January 12, 2010

Salon: The Aesthetic Gulf Between Miyazaki and Pixar

In place of the conventional, reductive versions of morality and psychology shown in Pixar’s films, Miyazaki gives us something closer to actual experience, treating good and evil not as a binary equation but as a sliding scale and presenting people (and characters) that often don’t know why they do what they do and latch on to reductive explanations at their peril. Characters can be scary and then friendly, threatening and then reassuring, honest and then misleading; they can shift identities and change shape, succumb to spells and then break out of them. […]

Parents will testify that a child who sees his or her first Miyazaki film after a steady diet of Pixar and Disney is apt to experience a perhaps troubled reaction, much deeper than “That was fun” or “I liked it.” Miyazaki challenges every preconceived notion about family entertainment that Pixar and its ilk conditions children (and adults) to have. Pixar’s very best work this decade — “The Incredibles,” “Wall-E” and “Up,” and moments of “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo” — is wonderful; it gives children lots to see and a fair amount to feel. But Miyazaki’s work does more than that. His art is engrossing and beautiful but also challenging. He urges children to understand themselves and the world, and then shows them how. The Babysitter mesmerizes children. Grandfather changes their lives.

From Salon’s “Directors of the Decade” countdown (Pixar and Miyazaki share the #2 slot). I think it’s a bit reductive to count “Pixar” as a director (why not specifically highlight Brad Bird or Andrew Stanton’s work?), but I know what they’re getting at. Pixar represents the best storytelling in American animation and both approaches have their valid points, but it’s interesting how much stronger of a moral stamp Miyazaki has on Studio Ghibli’s output.

(Via Mayerson on Animation)