I have boundless admiration for people who are able to create on their own terms. The time, effort and care required to create Ghibli quality animation is extraordinary - no surprise that everybody smokes. But just as much as Miyazaki’s films, the studio itself is a cozy reflection of his values.
My belief is that whether purposeful or incidental, our spaces reflect our tastes. The truth of a dreary workplace is that the person at the top has no taste, or just doesn’t care. Good luck trying to do good work for someone like that.
In the Studio Ghibli office, warm wood furniture, waywardly growing plants and old bookshelves warped under the weight of books and drawings reflect the chaotic messy nature of illustration, while also imparting that you’re among friendly and talented people. The studio is distinctly more homely than the cold steel, bare walls and white or pine lacquered surfaces that characterize the modern software office.
What the movie really focuses on is Miyazaki. His 11am to 9pm work days are spent hand-drawing storyboards, reviewing the work of other animators, casting and filling other roles in pursuit of bringing his vision for the story to life. For the most part, he has other people take care the financial and marketing parts of the business.
Throughout the movie, Miyazaki’s monologues reveal a man weary of the present and cynical about the future. His final film, ‘The Wind Rises’ deals with the highs and lows that come with putting your all into building something you believe in. When he describes his resentment and self-doubt and refers to himself as manic-depressive I can understand and relate.
“I don’t ever feel happy in daily life. Really, isn’t that how it is? How could that ever be our ultimate goal? Filmmaking only brings suffering.”