Studio Ghibli is undoubtedly Japan’s greatest animation studio, churning out hits which would later move on as classics in the animation industry, not just in Japan, but in the entire world. But did you know that several former staff members from the studio have written several memoirs about what it’s really like “making the magic” happen there?
The first one was from former Studio Ghibli animator, Hitomi Tateno, who published her memoir Enpitsu Senki: Dare mo Shiranakatta Studio Ghibli (The Pencil Wars: The Studio Ghibli that Nobody Knew). It not only offered Tateno’s experiences in working for the company as an image motion checker, but also offers some insights on Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, and Isao Takahata. Another is from Ghibli production assistant, Hirokatsu Kihara, whose memoir, “Mou Hitotsu no ‘Barusu'”, provided insights on how Haytao Miyazaki worked on Castle in the Sky. He stated that Miyazaki worked with “overwhelming intensity” for the film, and since it was the studio’s first official film, Miyazaki, who was 45 at the time, put so much pressure on himself that his hair turned white by the time the movie was complete. He said that “I thought I should document his struggles and efforts hidden behind his public image as a genius,”
In delving into the film’s most famous scene, where protagonists Pazu and Sheeta chant the word “balse” as a destructive spell, he found a draft of a storyboard showing the two presenting the magical stone to the main villain, Muska.
“An action adventure story in which good triumphs over evil can end like this, but I think Miyazaki-san wanted to present the story as a drama where the two bring their hearts together as one.”
Ghibli producer, Tomohiko Ishii, also recounted his memories working for the studio. In his memoirs, he revealed that he trained under the great Toshio Suzuki, who told him to “Discard yourself and imitate what I do for the next three years.”
Another memoir came from Ghibli Overseas Operations head, Steven Alpert, whose memoir, Wagahai wa Gaijin dearu: Ghibli o Sekaini Utta Otoko (I Am a Foreigner: A Man Who Sold Ghibli to the World), stated the challenges of foreign distributors, like battling the film’s U.S. distributor over dialogue and sound effect changes in the English dub.