Duffell's credits are almost entirely accurate; he misses only on a few scenes by John Carey and Chuck McKimson (I have a copy of McKimson's draft), an entirely forgivable lapse.

I was reminded, in reading Jaime's analysis, of just how different Bugs Bunny is in the different animators' scenes in Hillbilly Hare, even though Bob McKimson did his best to control his animators' work through very precise character layouts, much as Chuck Jones did. Bringing out such differences is the point of analysis like Jaime's, of course, but I think that the more we become aware of individual animators' work, the more our sense of Bugs as a character is diminished, and the more we're encouraged to think of character animation as a sort of abstract art form, one in which we see Emery Hawkins and Rod Scribner on the screen rather than Bugs Bunny.

I don't think that's the way most people want to watch animation, and I think they're right. Animators may resent the attention paid to voices, in particular, but I think audiences attach great importance to voices like Mel Blanc's because it in those voices that they hear a consistency of characterization that's otherwise lacking in most cartoons. This is why I harp on the benefits of casting by character, and on the danger in thinking of characters as suits of clothes that any animator can put on or off. To approach character animation that way is to surrender its strongest claim on our attention, its ability to create life on the screen.

March 1, 2006:

REMEMBERING WALT, CONT'D : A site visitor offers this explanation for the curious absence of Walt Disney himself from the Walt Disney Concert Hall:

"Much like the Dorothy Chandler whose name graces the L.A. Philharmonic's former home north of Disney Hall [the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Los Angeles Music Center], Lillian Disney was persuaded as a good and capable citizen of Los Angeles to provide the core funding for the building. Although her initial $60 million pledge secured the promise of the building, she ended up contributing more than $90 million (the total cost was close to $300 million). From what I gathered before the groundbreaking, there was little talk of the focus being about a memorial to Walt or anything remotely about the Company (it was clear even then that Michael Eisner had alienated most of the Disney family). Lillian, like notable matrons of leading families, was just doing her civic duty, and how the family fortune was generated and by whom were not the focus of the gift."

In other words, the memorial aspect of the hall was strictly incidental. That makes sense, especially given Lillian's long history of indifference to her husband's work and the people who worked alongside him (Marc Davis once remarked that he had met Lillian on dozens of occasions, each time having to introduce himself as if they were meeting for the first time).

In my previous posting about Disney Hall, I neglected to offer a link to its site. And here's a link to the site for the Tam O'Shanter Inn, too.

MO' MIYAZAKI: Andrew Osmond writes:

"Many thanks for your kind words (and plug!) for my Sight and Sound article [in a February 23 posting]. To be honest, I wasn’t really satisfied with it (too much tweaking, not to mention a few confusing sub-edits), but I’m glad you found it helpful. One clarification of the text (relevant to the news below): it is the ‘theft’ of Chihiro’s name in the film Spirited Away that references the opening scene of Le Guin’s book Tombs of Atuan (the second Earthsea novel), not the name Chihiro itself.

"If you haven’t heard, Ghibli’s current movie (due for release in Japan this summer) is actually based on the ‘Earthsea’ novels. However, it’s not being directed by Hayao but by his son Goro. Goro has no animation experience whatsoever, yet his appointment is no straight nepotism. His dad was vehemently opposed to Goro directing a film (Goro was supported by the studio president, Toshio Suzuki, who overruled Miyazaki). According to one report, father and son haven’t been on speaking terms since last summer. Goro is now writing a blog on the official Ghibli web-site, including some astonishingly blunt comments–he recently wrote his father 'gets zero points as a father, full marks as a director'– bear in mind that Goro is working at what most people would regard at his dad’s studio. A fan-translation of the blog is available at http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/earthsea/blog/ with Goro’s comments on his father (and also his mother, an ex-animator) at http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/earthsea/blog/blog39.html and subsequent pages.

"Goro asks that he and his film are judged on their own terms, but also says that he studied his father’s work intensively while he grew up. This seems borne out by an Earthsea trailer which appeared online last week (there are two versions linked from the top of http://www.ghibliworld.com/news.html and images at http://www.catsuka.com/interf/icons/gedosenki_trailer.jpg). It’s hard to see the trailer as anything other than in the Miyazaki 'tradition,' with obvious visual echoes of Miyazaki Senior’s films. Overall, the whole situation is weird, seething with Oedipal tensions, and I can’t think of anything comparable.

"For the record, I interviewed Goro in Japan six years ago, when he was involved with a popular Tokyo museum based on his father’s work."