Laser Shooting Giant Robots - Miyazaki

I hope you were all staying up late on Thursday nights this past month watching SBS? They had a month of Miyazaki movies. I'm a Miyazaki virgin, so it was a wonderful month here in the armpit of Brisbane.

The final movie was Laputa - Castle in the Sky. Once again the trees, planet or robots (programmed with the best of human intentions) win over greedy, power hungry humans. But not before the robot shot lasers from it's eyes and caused a nuclear explosion.

So, maybe giant alien robots will save the earth?

Jane (our teacher at animation school) would be so proud of Mr. Miyazaki mixing robots with an environmental message.

There are some other Miyazaki posts to check out in the ARC blog while you're here.

Can someone tell me about more robots that appear in Miyazaki films? Which other films? Maybe you can find me a better link for the picture?


Ian said...

Jane would also apreciate the strong female characters in this and many other Miyazaki films.

He dose like using big machines in his films, but perhaps favours flying contraptions over robots if your looking for a theme.

frank said...

Miyazaki seems strongly influenced by the natural world. His flying insects in Nausicaa strongly resemble the pirate aircraft in Laputa. I like the high rate, blurred, insect wing propulsion.

Yes, the young women are, independent, powerful and instictively in tune with what is the environmentally correct message.

Things are a bit more complex in Princess Mononoke with the Lady Eboshi character championing the cause of industrialisation but quirkly combined with humanitarianism.

I am so impressed Miyazaki draws from so many sources; mythology, languages, natural sciences, architecture, Victorian engineering, to produce the settings and stories. He must be very well read.

frank said...

"Lady Eboshi of Princess Mononoke knowingly exploits the forests for raw materials at the expense of animal life, while simultaneously sheltering lepers and former prostitutes in her city." Wikipedia

Maybe we need a post from Jane about the role of female characters in animation.

Possibly comparing a Miyazaki movie to a Disney/Pixar?

Ian said...

The criticism of Pixar over the role of women in their films doesn’t sit well with me. Its a bit like being angry at Martin Luther King because he didn't do enough to help the environment.

We need to remember what animated feature films were before Pixar, fairy tails, singing, bland lead character, repetitive plots about young kids who want a better life but end up learning that they must take on their responsibility. Egad I was sick of that stuff.

How many of the stale conventions do Pixar have to break before they get credit. If I was ever that successful I would hope that I could shake things up a little and put a fresh spin on things too, but I would also hope that people didn't expect me to run around addressing whatever issue they choose as the important one of the day.

I think my response would be, well I've addressed the issues close to my hart, if they aren’t the same as yours, why don't you do something about it.

The role of women in western animation is dismal, but why pick on Pixar about it?!?!? What about all the other studios who are just reproducing the Pixar formula, studios like Dreamworks, Sony, and Bluesky. They have made millions of dollars while contributing very little to the evolution of the medium, so why not criticise them for the role of women in their films?

KT said...

uuuh and i'm sorry for going off topic... hehehehe. i just had to defend sony!

KT said...


I have recently come across a 'making of' dvd for Surf's Up... and let me tell you, even though Sony has only made 2 animated films so far (and are adopting Aardman - hooray!!!), they have come in leaps and bounds when it comes to breaking the mold in animation.

The new technology they created in making the waves alone for this movie is just incredible. There didn't generate the waves all using the one simulator. They paintstakingly had to get in there, create a brand new rig for these waves, learn how to use it and then refine it and animate each wave seperately - just like they're all characters. And I think they did a mindblowing job. The waves look amazing and play neck and neck with the characters themselves.

Also, I also admire them taking on a brand new style in animation - a documentary. Not many other movies can brag that. Creating believable documentary animation (like creature comforts, candid, natural and unstaged), is a huge task in itself. Sony may have only just started out, but to me they look set up to make amazing things in the future.

Lisa said...

on the topic of Miyazaki all together, don't forget, if you travel to Tokyo, make sure 3 months in advance that you buy tickets to go to see the Miyazaki Museum! There is one place in Australia you can buy them, on the Gold Coast...actually, gimme a day and I"ll post some links to it and also to the Osuma Tezuka Museum. ..stay posted. :-)

Ian said...

Waves shmaves I say, we are talking story here. It could be animated with charcole sticks for all I care. :P

I surpose the doco thing is fresh, but the story was I'm afraid a turd. I overherd one student sum it up as Cars with Penquins. Sony sacked the director(s) 2 or 3 times during production. How can they ever break new ground when the suits are looking over the sholder of the creatives so much.

Great to see you on the Blog though KT, I miss disagreeing with you :)

frank said...

Waves shmaves!

From a surfer's point of view (not yet having seen Surfs Up, though), I found KT's comments very intersting.

The ocean is alive and could, like Miyazaki's forests, be regarded as a living, sometimes malevolent, being. A character in a story in its own right and thus deserving of careful attention to animation.

The ocean has been described by great artists and writers as 'moody', 'calm' or an 'angry sea', for example. Definitely a display of humanity's ready ability to anthropomorphise. But also a stretch of an artist's imagination wings to lift the plebs away from a cruel world for a few distracting moments.

Waves are the pulse of the beast and the interaction that we humans see at the shoreline interface.

It would be imperative that waves are animated properly to get me to see a surfing animation. KT's comments, I find intriguing, and compel me to watch Surfs Up.

I think we should look at the story with the fresh view of the animation effort put into the waves that bridge the layout-character cusp.

And not be too readily dismissive and consign such a powerful, elemental chracter to the background.

Ellie said...

Ian, I agree and disagree.
I agree with the fact that they have made ground with the story lines, and all that, and the animation its self is great (I re-watched Rattatouie the other day and was re blown away), but at the end of the day, I like to watch stories about girls. And there aren't any coming from Disney/Pixar.

jane said...

hmmm, methinks there is a lot of sensitivity about Pixar 'being picked on' for it's lack of strong female roles in the storylines. No offence intended, and what of female roles generally in animated films ?(Frank) I have been approached to respond to this issue.I'm not sure who else has drawn attention to this very touchy topic, other than myself and a newspaper critic who's name escapes me at the moment.And before I go any further - yes, I am a female putting forward my viewpoint so a bias exists, I guess it is unavoidable.
What we are really discussing here, is an issue quite complex. Gender politics in popular culture(as depicted in animated films for this discussion) is a massive and confronting topic, and there is simply not enough space here to address it reasonably. But let me clarify, that it's not just Pixar who in recent years has displayed a gender/cultural bias in storylines in my humble opinion. I assert, and often relate to this in film awareness sessions, that female roles historically in the great majority of short animated films and feature length productions brought out by Disney, MGM, Warner Bros, Flieschers etc have been relegated to side kick role to central male character and a dominant male cast. In some of these early films, there are no female characters at all.(Boy meets dog - Walter lantz film is a classic example)When they were included in the storyline, female characters acted in distinct roles or a mix of these - nurturing mother, vampish sex siren/object, chaste and faithful partner/princess helpless and in need of protection or rescue by male character ,evil and ugly witch/crone or a mix of these. Mostly in the scene for her physical appearance/ attractiveness, rarely did she display any depth , intelligence or self sufficiency. Think Olive Oyl, Betty Boop, Minnie mouse, daisy duck...can anyone think of any other female characters pre Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue sky etc that had a starring role? The exception may be Betty Boop, bearing in mind that she was a classic mix of the sexy but otherwise morally upright decent female . What female cartoon characters stand out in the Warner Bros era? Ok there was Granny-feisty and fearsome, but who else?
What standout female characters, stories and roles did we see in Ice Age, Ratatouille, Iron Giant, Toy story, lion King,Finding Nemo, Cars, The Invincibles etc. Yes there were female characters, but who remembers them? (Chicken Run is perhaps an exception), what purpose did they serve in the storyline? what were their male counterparts roles? What and who were these stories about? Who cares? I hear some people saying, what's it matter? well imagine going along to see films that only featured female characters and interests, and if there were any male characters they had secondary roles. Some may argue that I'm actually describing a classic 'chick flick'. The fact is, possibly as a male person (and female for that matter)viewing films it doesn't occur to you to consider these issues. but if you saw story after story, film after mainstream film that featured a strong cast of female characters and very few male characters you'd begin to notice something amiss I'm sure.In fact you'd probably not relate to a lot of the storylines either, because they feature experience and perspectives from the opposite gender viewpoint.You would be dominated by a matriarchal , feminine perspective and react accordingly. If this were the case you would have the opposite of feminism arising, if we could change history. We'd have the phenomenon of the 'bloke flick'appearing...which I would argue is what most mainstream commercial animated films are.(I exclude independent animated films from this viewpoint) When a writing team is dominated by one gender you will see bias coming through.When it is dominated by one gender, and a certain ethnic background, you will see bias - so most films featured white skinned, male characters in the main role because that's who was in the writing group and that's who has the money (traditionally) to produce these films. What's the big deal? Culturally, when you have a dominant group you get a dominant paradigm of behaviour, social roles, power, control of economy and expectation about how the world should be. If you don't fit into that paradigm you are on the outer, or you become secondary to the dominant power don't have a voice.Popular culture -films, literature, the media are powerful mediums for carrying the message of the dominant group.History tells us who the dominant group is in western society, although this is changing. But this is generally why conflict arises. It's why Feminism eventuated -women revolted against the roles they were expected to play out by a dominant masculine standard. What is repressed by the dominant group eventually rises up to claim it's place and right to assert itself and have a voice. Ethnic representation didn't exist in early films, except perhaps for the Van Beuren studio Uncle Tom series, which featured caricatured stereotyped negroes in less than favourable roles, and caricatured german and japanese soldiers in the propaganda films in the war years from Warner Bros.You will see the above mentioned stereotypical female roles played out here too.
If you are from a non caucasian background how would you feel having to watch popular films where you are a minority or non existant in the storylines? Or if you do feature in a storyline you are an object of derision and ridicule. We live in a multi cultural and diverse lifestyle society. Why shouldn't there be fair representation? The audience out there doesn't fit into the dominant group that so often produces these films.
Commercial Animated film (in America, Australia, Europe ) has traditionally been dominated by male (and usually caucasian) directors and writing teams and animators.Women have been part of it, but in lesser roles historically, though this is obviously changing. It's natural that a dominant male, caucasian , heterosexual, christian perspective would come through. I personally would like to see more of a balance in the roles and story content in feature films, an equal representation of genders, and breaking away from stereotypical gender and ethnic roles and storylines as perpetuated in some of these feature length animated films and Tv series. Mind you, I think The Simpsons is an interesting exception. Marge and Lisa actually have quite a strong presence and role reversal in the story lines and we get the opposite happening, where i think the male characters are represented in a less than favourable light - slobby, selfish, cowardly, reckless,emotionally challenged, stupid and codependent on their female cast mates.(although Marge always falls back into the supportive, nurturing wifely role, feeding and soothing Homer's bruised ego, even though she sometimes breaks out of the family home to find another role in the world) In fact,The Simpsons is a contemporary animated series that at least has storylines that give voice to not only strong female characters and issues, but includes ethnic diversity and alternative lifestyle choices among it's immense cast of characters, even if it is largely satire and caricature. Keep in mind that The Simpsons as the main characters in the series do perpetuate a caucasian,masculine, right wing, christian perspective in the satirical storylines-great fodder for comedy all the same. Let me stress that there is sometimes a purpose and necessity in having a gender/ethnic/lifestyle role and viewpoint dominant in a film. depends on the story of course. I will assert that in recent years there has been a spate of animated feature length films from Pixar, Blue sky, Dreamworks etc that while technically slick and faultless in the superb character animation and special effects , display an incredible gender/ethnic/lifestyle bias in the storylines and often rehash a story formula from a dominant caucasian, heterosexual, masculine, western world perspective.It gets a tad tedious, but these studio's break box office records with their films, the public love the stories. My opinion is in the minority I'm sure, not a bad place to be though- it keeps you thinking and questioning the 'norms'you are supposed to just accept..because that's the way it is. hmmm

I don't have any stats on what the ratio is between male and female writers, producers and animators in this industry currently, but I think there will be interesting trends in the types of stories explored in future productions with more collaboration. The male and female experience of life does have its differences,and therefore storylines and humour will reflect this but there are some stories that reflect our lives as humans, culturally diverse as we are. I will also add you can't please or include everyone in every story.

There's just so much more that could be said here, especially on other issues such as story construction, themes, character development, plot,sub-text, conflict resolution and all the other technical aspects of telling a story in animated form, let's leave that to the classroom sessions for now.

To conclude, Miyazaki, is a master film maker to me, and yes Frank, he is well read and has stated in interviews that he likes to have strong female characters in his storylines. I think generally he is an exception to the rule, as a male director and animator.

Ian said...

I agree with all of that. What I have been hearing is that it was a Pixar thing, which I don't agree with. A broader cultural thing? I am absolutely on board. When I was lead animator at Oska I instituted an aggressive campaign to employ more women, when it was at its biggest we had a 50 50 ratio.

I don't know if I'm sensitive about Pixar, I just believe we should give credit where its due, not single them out as an example because they are the tall poppy of the day. Its like the old saying, who’s the biggest fool? The fool? Or the one who follows the fool?

I copped a bit of tall poppy criticism in both my jobs at Disney and Oska, what mystified me was the way people would look over what I had done with the benefit of hind sight and be unhappy with me moving things this way or that. Didn’t they know that I was just getting up every day and making it up as I went, isn’t that what we are all doing? If you ask the “guys” at pixar, I bet they are totally on board with equality issues. But that they didn’t manage to pick that issue out of the 1000s (and I’m not exaggerating) that would confront them as they run a ground breaking animation studio, I can understand, I can also understand that if they were women then they might have a different perspective, I’ll get to that. If I’m sensitive its about anything, its taking pot shots at the leaders, the followers are on safer ground, criticize them until the cows come home.

(While we are including broader social issues I would point out that I don’t think the same rules apply for elected officials, they are put there by the people they represent, private folk get where they are one step at a time.)

As it is such a complex issue, there probably isn’t a silver bullet for the problem. But I think generally that solutions are far more likely to be found at our level, in education. We need to be on the look out for passionate young women ready to work their buts off, encourage and foster that passion.

Generally people (men) aren’t in the habit of giving away their power, in fact they tend to cling to it and defend it ruthlessly. Just have a look at Terry, he is obviously mad with power. Its not right, fair or just, but if women want to be involved then they are going to have to take their positions. BRING IT ON LADIES!