Readers respond to Laura Miller's essay on Hayao Miyazaki, "Wizard of Light and Shadow."

By Salon Staff
Published July 14, 2003 7:00PM (EDT)

Read the story.

Thank you so much for giving Miyazaki the recognition he deserves. Leaving out the best landscapes you'll ever see outside of oil painting (or real life), he uses the best kind of magical realism: the kind that makes reality magical.

Disney seems to think that it isn't worth its money to release "Nausicaa," which is a shame; the comic book is fantastic. Maybe another box-office success in America will encourage the company (or else a massive Miyazaki anti-boycott. Everybody, go rent his movies!).

-- Micah Drayton

Get real. Frank and Ollie and the rest of Disney's nine old men, not to mention James Baxter (currently working), can beat out Hayao with their drawing hands tied behind their backs.

Miyazaki is a talented storyteller, but his animation (and all Japanese carbon-copy animators) will never have the life and bounce of the classic American draftsmen.

-- Ted Bramble

Thank you so much for your wonderful profile of Miyazaki! I would wager to say that not only is Miyazaki the greatest animator ever, he is also one of our greatest living filmmakers.

His films -- while fantasy -- capture the mundane aspects of life and uplift them to great importance. The "slowness" of movies like "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Princess Mononoke" exist because he lingers on the little details so many of us don't bother to notice.

And quite frankly, no director has ever captured children on film with such compassion and intelligence while avoiding the usual pitfalls of cliché and sentimentality. Totoro, while ostensibly a "happy" film, is infused with an underlying melancholy. Yes, these little girls are discovering themselves in their new country home, but they are also suffering from the illness and absence of their mother.

I think Laura Miller was a little too harsh on "Castle in the Sky," however -- I believe that the main characters are quite compelling. Pazu's quest to redeem his father's memory serves as the underpinning of the film.

Again, thanks so much for featuring Miyazaki. It's so nice to see him get the recognition he deserves.

-- Eff Barrus

Laura Miller wrote a good, thoughtful article about Miyazaki, and she's right that the Catbus in "My Neighbor Totoro" is a wondrous creation you have to see. But because she asserted that Miyazaki is the all-time great animator, I do want to draw attention to two other animators whose movies have meant much more to me:

1) Jan Svankmajer. Image and Kimstim have just released two DVDs collecting 14 of his 26 short films (please, somebody release the remaining ones!). Svankmajer is so powerfully eerie and unusual that I'm reluctant to even apply the term "animator" to him because doing so implies that he can be placed into a genre. His work has the obsessive intensity of Dreyer and "The Night of the Hunter." For example, his 1982 short "Dimensions of Dialogue" contains Archimboldo-inpired heads made out of vegetables, kitchen supplies and office supplies devouring and vomiting each other. The images create a nightmarish intensity that a letter to the editor really can't do justice to. Suffice it to say that his first feature-length work, "Alice," is the one adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland" that's wilder than the original.

2) Martin Rosen. He's created only two animated features: the well-known "Watership Down" and the forgotten masterpiece "The Plague Dogs," a dark story about two escaped lab animals that can terrify adults the way Bambi terrifies children. For me, this movie is the greatest achievement of cel animation. It will rip your heart out and leave you speechless in ways you'd never think a cartoon could do. I've shown it to game hunters with Ted Nugent's politics, and even they found it gut-wrenching. Alas, it is available only in the U.K. on a region-free DVD, in a truncated version that censors one of its most shocking moments of violence (there are at least two moments in the uncensored version that can stand comparison with the shower scene in "Psycho"; one is intact in the censored version). Anchor Bay says it wanted to release the full version but was unable to find it. Please, if anyone knows where a complete copy is, let them know where to get it.

-- Mike Russell

Salon Staff

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