It couldn’t have been easy being Hayao Miyazaki‘s kid. Dad is heralded as an unparalleled genius; the pressure for a young Goro Miyazaki to do the same must have been astounding. It’s probably why, at a young age, he cast aside a career in animation for the completely unrelated field of landscape agriculture. Yet eventually the call of anime became too great (or he may have stumbled upon some mystical forest spirit that willed him to change careers), and about ten years ago Goro began directing animated features of his own.
With the retirement of the elder Miyazaki, all eyes are on Goro. What will he do next? Where will he take Studio Ghibli? Now we know: a 3D CGI television series. Gasp and faint accordingly. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the younger Miyazaki will direct a series entitled Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, an adaptation of a similarly-titled children’s book by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. The protagonist, Ronja (obviously) is the daughter of a bandit chief (more obviously), and the series will follow her and her family’s adventures in their magical forest home.
To state the obvious, Studio Ghibli is not known for its 3D animation. Yes, Miyazaki would throw in a bit of CGI here and there (fun fact: the first-ever Ghibli film to feature CGI was 1994’s Pom Poko, a film about magical raccoon scrotums), but there’s never been a Ghibli film made entirely of CGI. When one looked at Ghibli, and then glanced over at every single other major animated film on the market, Ghibli was the biggest (lone?) full supporter of traditional animating techniques. Maybe they can put those traditional techniques to good use and create some new CGI revelation — a twist of computerized and traditional Japanese art that puts all others to shame.
Or maybe not. Consider that Ghibli’s more or less a newbie at the 3D game, and they’re already stretching themselves thin to fit a TV show format. The reason Pixar animation looks so damn good is because Pixar has been focusing its time and money on CGI for decades. They’ve pushed themselves and Disney’s wallet to get the best product possible. Ghibli has relatively little experience in the third dimension, and they’ll have to pull ten times the material (depending on the episode count) out of a budget that’s assuredly less than what any major American 3D studio would get.
If anyone can do it, it’s the folks at Studio Ghibli, yet they still have some elephant-high hurdles to leap with this one. No one wants Ronja the Robber’s Daughter to age like nearly every other CGI film (i.e. like fat-free cottage cheese rather than a fine Merlot).
But the success of Ronja is a question mark at this point. Goro Miyazaki has two films under his belt — 2012’s well-received From Up on Poppy Hill, and 2006’s Tales from Earthsea, which won Japan’s coveted Bunshun Raspberry Award (like our Golden Raspberry, basically). Ronja could be another step up on the quality ladder, or it could be a broken rung that sends the younger Miyazaki crashing through the floorboards and into the basement.
Either way, expect Studio Ghibli to make more decisions like this on a regular basis. In the past few years, the studio has been pushing every boundary it’s come across. We’ve seen Ghibli create its first live-action anything (a short film, entitled Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo), transform Princess Mononoke into a stage show, and work with game developers to animate the Playstation game Ni no Kuni. The latter two were both sell-out hits, so I’d expect more of this kind of thing from now on. Now that Dad’s away, Goro Miyazaki can finally throw the CGI/live action/TV/video game house party he’s always wanted.