My favorite Hayao Miyazaki quotes from Starting Point

Excerpts from Starting Point, a collection of interviews and essays by Hayao Miyazaki

Meaning over technique
If someone were to ask me what the most important thing is when creating a new animated work, my answer would be that you first have to know what you want to say with it. In other words, you have to have a theme. Surprisingly, perhaps, people sometimes overlook this basic fact of filmmaking and overemphasize technique instead. There are innumerable examples of people making films with a very high level of technique, but only a very fuzzy idea of what they really want to say. And after watching their films, viewers are usually completely befuddled. Yet when people who know what they want to say make films with a low level of technique, we still greatly appreciate the films because there is really something to them.

When young, nearly all of us want to be taken seriously, as soon as possible. Perhaps because of this we tend to overemphasize technique. In fact, many of those who have not yet taken the plunge into the professional world of animation tend to speak endlessly about animation techniques, or concentrate on gaining as much knowledge as possible about the technical aspects of certain scenes. In reality, once you enter this industry, technique can be mastered very quickly.

One thing about drawing is that, if you put in serious effort, you will become good at it. But that’s all the more reason to study a variety of things that interest you while you have time, before you enter the professional world in order to develop such fundamentals as your own viewpoint and way of thinking.

If you don’t do this, your life will be treated as just another disposable product… Should you ever relinquish what you truly hold dear, the only path left to you will be that of a pencil-pusher—the type of animator whose sense of self- worth is determined by the numerical amount of his earnings, or who cycles between joy and despair over the high or low ratings his work receives.

Holding onto meaning while working full-time
Once involved in the business of creating animation, the truth of the matter is that you wind up working on project after project and rarely have time to read, study, or to come up with great ideas. And then the question invariably arises: “Why am I creating animation? What am I doing this for? Is it just to make a living?” To avoid this trap, my advice to you all is to study [art, and all that life has to offer]."

You may have become an animator because you wanted to build your own fictional world. But such romantic dreams are quickly destroyed. Who could reproach you for mechanically running your pencil across the paper as you sit at the conveyor belt, confronting the incredibly large pile of work to be done, the totally inadequate production budget and time schedule, and the formidable barrier of the preexisting specialization system? There is no shortage of rationalizations. It is easy to be a cog once you get used to it.

Adding a spark
Even in your daily work you can add a spark of authenticity to an unoriginal story, or breathe a bit of expression into the blank face of a character. You can also improve an ugly drawing, making it slightly better. All the while, you continue to watch for an opening when your opponent—the system itself—lets down his guard. You can only find this opening when you stop making excuses and work hard every day. When you see your chance, take it and create the world you always wanted to create.

If you offer, free of charge, something that no one is expecting, and if your suggestion is compelling—and as long as the project chief is not a rigid believer in supporting vested interests—your world can be accepted. After all, it doesn’t cost them anything, and they don’t need to put your name in the credits. So if your creation is accepted, it is a clear advantage for the main staff. At that point, you will feel for the first time the thrill of creating animation. Always watch for that opening and be prepared to run with your idea whenever you can—that attitude gives animation its hope.

Wanting one’s own world
Personally, I was never more passionate about manga than when preparing for my college entrance exams. It’s a period of life when young people appear to have a great deal of freedom, but are in many ways actually very oppressed. Just when they find themselves powerfully attracted to members of the opposite sex, they have to really crack the books. To escape from this depressing situation, they often find themselves wishing they could live in a world of their own —a world they can say is truly theirs, a world unknown even to their parents. To young people, anime is something they can incorporate into this private world.

…I often refer to this feeling as one of yearning for a lost world. It’s a sense that although you may currently be living in a world of constraints, if you were free from those constraints, you would be able to do all sorts of things. And it’s this feeling, I believe, that makes mid-teens so passionate about anime

The origin of art
When people speak of a beautiful sunset, do they hurriedly riffle through a book of photographs of sunsets or go in search of a sunset? No, you speak about the sunset by drawing on the many sunsets stored inside you—feelings deeply etched in the folds of your consciousness of the sunset you saw while carried on your mother’s back so long ago that the memory is nearly a dream; or the sunset-washed landscape you saw when, for the first time in your life, you were enchanted by the scene around you; or the sunsets you witnessed that were wrapped in loneliness, anguish, or warmth.

…In order for it not to remain merely egotistical, when you tell others about your dream you must turn it into a world unto itself. As you go through the process of sharpening your powers of imagination and technique, the material takes shape. If that shape is amorphous, you can start with a vague yearning. It all begins with having something that you want to express.

To go from critic to creator
Anyone can act as a critic. But you can’t just criticize for the sake of criticizing; anyone can do that. As a professional, you have to be able to propose alternate ideas right away or you will have no right to criticize. And you have to be able to justify the extra labor (which you will wind up doing) that goes into all of this. When you can do all of these things, you will begin to transform from a person who merely executes what others tell him into a true creator.

Visit the temple on your own feet
It’s an oft-repeated aphorism: “Those who want to go to Hōryūji temple1 should get off the train far away and walk on the country road toward the temple.” When one takes the time to walk, one first glimpses the uppermost roof of Hōryūji’s five-storied pagoda, and then gradually the entire temple grounds come into view. Because one has approached the temple on one’s own two feet, one can savor the experience. The more difficult one’s way to Hōryūji, the greater one’s excitement at finally seeing the temple."

The desire for one’s own chair
As I didn’t have a concrete blueprint for my future I was full of anxiety. As we grow from childhood into youth, this anxiety grows exponentially, and we worry about how on earth we should live our lives. Our anxiety forces us to look for an antidote that will rid us of this feeling as quickly as possible. We want to find that something that will help us grab our own chair in this world and sit in it.

How to reflect what we want to do in our work
We are now living in a society that is wealthy yet poverty-stricken. We are able to listen to large amounts of music and watch large numbers of videos. But only a small fraction of these move us.

…If you plan to reflect what you really want to do in your own work, you must have a firm foundation. My foundation is this: I want to send a message of cheer to all those wandering aimlessly through life.

The point of art in a world oversaturated with media
What do I think should be done about the overproduction of media? Part of me thinks that the best thing would be to not make any more shows. I question whether it’s necessary for someone to add a bucket of water to a flood. However, even in the midst of a flood we still need to drink good water once in a while.