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Hey boys and girls, we just had a wonderful chat with one of the brightest stars in modern feature animation.  After years of working in the anime trenches, writer/director Mamoru Hosoda first came to prominence with his acclaimed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, then surpassed that achievement with the striking, psychedelic Summer Wars.  Now, as part of the New York International Children's Film Festival, Hosoda brings us Wolf Children, a gorgeous, emotional tale of childhood and family love.

(Mind a small spoiler ahead, then...)

Dig it!

Wolf Children
Mamoru Hosoda

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Congratulations on winning the Japanese Academy Award in animation for Wolf Children.  Youíre three for three in that category, with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) and Summer Wars (2009) both winning previously. How do you feel about the acknowledgment?

Mamoru Hosoda:  Iím very honoured.  Each of the three films was distinctively different and for me to receive these awards each time and for the Academy to recognise each different workÖ.  All the time some people say that these movies are directed by different directors, but Iím very honoured for this recognition.

 

LMD:  After watching Wolf Children and getting teary several times during some of the emotional scenes, I wondered who you create movies for?  Who do you have in mind when you envision a project?

MH:  I always make movies with the intention of someone like the main character to watch these movies.  For instance, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time; I would have liked high school girls to watch that, mainly.  For Summer Wars, itís the extended family, and for this movie, anyone who has kids or is raising kids.  Either a couple, or a single mother or parent, but especially for this movie, I made for everyone because no one is without a parent.  Everyone has a father or mother, regardless if you live with them or you know them, everybody has two parents.  I made this movie for them.

 

LMD:  With Wolf Children, you make some interesting choices as a director:  Was there a lot of thought behind how cute to make Yuki and Ame as baby wolves?  Were they designed with consideration to younger audiences?

MH:  I wanted to show that this movie is about the kidsí growth and their learning to be independent and having an independent mind and becoming their own selves.  So, I wanted to show the children as children, very cute and being like children, and at the end of the movie, they are grown into young adults and making decisions about their lives.  I wanted to show that distinct difference between that beginning and the end for these children.

 

SPOILER AHEAD:

LMD:  Thereís that heartbreaking scene involving the childrenís father.  How much thought did you have to put into that particular moment as itís so sensitive?

MH:  As a child grows up, thereís a lot of things happening in their lives, so part of it sometimes is losing a parent. For myself, being the father of a five-month old baby, if something ever happened to me before he grows up to become and adult, my whole wish is that he grows up as what he wants to be; healthy and strong.  That is my hope.  In Japan right now, there are a lot of unmarried people; people tend to not have that many kids or are waiting later to have kids.  In that type of generation, I wanted people to see how great having kids is and raising a child is.  That was something I wanted to depict; how great it is to raise a child and be a parent.  And for the movie to have that moment of losing their father was necessary to have the kids grow up and have something to affect their lives.

END SPOILER

 

LMD:  One thing I love about The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars and Wolf Children is that either your main protagonist or the movieís strongest character is a female.  What is it about telling stories that revolve around women that you find interesting?

MH:  The reason why Iím having all the female leads or having mostly females tell the stories in my film is because I think womenís lives are way richer than males.  Because womenís lives are very complex and have a lot of choices; whether you stay at home as a mother, you work, whether you have children or not have children.  All those different options and choices that women have that make their lives much richer than menís, I think, and I think, frankly, menís lives are very black and white: You either win or lose.  Thatís basically what itís about for guys.  So, I just think that the female lives are way more suited to be the subject of movies.

 

LMD:  Wolf Children is a gorgeous-looking film.  I wondered about one scene where the family is playing in the snowy woods of their new home for the first time and whether that was a mix of live-action photography with CG animation?

MH:  Thatís actually hand-drawn.  Itís basically all hand-drawn, but we did use CG to make a little bit of depth; put the depth into the background, but itís basically all hand-drawn.  For instance, the shot of the spider web; I get a lot of questions if that was actually live action - if we used a live-action image - but that was actually hand-drawn, too.  A lot of people say that about a lot of scenes in the movie; that they are very realistic, that theyíre like a photograph.
 

LMD:  Is directing your own story more comfortable for you?  And can you please tell us what makes your collaboration with screenwriter Satoko Okudera, who youíve worked with for all your major features, so successful?

MH:  Before I was doing my own productions, I was inspired by old western and foreign movies, or paintings, but recently more and more Iím inspired by whatís around me, what happens around me.  Something thatís very close to me.  For instance, like a conversation that I had with my wife at dinner; things like that really inspire me, so that brings me to write about something close to me.  Thatís probably why I try to create it myself.

When you want to create something thatís close to your own life, working with someone like Satoko Okudera becomes very essential and very meaningful because she puts so much humanity into what she does.  So that was very important for me.

 

LMD:  What did you learn working as an animator on television shows that helps you as a feature director?

MH:  I have a lot of experience from that.  I used to work on the Sunday morning anime at Toei.  Through working on those childrenís shows, I learned how to reach to those children; how to write and create for those kids.  I honed my skills through those experiences of doing what I needed to do to make films for children.  To make childrenís shows with ethics and working together with collaborative efforts, and working on those childrenís shows taught me the importance of those elements, and that is what I brought with me to work on these movies of my own.

 

LMD:  How is a film born in your head?  Do you come upon or create an interesting story first, or do characters appear in your mind?

MH:  I probably start with the story itself.  For instance, in the case of Wolf Children, the idea came about because of my dream to be a parent.  Thatís where it came from, then I started thinking about when the parenting starts and where does it end?  When I think about that, then I thought about a story, then I thought about what type of characters would fit in this story.  Thatís how I started the process.

 

LMD:  Does the choice of voice actor ever influence their characterís looks or gestures or the script?  I feel like I see Aoi Miyazaki and Takao Osawa in the looks of Hana and the Wolfman.  Even with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Riisa Naka (Makoto), Takuya Ishida (Chiaki), Mitsutaka Itakura (Kousuke), and Summer Warsí Nanami Sakuraba (Natsuki) and Ryunosuke Kamiki (Kenji) could easily play live action versions of their characters.

MH:  I actually saw it the same way; that the characters actually started to look like the seiyuu.  But when I was drawing the characters, nobody was cast, so thereís no way that I was able imagine these people to voice the characters.  But when you audition and go through the process of casting, the image of the character within you is already built up and created, so you actually look for somebody that actually suits those characters.  I guess in that way it goes both ways; your character has actually picked the seiyuu.  Thatís how I think it happened, but, yes, I myself saw that, too.

That grandpa in the country; I actually had Clint Eastwood in mind when I was drawing the character, but once Bunta Sugawara voiced the character, I couldnít see anyone else besides Sugawara-san.  He started to look like him exactly. {Laughs}

 

LMD:  Youíre so adept at storytelling, as Wolf Children proves so well.  Have you considered expanding to live-action film?

MH:  I get asked that a lot, if I want to do a live-action feature film, but I just love anime - making anime Ė so, I donít think I would do live action.  However, the directors that I like are mostly live-action directors, but at the same time, there are far more live action than anime movies.

 

LMD:  I understand you set up your production company, Studio Chizu for this film?  Why did you do that and can you tell us your goals for it?

MH:  I created my studio because I wanted to make a studio that specifically produces feature-length theatrical animated movies.  There are only two animation studios that only do feature-length theatrical movies; one is mine, Studio Chizu, and then Studio Ghibli.

 

LMD:  Will Studio Chizu specialise in hand-drawn animation?

MH:  Not necessarily.  We did work with the CG studios on Wolf Children.  I canít really say right now; we do hand-drawn right now, but in the future, you never know, we might do full CG.  I canít really predict.

 

LMD:  I thought Summer Wars would have looked great in 3D.  3D animated films are a big trend, have you any plans for a 3D feature?

MH:  The scene in Summer Wars, of course, Oz, we actually made it using 3D imaging.  It wasnít 3D technology, but it put in the depth.  It couldíve been Summer Wars.  It depends on if I come up with a story that is suitable for 3D, then probably yes.

 

LMD:  What is coming up next for Mamoru Hosoda?

MH:  Because of the success of this movie, Wolf Children, Iím fortunate to be able to be working on my next film, but itís still at the brainstorming stage.  Itís not concrete, so just look forward to the next one, please.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

    March 11th, 2013

 

Special thanks to Chiho Mori of FUNimation for her invaluable assistance.

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive photos by L.M.D.

Film Stills Courtesy of  FUNimation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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