Page last updated at 13:17 GMT, Sunday, 31 August 2008 14:17 UK

Venice date for animation master

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Venice

Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki's other films include Howl's Moving Castle

Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki has denied any rivalry exists between his Studio Ghibli company and US animation giant Pixar.

"The illustrators at Pixar are all people I hold dear," he told reporters at the Venice Film Festival.

"We are not in competition. Our relationship is one that is based on friendship."

However, the veteran director insisted he would continue to champion traditional hand-drawn animation over the computer-generated variety favoured by Pixar and others.

"CG is used a great deal at the moment, and at times it can be excessive," the 67-year-old said.

"Animation needs man's drawing hand, which is why I will continue to use the pencil for as long as I can."

Box office

Miyazaki was speaking ahead of the Venice premiere of his latest film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, one of two animated features from Japan in contention for this year's Golden Lion prize.

Inspired in part by Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, the movie has already taken more than 10 billion yen at the Japanese box office - more than $93m in US currency.

Hayao Miyazaki
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is animated by hand

The director's other films include Spirited Away, which won an Academy Award for best animated feature in 2003.

The lead character in Ponyo, a little boy called Sosuke, is based on Miyazaki's son Goyo, now an established animator in his own right.

Miyazaki acknowledged his advancing years at Sunday's press conference, but said his colleagues' offspring gave him the will to continue.

"When I see so many children before me I find the strength to push ahead and go on," he said in his native Japanese.

He did concede, though, that he would soon no longer be able to retain sole control over Studio Ghibli's output.

"When I do my next film I will be over 70 years old, so I will have to have help from the younger generation."

Tsunami

One memorable sequence in Ponyo sees its eponymous heroine, a goldfish who longs to become human, ride to the shore on a gigantic tidal wave.

Miyazaki, though, said he had not been inspired by the Asian tsunami of 2004 when he envisioned the scene.

"I didn't think of the tsunami when I made the film," he told reporters. "There are certain cyclical things that happen in nature than man must never deny.

"I also think it has something to do with our way of thinking in Japan and being a country made up of islands."

Ponyo has already received glowing praise, with the Hollywood Reporter describing it as "a refreshing thirst-quencher in a thus far dry line-up".

"It is a work of great fantasy and charm that will delight children ages 3 to 100," writes Deborah Young in the industry paper.

The film, which opened in Japan in July, will be released in the UK in April next year.

The other animated feature in this year's programme, Oshii Mamoru's The Sky Crawlers, will be screened at Venice on Wednesday.


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