Featuring Isao Takahata
Interviewer: Your first venture as a producer was in the movie “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind,” am I correct, Mr. Takahata?
Takahata: Yes, you are correct. Up until that point, I had always been in the director’s seat. So, when asked if I was open to testing the waters of a producer’s role, it did take me by surprise. But as Mr. Miyazaki’s friend, I was eager to aid in crafting a film that mirrored his vision, so I accepted the role.
Interviewer: The role of a producer probably has various challenges that are not well-known to the public.
Takahata: To be honest, it wasn’t as challenging as you might think (laughs). It might come across as odd, but the dedicated efforts of the entire team made the film a success, thus making my job fairly easy. The role of a producer can take on various shapes and forms. Some producers spend years developing a project, raising funds themselves, and even selecting the director and cast. Meanwhile, other producers simply provide the funding and leave the rest up to others. In my case, I was given the production budget from Tokuma Shoten and Hakuhodo, and I handled the execution on set. So, I guess you could say I was a ‘supporting’ producer.
Interviewer: Surely being a supporting producer must have its own set of challenges?
Takahata: Not really. For this, I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to all who were involved in the film. First and foremost, Mr. Miyazaki allowed me to produce this film and supported me throughout the process. It’s rare to find such respect in the film industry. This was made possible by Tokuma Shoten and the people at Hakuhodo who not only understood Mr. Miyazaki as the original author, screenwriter, and director, but also showed passion for ‘Nausicaä.’ They valued authors in the modern-day Japan despite being the publisher. Both Tokuma Shoten and Hakuhodo had a hands-off approach when it came to the funds, which made my job easier.
Moving on, when we began this project, we didn’t have a firm production base. That’s where Topcraft came in. Topcraft, already reputable in the U.S., showed flexibility in their work as compared to the current Japanese animation production schedule. They willingly modified their established system, even sacrificing their holidays to ensure the success of ‘Nausicaä.’ Without this base, we couldn’t have made ‘Nausicaä.’ Mr. Miyazaki was no exception. He had to adjust his methods, otherwise, the film wouldn’t have been made. Although it’s hard for the staff to change their established system, Topcraft and its staff persevered, despite the immense psychological burden. I cannot thank Topcraft and its president, Toru Hara enough.
The same applies to the external staff who worked with Mr. Miyazaki for the first time, like animation director Kazuhide Tomonaga, art director Mitsuki Nakamura, and key animators Itsuko Kawasaki, and Takashi Nakamura. They embraced the ‘Miyazaki style’ before injecting their individuality into the work. Their commitment was truly commendable.
As for Mr. Miyazaki himself, he was a man fueled by passion. There was never a concern about late arrivals or work delays due to directorial decisions. His works’ depth and intrigue always meet the producer’s expectations. From the production company’s standpoint, however, there were scheduling and management challenges, but everything was handled well within the short timeframe. As a producer, I am deeply grateful to all involved.
Interviewer: Were there any moments during the production that stood out to you or left a lasting impression?
Takahata: Around December of 1983, I had a strong feeling that this film would be a resounding success. This was a first for me, a kind of gut feeling. When working on my projects, I never contemplated success or failure. I was solely focused on bringing my vision to life without considering the commercial aspects. With ‘Nausicaä, though, I was convinced of its impending success. My only concern was the schedule, everything else was reassuring.
Interviewer: What factors led to this steadfast belief? What about the film gave you that conviction?
Takahata: ‘Nausicaä’ might not have had widespread recognition and the competition was fierce, with rival companies heavily promoting their films. Even so, in terms of talent, ‘Nausicaä’ was unrivaled. I was sure it would create an immersive cinematic experience. Furthermore, there was a fortunate alignment with the recent trend of successful films embedding ‘religion’ or ‘philosophy’ at their core, though Mr. Miyazaki might not have realized this.
Previously, for American films to be successful, they had to revolve around themes of ‘love’ or ‘friendship.’ But recently, films subtly incorporating ‘religion’ or ‘philosophy’ have seen success. These elements serve as the foundation of the work, and even when portraying ‘love’ or ‘friendship,’ it’s becoming increasingly important to reflect on these profound aspects. ‘Nausicaä’ exhibits such elements to a degree.
There’s also a strong desire among the audience for the unprecedented. This goes beyond presenting an alternate world; it’s about showing something groundbreaking. In this aspect, ‘Nausicaä’ stands unmatched, delivering a dense and captivating narrative. The film’s pacing is relentless, leaving no room for dull moments. If a film of this caliber fails, it questions the very nature of success. That’s how deep my conviction goes.
Interviewer: As a producer, would you give this movie a perfect score?
Takahata: Yes, from a producer’s perspective, it’s a total win. On the other hand, as a friend of Mr. Miyazaki, my personal score would be thirty points.
Interviewer: Thirty points?
Takahata: Considering Mr. Miyazaki’s abilities, I’d give it a 30 out of 100. There’s no doubt that he flawlessly adapted the original work into a film. But if we were expecting this film to elevate Mr. Miyazaki to new heights, then it scores a 30. Mr. Miyazaki is not just a director but an artist. From his perspective, he had a clear vision for the adaptation from the get-go, and I believe he succeeded. Thus, it’s no surprise that there’s a slight difference in perception between Mr. Miyazaki and myself.
When I accepted the producer’s role, as stated in my announcement, my wish was for the film to reflect on the present day from a future perspective, one thousand years after a massive industrial civilization collapse. However, I don’t think the film fully achieved that. Mr. Miyazaki was likely aware of this. With the tight schedule, even though various thoughts were considered, Mr. Miyazaki naturally wanted to captivate and entertain the audience. His aim was to bring to life the vivid imagery presented in the original work, which is expected since the original work lacked color and movement. The film became a masterpiece. However, I feel some regret that the aspect of ‘shedding light on the present day’ didn’t come through strongly enough in the film.
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