STUDIO GHIBLI Perhaps never would have existed if Suzuki, now 73, had not found a way to overcome Miyazaki’s anger. The two met in 1979, when, as editor of an animated magazine, Suzuki showed up at Miyazaki’s workplace for an interview. (I speak with Suzuki in a separate online session, in which he is as talkative as Miyazaki is elusive.) As Suzuki recalls, the filmmaker, in the throes of pre-production on his first feature, wanted nothing to do with it. him and accused him of “scamming the children” by making them buy his magazine. Rather than give up, Suzuki grabbed the desk next to Miyazaki’s and started working on the magazine there. The men hunched over without speaking all day and night, until Miyazaki finally got up to go home at 4 a.m. Another day passed in silence. It wasn’t until the third day that Miyazaki started talking.
Thus was born a friendship that would turn into an intimate creative collaboration: For her next film, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”, Miyazaki consulted Suzuki on issues ranging from the complexity of the drawing style to the final scene, which Suzuki persuaded him to change (in the first version, the heroine simply dies, which Suzuki believed to have deprived the public of catharsis). After the release of this film, Suzuki realized that they would have to start their own studio because no one else would foot the bill for such labor-intensive productions. Although he has held various positions at Studio Ghibli over the decades (including that of president and, currently, producer), his real role is that of Miyazaki’s confidant and advisor. They spoke almost every day and now meet once a week – during my conversation with Miyazaki, he notes that Suzuki is sitting next to him, offscreen, urging him to finish his new movie, which has so far took four years – and when if they don’t agree on an idea, Suzuki, at least on its own, tends to win.
Suzuki tells me that when Miyazaki came to see him a little over a year after he retired to tell him he wanted to do another movie, “I was like ‘Give me a break.'” the work was behind him. When his last film, “The Wind Rises”, came out in 2013, it did well at the box office but didn’t reach its previous four feature films, possibly because it dealt directly with the guilt of Japan. in war, an always uncomfortable subject. But eventually Suzuki gave in because, he says, “Studio Ghibli’s goal is to make Miyazaki films.” What will happen then when Miyazaki retires for good? His eldest son, Goro, 54, has made a few films for the studio, including the fully computer-animated film “Earwig and the Witch,” released in the US last winter with mostly critical reviews that have fewer issues. with the film itself than with the break in the Ghibli tradition. (Miyazaki’s youngest son Keisuke, 51, is an engraver.)