The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013) – Inside the World of Studio Ghibli

From “Castle in the Sky” and “When Marnie Was There”, Studio Ghibli is a kingdom of dreams and madness. While waiting for the Hayao Miyazaki upcoming film, “How Do You Live?”, this documentary tells the slice of life from the kingdom. Taken from the perspective of the director, Mami Sunada, it explores Studio Ghibli; set in a production of two upcoming films in 2012: “The Wind Rises” and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”. With a simple storytelling and reportage style, it tells the history of Studio Ghibli with lots of footage. Also, it explores how the process of Studio Ghibli creates its animations. It could be every day, Hayao Miyazaki’s past, and early meetings why Miyazaki starts this all.

There is no interview, making this film isn’t just a drama. The important point of this documentary is how the society of the kingdom works. There are so many questions and actions from all the workers at the kingdom. And I think again, Studio Ghibli was a studio like Disney, Sony Corporation, or anything. However, it’s too small to produce all of the films we already knew from the beginning. On the other hand, “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” has a lot of cat shot, Ushiko, Studio Ghibli’s cat. The cat was free to surround all the rooms of the studio. The cat also though why Miyazaki talked with these people.

In short, Studio Ghibli is a dream and a paradise. You get a lot of imagination, but there are no special things when you look closely. Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki were the founder of the kingdom. Because of them, we can watch “Spirited Away”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Grave of the Fireflies” and so on. During this time, we always imagine what Studio Ghibli is like. Certainly, how does a place where all dreams can come true? However, this film gives you information about the studio, their daily lives, etc.

There is the sun, leaves, trees, and the plants in the entire of the whole kingdom. Sunlight penetrates the window and slowly, we enter a building’s interior. The buildings of Studio Ghibli are full of paintings of their production films. Yet, you never imagine how busy Miyazaki is every day. He only takes time off on Sundays and every day, he works from morning to evening. He checked everything including the activities of the other animators. Quickly, he moved fast including determining the timing of animation and determining a film poster.

At certain hours, he also often follows calisthenics, a typical Japanese office worker. On the other hand, Suzuki, as the producer, works in another room. He dealt with the business of Studio Ghibli on the side of Miyazaki being creative in his room. Suzuki held many meetings with other divisions, managing merchants, museums, distribution, marketing, and others. We learn that animation doesn’t only deal with creativity. But, it’s about how you have connections, like a business. Because of the fact, Miyazaki doesn’t want to make films only for children. However, he created films so that everyone could enjoy them.

Hayao Miyazaki became a central figure in this documentary, becoming great energy in directing his kingdom. Every day, it’s repeating. For Miyazaki, a three-hour routine in the morning is a foundation in his life. He influences how the world works. On Sundays, he couldn’t relax at all. He had to use his day to clean up the river around his house. Miyazaki is an environmental activist, persistent, and prohibits other staff from using nuclear power. Ecocritics is a central theme in Miyazaki films, how humans and nature can coexist. On the other hand, they can damage each other as well.

Speaking of Hayao Miyazaki’s daily life, Isao Takahata is the opposite. They have long worked together and become rivals. They were encouraging each other yet not uncommon for them to be quarrelsome. Takahata takes a lot of time and even Miyazaki doubts his film would never finish. They contradict each other and are difficult to separate. However, Miyazaki admitted that if there were no Takahata, Studio Ghibli would never exist. Takahata always delayed all his decision. He didn’t have much time but also finally succeeded in releasing “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”. Except if the released add far from the specified schedule.

There is a historical moment. Hideaki Anno, the director of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, could be trapped in Studio Ghibli. And it’s so funny to know and to see. Miyazaki is very fond of children and children are his inspiration for making these films. He said that the children were innocent and didn’t want to tell them about the apocalypse. Every morning, he didn’t forget to say hello to kindergarten students when he was leaving for work. And it’s really sad to see Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement decision after “The Wind Rises”. For Miyazaki, “The Wind Rises” was the first film to make him cry when the first premiere.

“The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” is a great documentary about the maestro of Studio Ghibli. At the end of the movie, Miyazaki walks towards the roof of Studio Ghibli and doing what he often does. He enjoys the wind and waiting for a special guest, Takahata. Miyazaki, Suzuki, and Takahata are the founders and guardians of the kingdom. However, a difficult decision when he still doesn’t know where the kingdom would be taken next. It’s just a small kingdom but full of dreams and inspiration. Reality inspires art then inspires reality again. To sum up, it’s an endless cycle of how art, influence, and creativity never stop.

4 out of 5 stars.