The opportunity to work alongside Director Miyazaki was a profound learning experience for me.
Interviewer: Mr. Ando, you first served as animation director under Miyazaki in “On Your Mark.” How was your recent work experience?
Ando: “Many often perceive Director Miyazaki’s style as simple and gentle. However, the truth is that his style isn’t fixed. His desired portrayals are always evolving, and he continually experiments to express his ideas in the best way possible. He regularly notes that he ‘draws as if sketching,’ implying that his work captures the essence of humans existing within his imaginative world. There are living beings within his imagery that breathe reality. When these are represented in drawings, a two-dimensional surface cannot entirely capture them, and a variety of factors blend to form the final image. One might assume that his primary objective is to produce images that evoke softness and kindness. But upon observing Miyazaki’s work, there’s a deeper layer — a palpable realism he encapsulates within the term ‘animation.'”
Interviewer: Could you elaborate on your responsibilities as animation director in this project?
Ando: “In this project, my task was to refine Director Miyazaki’s sketches into cleaner drawings. The primary challenge was capturing the director’s intent in the most faithful manner. This project had a difficult theme, and Miyazaki himself was also striving to produce artwork capable of absorbing its complexity. I was constantly pondering how to bring the art in line with the demands of the project. Even though many elements are incorporated into Miyazaki’s drawings, the lines themselves are often rough. I’d meticulously pick these lines, trying to infer the intent behind them. However, Miyazaki would often remark, ‘That’s not it.’ Naturally, I was refining based on the director’s rough sketches. But sometimes I struggled to discern what was missing, especially with San. Even my best interpretation of the original sketches could be off, implying a deeper, intrinsic issue. It appeared the director also occasionally realized the disconnect only upon viewing my compiled lines.”
Interviewer: Did you handle the character model sheets for animation?
Ando: “Yes, I did the initial ones. There weren’t any explicit directives about what to draw. These character sheets are more like guideposts for the animation process, aiming to align with the director’s vision and to grasp the characters’ essence.”
Interviewer: What are your reflections now that the project is complete?
Ando: “Having the chance to witness Director Miyazaki’s work firsthand was invaluable. I accepted the role of animation director partly because I sensed that this could be the last time the director would handle everything himself. I wanted to seize this opportunity to learn up close. However, I wish I had been more assertive, suggesting alternative approaches to what the director proposed. When the director asserts, ‘This is right,’ one can become complacent. Although I acknowledged Hayao Miyazaki’s exceptional skills as a director, approaching this project with a more challenging mindset might have been beneficial for future considerations.”
Masashi Ando: Born in Hiroshima in 1969, Ando joined Studio Ghibli in 1990 as a second batch trainee. After serving as animation director on “Spirited Away” among others, he transitioned to freelance work. He served as animation director for numerous theater works including “Tokyo Godfathers,” “Paprika,” and “A Letter to Momo”. Most recently, he took on the roles of scriptwriter and animation director for Studio Ghibli’s latest film, “When Marnie Was There”.