By Nivedita Balu and Atsuko Kitayama
TORONTO (Reuters) – Studio Ghibli’s legendary director, Hayao Miyazaki, 82, still has not put his pencil down, an executive at the Japanese animation studio said on Friday after its long awaited feature, “The Boy and the Heron,” opened the Toronto International Film Festival.
Miyazaki, who was not present at the film festival, is the internationally renowned director behind hand-drawn animated favorites like “Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and many other beloved films created under the Studio Ghibli, which he co-founded.
“For the last 20 years, after finishing a movie, he would say I’m done… but this time, he didn’t mention anything about retirement,” Junichi Nishioka, the studio’s vice president for international distribution told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
“There is nothing concrete on the table yet, but he shows the willingness to create something new,” Nishioka said, adding that Miyazaki, is at the studio everyday.
The film’s surprisingly low-key Japanese release in July came with conspicuously little promotional material as a part of the studio’s attempt to build mystery around the enigmatic film.
Nishioka said the idea not to promote the movie was producer Toshio Suzuki’s idea who wanted to bring an element of his movie-going experience as a child. He said the movie had had over five million viewers in Japan so far.
In Toronto, film buffs and movie fans lined up for the movie, the first time an animated Japanese film opened the festival.
“It was an amazing film … I really had high expectation but it blew past them,” said Gabriel Mas who attended the film’s premiere on Thursday.
The film, adapted from a 1937 novel by Genzaburo Yoshino entitled “How Do You Live”, which Miyazaki read as a child, chronicles the journey of 11-year old Mahito Maki, who loses his mother during the World War Two and embarks into a magical world.
The movie is also inspired by how Miyazaki himself felt after the war and coped with the loss of his mother.
Delighting anime fans with his return a decade after the release of “The Wind Rises” in 2013, Miyazaki seeks to convey a message to younger generations about how he lived and how young people should think about how they want to live.
“This is a personal film, showing how he (Miyazaki) lived, how he should have lived and throwing out the question to the audience, ‘So how do you live?’,” Nishioka said.
(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Toronto; Editing by Sandra Maler)