AN EXTENSIVE INTERVIEW WITH FOREIGN STUDIO GHIBLI DUB DIRECTOR GUALTIERO CANNARSI
Studio Ghibli: a studio that, brought under the brilliant supervision of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki, has made many animation masterpieces. Their unique combination of dazzling animation and art, lovely storytelling and great soundtracks has led to the fact that their films have been released all over the world. Including the country that Hayao Miyazaki is so much in love with, the land of Porco Rosso: Italy. Which is exactly the country we are bringing you today, as recently GhibliWorld.com had the chance to sit down with foreign Studio Ghibli dub director Gualtiero Cannarsi to have an extensive personal interview.
30-years-old Gualtiero Cannarsi was born in Vasto, Italy and has played a crucial role in bringing the films of Studio Ghibli to Italy. As a scriptwriter and dubbing director he was most recently responsible for the Italian release of Tales from Earthsea. Not only that, the same roles he fulfilled for the Italian versions of Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicań of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbour Totoro, Porco Rosso and Whisper of the Heart. But that’s not all… In addition, he also worked as scriptwriter and dubbing supervisor on the Italian versions of Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Pom Poko. Needless to say, Gualtiero Cannarsi has built up a vast amount of expertise and love for Studio Ghibli films.
To start off, let us first talk about the work you did concerning the Italian versions of the various Ghibli films. How did you get involved in bringing these famous films to the Italian people?
"As for my personal involvement, it all began with the (in)famous 'Italian Mononoke Hime fiasco' by Buena Vista Italia (BVI). When Mononoke Hime came out in Italian cinemas, it was plagued with terrible and deliberate script alterations from the original (Japanese), and all sorts of mistakes. From such a starting point, it is easy to figure the general level of the translation and localization job: as you may guess, the Italian translation had been very sloppily derived from the English one. On top of that, none of the Italian professionals who worked on the Italian dub knew anything about Mr Miyazaki's movies, Studio Ghibli, Japanese animation in general or even Japanese culture and language as a whole. Again, you can figure the final result.
Of course, this made quite a bit of fuss, which eventually came to the ears of the then-new Italian BV executive director, Mr. Roberto Morville. Not a Ghibli fan himself, actually, but quite an enlightened manager: realising the cultural issues involved in dealing with Ghibli movies, he scouted for someone who was not an illiterate on the matter. That is how I came around, for I was (and I am still) not just the only Japanese culture and language expert in the Italian professional dubbing field, but also a devoted Ghibli enthusiast to say the least. Well, all of this happened in 2001. At that time, I already had a pretty fair experience in Japanese animation dubbing, since I had been working in the field for about six years, yet I was still young and had never worked for 'big companies', so I would say that Mr. Morville took quite a gamble with me after all.
Eventually, I was appointed as a scriptwriter and dubbing consultant for Majo no Takkyubin, the first Ghibli dub by Buena Vista Italia after Mononoke Hime. My assignment as 'dubbing consultant' actually sounds pretty vague, I guess 'project director' would be more appropriate. Out of my own decisions, I literally trashed the American reworked script for Majo no Takkyubin, then obtained the Japanese original, got it translated by a bi-mother tongue professional translator (also a Studio Ghibli fan, also brought into the project by myself), and went on like this as with the scriptwriting. Then I personally suggested voice actors and actresses for the voice tests. Specifically, I requested - and obtained - that both Kiki and Ursula dubbed by the same actress, just as in the original Japanese dub (the Italian dub is very possibly the only western dub actually following the original on this subject). To ensure that the dub acting would be as true to the original Japanese as possible, I also supervised every single minute of the dub recording. That is essentially what I did on Majo no Takkyubin, and after that, what I was again asked to do on Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa. In that case, I ended up directing some dubbing sessions on my own. And then, all the following Studio Ghibli movies dubbed by Buena Vista Italia after Laputa, I wrote the script and directed the dubbing by myself, yet unfortunately all of them still remain unreleased in any form.
Meanwhile, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi came around, winning all sorts of international movie awards. This brought about quite an interest in the title, whose Italian distribution rights were acquired by another company than Buena Vista, called Mikado. Unfortunately, the Italian dub was again created in total disrespect of the original Japanese, especially in scriptwriting. As a result, story changes and dialogue alterations arose again, if not to the same extent as in Mononoke Hime, still to a shameful degree.
Consequently, when a third company (called Lucky Red) licensed Hauru no Ugoku Shiro for Italian distribution, the much-frustrated Italian Studio Ghibli fandom community came up with a signed petition to formally request my involvement in the project and finally have a decently translated and dubbed Miyazaki movie on the Italian silver screens. That was basically because they appreciated my work on Kiki and Laputa particularly in terms of trueness to the original. On a totally surprising turn of events, this petition did hit the spot, and I was appointed as full project director for the localization of Hauru no Ugoku Shiro.
Again, my work with Hauru no Ugoku Shiro satisfied both the Italian Studio Ghibli fandom and Studio Ghibli itself, so I was subsequently requested to fill the same working position for the following Gedo Senki, licensed to the same Italian distributor as Howl's."
I can imagine things like deeper meanings and influences by Japanese culture complicate making a dub which has not lost these kind of things. How does one start the making of a good dub?
"As a general rule, I think that any kind of dub (or translation, for a script) should be regarded as a work of linguistic intermediation, in the sense of 'cultural interpreting'. Of course, any kind of interpreting begins with a (possibly very deep) understanding of what you are supposed to interpret – say, the original work you are working on –, so that you can subsequently render it in another (your own) language. It is like a two-faced curtain: from one side you have to understand a foreign original work, in its full meaning and contents, and then from another side you have to render all of that, reproducing the very same meaning and contents in another language. This is the basic logic of any translation, I think, and has always been my very starting point since my early days in high school, when I used to translate classical Latin poets and authors such as Vergilius, Cicero or Caesar.
Naturally, a translation is nothing like made of mere contents, it is also a matter of form. And when you are translating an artistic expression, which an animated movie may be considered, the 'formalistic side' of the matter gets to be more and more crucial. This of course applies to the scriptwriting style as well as to the acting style of a dub. But the pattern is always the same: you have to get the original in order to be able to reproduce it in its deepest essence.
Of course this kind of 'deep understanding' of the original, which is the starting point of my work, is not something you can achieve just by watching a movie. You have to get as close as possible to the original author's intentions and thoughts within his own work. So, you have to collect documentation about the particular movie you are working on and the author’s personal background. The more you can get, the better job you can do. Clearly, having a deep knowledge of the national culture where the movie was born and bred is also another critical point to understand it: you really cannot get a Japanese movie beyond a certain point if you do not know Japanese culture enough to ‘get the feeling’ of Japan. If you look closely, you can realise all of this is, basically, just a proper hermeneutic path, which I think any translator, localizator or whatever sort of interpreter should go throughout.
All in all, my main point is that providing a good translation or interpretation of any foreign work should not result in a localized work that just sounds native in our language: that would actually be a different work from the original! A proper localization of a foreign work should always result in something *expressed in our language*, yet retaining the highest possible percentage of the original (foreign) contents, flavour and cultural connotations. This way, a translated, localized work, such as any dubbed movie, may truly result as a real opportunity for the public: the great opportunity of confronting with a different culture, presented in its integrity, with the eventual chance of getting charmed by it, charmed by something new in their lives. This is what any translator should aim for: giving the public a chance of ‘touching’ the unique and distinctive culture which produced the original work he translates. This is the very point of all the efforts in ‘staying true to the original’ in a localization job. Otherwise, I think such an inevitably brute and violent job as ‘translation’ could not be justified nor accepted in itself."
So how about your work on Goro Miyazaki’s Gedo Senki, what kind of preparation took place in advance? Did you for example read Le Guin’s books or were you already familiar with her books?
"In the Gedo Senki case, the preparation work has really been quite a difficult task. That is because, you see, Gedo Senki basically refers to ‘various different original works’. That may sound impossible, but if you think about it, you will see that first you have the original Japanese script for the movie, and then you have the original books, of course, but then again those books exist in *three* different versions you have to take into account: original English (canon), Japanese translation (that is, the one actually read and used as a reference by Mr Miyazaki Goro) and two different Italian translations (those read by your own public in this case, which you should also consider for cross-reference translations, etc). As a result, I had to work keeping in my mind this tremendous amount of material, which often resulted not even to be very consistent (i.e. both Italian translations being very sloppy, yet still a reference someway present in the mind of the Italian fandom of the novels).
Luckily enough, I also had a chance to communicate directly with the Studio Ghibli international department, from which I was provided with an official ‘internal’ English translation for the movie script, particularly emphasizing all the direct references from the original books in term of specific dialogues and terminology (otherwise one should read the entire Japanese translated book collection to get all of them by himself). Plus, I also had my chance to directly enquire Studio Ghibli about various specific issues as they arose during the scriptwriting process. Apart from all of that, of course I went quite deeply into the Earthsea ‘world’ myself, trying to get the essence of both its atmosphere and meaning.
Yet, something I would strongly emphasize is: no matter how a movie is inspired by an original book, a movie is anyway a work of its own, and of its own director on top of everyone and everything else. Particularly Mr Miyazaki Goro put very deep meaning and personal views into his Gedo Senki, which I appreciated very much. So I think the first point to provide a good localization work, in terms of preparation, is always to ‘come as close as possible’ to the director’s intention within the movie to be localized. So that means I also hunted for and read whatever bit of interview, production log or diary, whatever I could find referring to Mr Miyazaki Goro’s views about animation in general and Gedo Senki in particular. It is his movie, his work, and his own ‘world’. Of course you have to slip into it if you want to understand it to the level of being capable of rendering it into another language than his own."
Around the mid 1980s, a severely-edited version of Nausicaa was released under the title Warriors of the Wind. The editing was done without the knowledge of Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli, who were very unhappy when they learned about it. It is known that because of this incident Ghibli became pretty strict on the way that their films have been released abroad. Still, like you mentioned earlier, in 2000 there was the (in)famous 'Italian Mononoke Hime fiasco'. What role does Studio Ghibli play when working on an Italian dub…?
"I think I somehow hinted some kind of answer to this question in my previous answer, as you see Studio Ghibli now provides some official materials for localization. Apart from the official English reference translation, that documentation actually includes something like dubbing guidelines, with brief character descriptions and general insights about various key points in the script, etc. I remember when I was working on previous Studio Ghibli movies (for Buena Vista Italia), things where just a bit looser, but Voice Tests were strictly required for voice actors’ casting anyway.
All in all, I think the point is: things have changed from the early days in the 80’s. Of course, when you are a small animation studio, you sell your work abroad and who knows what foreigners are going to do with your work. Or in some other cases, if you are not even an animation studio licensing your own work, but just a producer completely uninterested in any artistic issues, you could just sell the work for the highest bid and not bother about what will be of that. That is how things were in the animation industry up to a decade ago. But now, especially Studio Ghibli has become more and more relevant both in the domestic and the international market, so it is only logical that they can now actually care about how their work are treated abroad. Of course, when different languages and oceanic distances are involved, is always easy to trick people, I mean saying something and doing something else. If you have no artistic philosophy in your working policy, it is pretty easy to get driven away into pure revenue matters. That goes first of all with movie titles. Why was Spirited Away, actually “The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro” (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi), so dumbly titled as “The Enchanted City” in Italian (note: La CittÓ Incantata)? There is no city at all in the whole movie! Talk about ‘blind marketing’.
Consequently, Studio Ghibli had to realise that most Western licensees had little culture and interest in the actual meaning, style and value of their works, and had to create some kind of policy for that. But alas, when I first read some ‘rules’ in these ‘Studio Ghibli dubbing guidelines’, I really felt sad for them: what they had to write as explicit rules (starting from something very logical, easy and basic such as ‘do not alter names’, ‘do no add lines’, etc.) are the fundamentals of my professional deontology and culture, but I guess were not shared by a lot of people previously involved with Studio Ghibli movie localization. This made me sad to an extreme extent, and I did my best to make Studio Ghibli international department understand how much I know, study, and love their works. I wanted to let them feel that their precious movies where finally in the hands of someone really caring for them, and with the utmost respect for their original contents! Well, you see how much I love talking about Ghibli and their movies, so I guess they realised my standpoints just after reading a couple loooong e-mails of mine, in which I was discussing *from my own side* things such as the greatness of the original Japanese casting and dubbing of Gedo Senki, or how to render this or that bit of characterisation, etc. (laughs)"
Your love for Ghibli’s works surely comes back in the quality dubs you made. Which film inspired you the most to put in the extra effort?
"Mmmh, I think I should say Majo no Takkyubin, and Kurenai no Buta. And that is not only because those are two of my all-time Ghibli favourites, but also for the particular themes they deal with.
First, Majo no Takkyubin is a story about ‘growing up into an adult by finding a proper place into society for your inner talent’. That basically means ‘how to grow up into a proper adult’, which is essentially the same question behind the making of Gedo Senki, except that Gedo Senki addresses that question in the now much modern and decadent society of industrialized and consumerist countries. With this movie, Mr Miyazaki Hayao pushed (and is always pushing) me forward in doing my best with my professional application to put my (supposed) talent in a ‘correct productive position of adulthood’.
Yet again, almost on the total contrary, Kurenai no Buta is about staying true to your inner feelings, even if this drives you out of your contemporary society, which you could eventually despise and hate to the point of shutting yourself away from your own nature and roots. Of course this kind of outsider and loner mind can be very romantic, or very sad, or eventually both, as Porco Rosso is. Being totally let down by humanity, he just rejected his own human nature, eventually finding again a sparkle of faith in the bright eyes of youth (represented by Fio).
Being let down by adult humanity yet believing in the hope and potential of children is possibly the very essence of Mr Miyazaki Hayao’s ‘kokoro’ (heart & mind), as he stated himself in his Career Golden Lion Award ceremony in Venice, 2005. I am totally with him on that vision of life. For me, it is a matter of my ethical integrity, where I am always facing my ‘child-self’ (which is still so strong within my mind). In fact, to some extent, not being able to accept compromise in life can be regarded as a way to ‘remain a child’ and spoil yourself, by refusing the hardships of adulthood.
All in all, I think that the constant struggle to correctly balance these two opposite instances within my ‘kokoro’, to grow up into a proper and responsible adult and not to betray the uncompromising ideal of the child I used to be, is definitely the reason for me to always try to do my best in my work focusing on cultural integrity rather than any commercial matter. Possibly my best try in ‘growing up into a kind of adult that would not let down the child I am still, nor be despised by the child I used to be’.
Yet again, as for my peculiar working field, the most enlightening footage ever produced by Studio Ghibli has been the third VHS of the Mononoke Hime ga Koushite Umareta VHS-BOX (well, of course coupled with the actual movie). From a professional perspective, watching Mr Miyazaki Hayao working on the dub of his own ‘final masterpiece’ gave me a chance of analysing his intentions, his working logic and patterns, and then again de-structuring what he aimed to achieve and convey with voice actors’ speech. All of that has been an enormous asset in the formative process of my ‘working style’, like an ideal guideline for my actual work, not only for my Studio Ghibli dubs, but for whatever I did in the field ever since."
Gedo Senki has already received cinema releases in various countries over the world and has been released on DVD on July 4. If people haven’t seen it yet, why should they go and buy a ticket to watch it at the cinema and/or buy the DVD?
"Because it’s a great movie, with greatly inspired visuals and a very meaningful message within.
From and aesthetical point of view, I am totally with Mr Miyazaki Goro when he says that modern Japanese animation, even the top quality one, has become more and more baroque, and therefore has been losing a lot of its originally powerful and vivid imaginary. Since I read this critic from Mr Miyazaki Goro, I went reviewing in my mind all my ‘favourite scenes’ from the previous Studio Ghibli movies. I suddenly realised that they were (and are) all very ‘visually simple’ scenes. For example, in Howl’s Moving Castle is the scene where Sophie is ‘sucked into present’ from Howl’s memories… basically a crying Sophie grasping the air on a completely black backdrop. Or, some night scenes in Tonari no Totoro (like the strong wind blowing away Satsuki’s collected wood), or again the great night scene in Mononoke Hime with Ashitaka talking with Moro no Kimi. Those are all quite ‘graphically simple and stylish scenes’. One could say “the more complex the images, the weaker the emotions they convey”. It is just as if the viewer’s mind gets just stunned by all the eye-candy, and you miss the real emotional points of the whole. Well, I think I am a ‘neo-classicist’ of animation myself, just as I am also in fine arts and literature after all. From this point of view, Gedo Senki truly is a masterpiece. The backdrops are fantastic, each one really conveying an atmosphere of its own, even with a quite symbolist use of the colours. Also, the character design and animation are extremely focused on their facial expression, again emphasising their inner feeling and emotions. If you ask me, conveying feelings and emotions is what animated visual is all about.
As for the meaning of the movie, that is one very important and extremely ‘actual’ message. It deals with the same old existentialist issue of “what’s the meaning of human life once you know you have to die anyway?”, but it frames it in a very contemporary asset, say a boy’s anxiety (of course that is very Kierkegaardish) in a ‘generational dis-communication’ which is very typical of our world. You see, for those who experienced actual war, life is usually an inestimable value, it is THE value you cannot even discuss about. That’s basically because life could not be taken for granted in their own lifetime, and they had to struggle to defend it. But, for nowadays youngsters, born and bred in an well developed and wealthy society, say a modern consumerist society, life is something you can easily question about, because you take it for granted and free since the day you are born. So what is the reason, the meaning, the real point of human life, in this contemporary world? Here is where existentialism kicks in, and where that kind of ‘inner pain of living’ (anxiety, desperation) can strike a boy to the point of an actual detach from his ‘light part’ (moral conscience), leading him to a life of self-hiding, sheltering from himself and committing apparently unreasonable acts, such as stabbing a respected father, assuming drugs, etc. You see we’re talking about Arren of course, but he’s just a symbol of today’s teenagers. All of this anxiety and anguish are also related to the ‘pain of growing up’, especially in the idea that ‘growing into an adult’ really means to find a proper place within a society. But with those issues in your mind, where is the actual value, what is the real point of growing-up? As Mr Miyazaki Goro says, “how to grow-up into a proper adult in this modern society?”. That is a point which I think is crucial for the whole modern industrialised world, and possibly especially true in Japan.
I do not know if you are familiar with the ‘otakuzoku’ sociological phenomenon, but that can also be seen as a ‘growing up impasse’ of the youth in the modern (post-war) society. Shinseiki Evangelion (as well as quite a lot of other Gainax’s works, if not all of them) also deals with the same issue, and it is really no wonder that Mr Anno Hideaki first got impressed by Mr Miyazaki Goro’s screenplay. Yet many other Japanese movies and directors nowadays are dealing with this same sociological key points, in a way or another. Starting from the generational dis-communication that follows those very sociological issues, you can easily think about the late Mr Fukasaku Kinji’s Battle Royale (again, quite Evangelion-inspired), or even Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, just to go back to Studio Ghibli walls.
All in all, I think the bottom line is that modern life is much harder to live in the ‘inner space’ of everyone’s mind, and the modern society seems to be suffering a lot because of an inadequate education of the youth in this respect. Gedo Senki deals exactly with this, so I think it is a very important movie, to be watched especially by boys and girls at the age of Arren and Therru. This movie is just like the light-shadow of conscience chasing the modern generations as the light-shadow of Arren’s conscience is chasing him in the movie itself."
Gedo Senki shares quite some resemblances with the films that Hayao Miyazaki has made. Of course there are also differences between how father and son make movies. Which differences do you distinguish and, if so, how does making a dub for a Goro Miyazaki movie differ from making a Hayao Miyazaki dub?
"Comparing Gedo Senki to the previous movies from Mr Miyazaki Hayao may seem easy, but I think it is not that simple. Of course, if you just ‘look’ at the screen, you will find a lot of resemblance. But that is mostly because Gedo Senki is a Studio Ghibli movie anyway, and that means that the staff behind it are basically the same Studio Ghibli staff, so that kind of ‘general look resemblance’ is just natural: an animated movie is by no means the work of a single person, as –say- a manga can be. The deep differences between this debut movie by Mr Miyazaki Goro and the works by his acclaimed father have of course to be spotted a bit deeper, particularly in the directing field.
Aesthetically speaking, Gedo Senki reminds a lot of older pre-Ghibli movies such as Taiyo no Oji: Horusu no Daiboken and Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa, which Mr. Miyazaki Goro himself stated as the main visual reference for his movie. Not only that, the movie is also inspired by a quite old graphic novel by Mr Miyazaki Hayao called Shuna not Tabi (note: see pictures below). All of this goes with his declared intention of creating a work of ‘neo-classicism of Japan animation’, which I already mentioned in my previous answer, and stays as a strong director intention within this movie. If you compare the visual style and appeal of Gedo Senki to the latest movie by Mr. Miyazaki Hayao, say Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi and Hauru no Ugoku Shiro I think the difference is pretty clear: the visuals in these two movies are much more sophisticated and ‘stunning’ than in Gedo Senki.
Of course, the ‘neo-classicistic’ intention of Mr Miyazaki Goro also reflects in his storytelling style, which turns to be quite ‘classical’ as well, in term of both plot developing and unfolding pace, up to the general narrative structure.
Yet, the biggest difference between Gedo Senki style and the one in Mr. Miyazaki Hayao movies is the possibly the fact that Mr Miyazaki Goro has put a quite explicitly philosophical-oriented mind in his movie making and directing. This result in a very strong and clear symbolistic backbone behind the straightforward and ‘simple’ storytelling and plot, which allows the director to very effectively convey the deep and serious meaning points within the movie.
To this extent, even more than a ‘neo-classicist’, I have to say that I felt Mr Miyazaki Goro as a ‘Pre-Raphaelite of Japanese animation’, coming back to the strong roots of art before its evolution in mannerism and yet looking for deep and vivid symbolistic imaginary.
Surprisingly, the voice-acting part of Gedo Senki is the one where the movie comes closer to Mr Miyazaki Hayao most recent productions.
One thing to be said is that Mr Miyazaki Hayao has always had quite a personal view about the voice-acting of animated features: he never really liked the ‘classical dubbing style’ of Japanese animation, because he always thought it just sounded too unreal to be believed as ‘true’. On the total contrary, Mr Miyazaki Hayao wanted voice acting to bring real emotions in the voices of his characters, hence a totally different style of dubbing which he used to look for even to the point of using non-professional voice actors at times, as in the cases of Satsuki and Mei’s father in Tonari no Totoro, or Shizuku’s father in Kondo Yoshifumi’s Mimi wo Sumaseba. Particularly, in the case of Totoro Mr Miyazaki Hayao stated he was very satisfied with Itoi Shigesato voice-acting, for he really managed to make Mr Kusakabe sound like a ‘real’ father, who does not always know everything about his own daughters, but tries his best in raising them day by day. Since then, Mr Miyazaki has gone way ahead on this path, with a big turning point coming along with Mononoke Hime. We all know that movie started out someway as the supposed ‘final masterpiece’ by Mr. Miyazaki Hayao, and he really aimed for perfection in any of its parts. As for voice-acting, that one movie starred an incredible cast of Japanese stage actors and celebrities (especially Morishige Hisaya, Miwa Akihiro, Tanaka Yuko), together with some other veterans of Ghibli dubs (including Shimamoto Sumi). The result was a totally outstanding voice-acting performance, reaching such a high level of realistic and emotional acting that it sounded totally unheard of in the whole Japanese animation industry. Since that, the ‘Ghibli style of dub’ has become a class of his own, diverging from the mainstream Japanese animation dub style, as it was even more emphasised with Sen to Chihiro, where the young starring was voice-acted by the very young actress Hiiragi Yumi, a child-talent who supposedly had no experience in voice-acting and made Chihiro just sounding as a real Japanese little girl. Finally this ‘Ghibli voice-acting style’ stroke again with Hauru no Ugoku Shiro, and was someway consolidated.
Following this tradition, Gedo Senki was also originally dubbed in a completely real-sounding acting style. Thus following this original style, re-dubbing Gedo Senki in Italian as been a work pretty much on the same level as dubbing Hauru no Ugoku Shiro. One could suppose that Mr Miyazaki Goro did not had any experience as for voice-acting, in fact some entries in his production weblog seem to hint so, but I am pretty sure he would totally agree with this trend of making an animation dub sound as real and emotional as possible.
From a technical point of view, I think the key of this style is not to ‘overact’ every single line spoken by characters, which is something very typical of the mainstream ‘traditional’ anime dub style, where more than often cool characters tend to sound just as ‘too cool’, or cute characters sound way ‘too cute’, and everyone ends up sounding too much of any given clichÚ to be really believable in the ears of the public. This has been my key point in working on both Hauru no Ugoku Shiro and Gedo Senki Italian dubs, in order to always keep the characters talking naturally, in a deeply emotional and believable way, even in the most un-realistic and fantasy situations. Naturally, another key point (of any dub I would say) is to get each voice actor to really understand the emotions and feelings of his character in every scene, every line he plays. And all that is strictly necessary in order to ‘bring real life in the breath and voice of the animated characters’, which is exactly what Studio Ghibli dubs always aim to."
This July Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro is screening in Italian cinemas. Though it’s quite a delay (laughing), I am amazed about the fact that an old animation classic like Cagliostro still receives a cinema release. Besides that, the last couple of years Miyazaki & Ghibli received prominent places at the oldest and one of the largest film festivals of the world: the Venice International Film Festival. What’s the deal between Italy and Miyazaki?
"Well, actually, I doubt that the vast majority of the public that will go to cinemas to see The Castle of Cagliostro in Italy this summer will even know who the director is, or would ever bother to know. Fact is that Lupin the 3rd is a very popular character here in Italy since possibly more than two and a half decades, so his name is appealing to a wide public here. In Italy, Lupin the 3rd is that kind of ‘evergreen TV shows hero’ beloved by both elders and youngsters.
On the total contrary, in Italy the names of Mr Miyazaki Hayao and Studio Ghibli are mostly restricted to a very narrow public, some kind of niche of either Japanese animation fan or Asian movie enthusiasts.
You see, Japanese animation has always been restricted in TV for the Italian market. The fact that every single Japanese animation movie (of course including Mr Miyazaki Hayao’s) ever released in Italian cinemas actually arrived down here just ‘coming from the U.S.’ speaks for itself. Yet, since Mononoke Hime, Studio Ghibli and Mr Miyazaki Hayao started gathering such an international praise that even the so-called circle of the ‘intellectual movie festival’ could not ignore them. Add the fact the main host of the Venice Film Festival (Mr Marco MŘller) is a true connoisseur and lover of Mr Miyazaki’s movies as he proved to be, and you could easy figure the source of a certain recent interest from the Italian ‘intellectual movie niche’ in Studio Ghibli movies.
I think this very lucky conjunction of different interests has somehow driven the final push to bring such a classic masterpiece as The Castle of Cagliostro into Italian cinemas this year, but do not imagine Studio Ghibli presence to be anything like strong in Italy. We are very far from the fan base Mr Miyazaki Hayao and Studio Ghibli have especially in France, and you do not have to regard this late Italian cinema release of Castle of Cagliostro as any tribute to Mr. Miyazaki filmography.
The only Italian movie distributor whom I saw actually investing in Studio Ghibli’s name rather then ‘milking the occasional cow’ is undoubtedly Lucky Red, which after the relatively modest success obtained with Hauru no Ugoku Shiro has been quite daring in releasing Gedo Senki in Italian cinemas (consider that movie has still to be released in the U.S., and we are not talking about industry majors or what). People at Lucky Red earned my utmost respect for they actual attempt to create a real cultural base and root for Studio Ghibli movies in Italy. I wish them all the success they deserve, with my best hope for a future release of so many Studio Ghibli lost gems yet to be heard in Italian language."
Hayao Miyazaki’s next film Gake no ue no Ponyo is currently in production and if everything goes well it will be released in the summer of 2008. Though not much information about it has been released yet, during the NHK Professional Special about Hayao Miyazaki the public was treated with some nice previews. What are your expectations?
"I had myself a chance of watching the Professional Special and I am totally excited with the new movie in production. Graphically speaking, I am completely in love with the hand-drawn, water-coloured style Mr Miyazaki is seemingly going with this time. It seems to me that he is aiming for a simple yet strong imaginary to effectively portrait the children’s simple yet strong emotions. While people are generally comparing this kind of style with the one used in Mr Takahata Isao’s Houhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun, I can spot much more consistence with the experimentation Mr Miyazaki himself showed us with two of the latest Ghibli Museums short movies, namely Mizugumo MonMon and Yadosagashi. Those features were especially focused on children’s perceptions and impressions towards reality, plus they were intended for children emotional education. So as for Gake no Ue no Ponyo, I am expecting another great movie with some deep and intense meanings in the term of adult-children relationships, possibly focusing on a deeper view of the world of children’s aspirations and feelings while growing up into young adults. All I can honestly say is: “can’t wait!”"
Before ending this interview, let me thank you very much for your time and interesting answers! Finally, how would you describe your aspirations for Studio Ghibli’s future in Italy?
"That is really one hard question to end our interview with! (laughs) Well, as a Studio Ghibli long-time lover and enthusiast, naturally I would love to see Ghibli movies and messages brought to a wider public in my country as in the whole world. Well, actually that has been my idea for quite a long time in the past, you can call it the ‘age of innocence’ or something like that (laughs). Yet over the years I have come to realise - and on top of that: to accept - that if Ghibli is not mainstream here it is for a reason. And that is: while Studio Ghibli movies are so magical and poetic to the point of being someway universal, they always retain a strong cultural root and flavour from the unique country and culture they come from. And, well, fact is that approaching any work of any different culture from one’s own is always a hard task, for it requires more mental activity to achieve understanding. Indeed watching a Ghibli movie is like having a wonderful chance to learn something new in your life, yet learning is not something everyone is willing to do with our usual cinema show. Most people just go to cinemas to have a good time with meaningless entertainment. So I don’t think Ghibli will ever become anything like mainstream here in Italy, nor I would ever dream about.
Getting Ghibli mainstream would only mean to drive their movies away from their original contents in order to make them ‘simple enough’ for the wider local public to enjoy them without hassle. But all in all, as a Ghibli long-time fan, I guess I can live without McDonalds Happy Meal Ghibli gadgets for the rest of my life. I would really prefer to see Ghibli staying as a niche here, a nice and strong niche of educated and passionate people who come to be appealed by the deep contents and great style of Ghibli movies, yet are not discouraged by the extra efforts that watching such foreign movies always requires. Under this regard, I think Lucky Red is really the perfect Italian distributor for Ghibli movies. They have been presenting both Hauru no Ugoku Shiro and Gedo Senki with the greatest respect and consideration for the original works, delivering to the Italian public the first chances of watching on a cinema screen some Ghibli movies as they really are, and then again presenting them in good DVD local releases for everyone to enjoy at home. I do not think there is anything more to ask for, and I just hope Lucky Red will consolidate its market position as the official Italian Studio Ghibli distributor, eventually bringing the complete ‘lost Ghibli catalogue’ to the Italian public. That would really be like a final dream-comes-true gift for all the Studio Ghibli Italian fandom!"