[b][i]Castle in the Sky[/i], 1986[/b]

Castle in the Sky, 1986
"This was the first movie of Miyazaki’s that I saw. The story of Castle in the Sky is a very straight, boy-meets-girl adventure story, but the scope of it is just so impressive. The chases [that lead to their] finding this wonderful island in the sky involve this huge army of dirigibles. It’s amazing."

[b][i]Spirited Away[/i], 2001[/b]

Spirited Away, 2001
"This is the one that won the Oscar, and I can see why. It’s even more accessible for a Western audience, I feel, because there was something in the story arc that was so satisfying and almost classic in structure with Spirited Away. It’s a complete coming of age story: the little girl is despondent and going through a move at the beginning of the story, and she’s scared, there’s a limpness about her. Then you see her really finding her confidence in the movie, through working hard, through polishing floors and having this adventure."

[b][i]Princess Mononoke[/i], 1997[/b]

Princess Mononoke, 1997
"Princess Mononoke came out in 1997. I remember that because it came out during my first trip to Japan. I went to see it three times in Tokyo. I was just a tourist there and I didn’t even understand the language but I absolutely loved it. It was a serious work, it was a darker work, but so powerful. I think it was Miyazaki doing a little bit of a Kurasawa. It still holds up as one of my favorites but it’s much darker."

[b][i]Howl’s Moving Castle[/i], 2004[/b]

Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004
"I think Howl’s Moving Castle has the same darkness as Princess Mononoke. There’s a beautiful, beautiful scene, but it’s not one of my favorites; it didn’t come together as well as the others for me."

[b][i]Porco Rosso[/i], 1992 [/b]

Porco Rosso, 1992
"This is one my favorites—me being Italian and loving planes. It was set in the 1930’s in Italy. It’s the era of wonderful sea planes made of cloth and wood, and the main character is a flying pig who has some sort of a curse on him. It was set in my neck of the woods, so that really kind of blew me away. I ended up making a comic about a flying cat girl [The Adventures of Mia] which is very much inspired by this. They were exciting times for flight and it was a very romantic time to fly. The character, Fio, is the heroine who wants to free Porco Rosso of his curse. My wife and I both loved her name, Fio, so now it is my daughter’s name."

Pixar Animator Enrico Casarosa On The Inspiring Work Of Hayao Miyazaki

Enrico Casarosa, writer and director of the Oscar-nominated Pixar short, La Luna, sifts through the Studio Ghibli archives to discuss how Hayao Miyazaki has influenced him.

You know that almost overwhelming sense of wonder you get while watching the best Pixar movies? That sensation also infuses the work of Japan’s Studio Ghibli. And the shared qualities are no accident. Animators at Emeryville, California’s Pixar Studios are devoted fans and lifelong friends of Hayao Miyazaki, cofounder of Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio behind such films as the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away. As a traveling retrospective of Studio Ghibli films wraps up in Los Angeles this weekend and continues until early March in Boston (next stop: Austin, Texas), Pixar animator Enrico Casarosa talks about his favorites.

Growing up in Genoa, Italy, Casarosa was a devoted fan of the Japanese anime TV series Future Boy Conan, which captured his imagination. “Conan was a super-powerful boy,” recalls Casarosa. “He sometimes defied the laws of gravity and nature, and there were these great mechanical designs—those are the things I really love, you know, flying and flying machines.” He didn’t know then that the import was the early work of Miyazaki, whose feature films Casarosa first saw when he started working in animation in the 1990s: “That’s when I realized, Oh, my god, this is the same person who made the series I loved growing up!”

Since 2002, Casarosa has worked at Pixar, where he has been a story artist on Cars, Ratatouille, and Up. His directorial debut, La Luna, is up for an Oscar for best animated short and can be seen in more than 200 theaters across the U.S. and on demand. It’s the beautiful story of a boy who looks up in wonder. Being nominated was a rather new experience for the San Francisco resident, as his early-morning tweet revealed the day they were announced: "Come to think of it, that nespresso could be the best nespresso I ever have…They don’t come with Oscar noms on the side usually."

In addition to racking up honors for his work, Casarosa created SketchCrawl, an international drawing marathon that has been raising money for victims of 2011’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. SketchCrawl was born of Casarosa’s belief in the power of creativity, a belief that infuses his animation, comic books (such as The Adventures of Mia) and illustrated stories (The Venice Chronicles), all of which find a kinship in the movies of Miyazaki. “That sense of wonder he captures,” Casarosa says of Miyazaki, “that is something I really wanted to do. I really wanted to capture it in La Luna because I wanted it to be very much about seeing the world from a kid’s eye. Can we put ourselves back into looking at the world as a kid, you know?”

In the slide show above, Casarosa discusses his favorite Miyazaki films, including the one that inspired the naming of his daughter.

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2 Comments

  • Ben Capozzi

    What a wistful and charming pieces! Love the slide commentary. Thanks for sharing, and now I'm seriously thinking about bussing up to Boston for a look at the Retrospective!

    ~benc