Meeting Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki, the man himself.

This friday I met Hayao Miyazaki, 1 of the most influential and beloved artist I’ve ever looked up to. We were waiting at the side of the stage and this man in a white blazer walked by, smiled and that was no other than Hayao Miyazaki. Needless to say I was awe-struck to see him walk up a stage and casually chats up the crowd. John Lasseter introduced him as The Most Important Filmmaker and really, that’s no hyperbole.

I’ll be honest, most of the questions asked were things you could look up through either Google or Wikipedia and I was slightly disappointed at that. The mark of a wise man is when he could answer uninteresting questions with either an insightful one or a witty, brush-off. The panel was full of laughs, particularly when a very engrossed fan asked him the staple cliche of “Oh my gosh… How do you like make suuuch surreal images to create such fantastic sceneries?”. Not kidding, that was the exact wording.

"I wish I could remember..."

He answered, “I wish I could remember, I completely forgot” while grinning. Another classic cliche was “Why do you use so many female protagonists?”. He responded quickly and smoothly, “Because they are strong and beautiful”. My girlfriend said that was still too good to hear from him despite how many times that has been asked and answered by him before.

I personally would have wanted to express my condolences for the loss of Yoshinori Kanada and asked him what are his thoughts on Disney’s “attempt” to bring back 2D into the public’s eye. It just seemed like it’d have been a more interesting opinion to hear from such a distinguished filmmaker who doesn’t mince words and is very cordial at the same time. Especially considering how much of a polar opposite Disney/Pixar movies are compared to his, despite the constant comparisons.

The thing he elaborated most was on his close working relationship with Mamoru Fujisawa, more famously known as Joe Hisaishi, citing that until today there is still a segment of My Neighbor Totoro that Joe Hisaishi insists Miyazaki should have used… and that until even a few days ago, Miyazaki still had to tell him “No, it’s better this way!”, all chuckling with laughter. My head couldn’t stop thinking about these bits of music and animation for Totoro that we’ve never seen before.

Miyazaki also was asked how is his process like and what pace does he work at exactly. Miyazaki told them that he storyboards ideas and stories, again he laughed and said that he feels he’s too slow because after he’s done with storyboard-ing ideas, he can’t help but to draw more storyboards.

"Can I use this ink?"

He was presented with an Inkpot award by Comic Con people and apparently the awards were shaped like ink containers, after being read the long title Comic Con thought up for this Inkpot award, Miyazaki responded very nonchalantly: “Can I use this ink?”

Everyone else laughed but I had a strong suspicion that Miyazaki was pretty serious in questioning them about the award’s usability.

After the presentation, Miyazaki invited everyone to meet him at a free Ponyo screening located a few blocks off SDCC itself. Needless to say, I went to the screening, braved the line and saved a spot for my girlfriend who would join me later as she gets off work. All cameras, phones and every other electronics weren’t allowed at the screening out of respect for the movie. Miyazaki and the theater’s staff wanted the event to be undisturbed by ring tones, flash photography or any kind of such interruptions. The seating was limited to 200 tickets and they were first come first serve. I was star struck a 2nd time when Miyazaki walked into the theater and past my seat. I had a spot right smack in the middle and a little bit to the front, very good, clear view of the screening itself and Miyazaki. That makes it twice in a day that Hayao Miyazaki walked past me; that’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing happening twice on a day.

Ponyo and SDCC tickets

I’ll save his introduction for Ponyo for another post with a review of it. Some of the more honest, strong and straightforward comments were in the introduction to the movie. There’s really nothing left to say about his work: they’re perfect.

The conversations were really comfortable, well-paced and Miyazaki was very laid-back. My girlfriend noted that he had a refined taste in clothing, carried himself extremely well and was by all acounts, a very humble and likable guy with strong opinions.

I’m very grateful for the chance to have been able to meet 1 of my biggest inspiration, hero and idol. Words can’t quite sum up just how great of an experience it was.

Posted Saturday, July 25th, 2009 under Artists, Film, Personal News.


  1. Dude, while reading this and looking over your photos … my hands started to tremble just from the thought of vicariously meeting Miyazaki through you!

    I’m so glad you got to have this wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing! And thanks for including all the little details and insights into his character.

    I can’t wait to hear more about this experience!

  2. If I can field a question tomorrow, I’ll ask him that one

  3. Thanks for the great write-up, must have been an amazing session !

  4. Thanks for your descriptions. It would have been awesome to be there with you.

  5. @Richmond: It was a struggle early on in the day, I almost didn’t make it in the room. He’s certainly a character and had an overwhelming air about him. A lady who worked for Disney burst into tears when he got into the room. Actually, a lot of people did, it was like a religious experience with all the women screaming and crying and the men… screaming and crying. Maybe I should have noted that down… I’ll add that later to the post.

    @Andy: Please do! I wanted to ask him questions and questions regarding his drawing method, what he pays attention to when he lays down a line… All that.

    @Blaureiter: Hey! Glad you enjoyed it. It really was an amazing session, I did wish it lasted the whole day but that’s just being greedy.

  6. Thank you sooo much for sharing this.

  7. Nihon & Ameli: You’re both welcome. It was my pleasure to share my own gushing excitement, glad it was of some value to you.

    Nihon, to be honest the ‘present’ me is jealous of the ‘yesterday’ me for not being in another discussion panel with Miyazaki.

  8. Way to go! I wish I could have been there. I would have at the very least, asked a more interesting question.

    I sure hope that Miyazaki becomes more famous in the west. I didn’t really start to hear about his films until I was in high school, which was unfortunate, because I’m sure I would have enjoyed those films as a child as well!

  9. Hello. Thank you for this great info! Keep up the good job!

  10. Your so lucky you got to meet Hiyao Miyazaki! I love his movie/book Totoro. I really want to meet him one day, how much do you have to pay? No price os to high for me. :3 I wish I could meet him one day but probably not. sigh… I want to be a anime artist too. If I become famous I’ll meet him! =.= sob… 🙂 :3 😀

  11. omg if I were to meet Hayao like you did I would brake into tears. You have been blessed. He is one of my biggest role models and I’ve dreamed of meeting him. His movies have helped me in my toughest times and I always get this sad feeling when the film is done lol I don’t think that anyone will ever reach to his imagination. :’] he is so amazing and always teaches people to beleive in themselves and never give up. OMG

  12. Indeed, I felt very privileged for the chance. His works have always been powerful and are all in their own class. There are other excellent Japanese animation directors who are of the same calibre but are of different end goals, in my opinion.

    I hope more awareness of his work and a deeper understanding and appreciation could grow in a market such as America’s.

    Thanks for dropping by the blog!

  13. My daughters and I were also fortunate to attend these two events. We went over to the theatre right after Mr. Miyazaki finished as my daughter had found out about the screening before we got to Comicon. I had never heard of him before but when I saw his work and heard him speak I got the same chills. He is truly a unique person and very humble. I became an instant fan and ordered all of his movies I could find and really enjoyed them all. Wow.

  14. His long list of work is indeed one to admire. It’s good to hear there’s another fellow fan of his work, especially when your first movie of his is Ponyo, which in my opinion is his weirdest one yet.

    I do wish I could attend another Miyazaki Q&A session.

  15. Great! I was there myself, Both in Hall H and at the premiere of Ponyo. How wonderful that we got to see the legened himself in the flesh. I don’t think he’ll be back here stateside.

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