Most of your films are adaptations of writers like Ursula Le Guin, Astrid Lindgren and now Diana Wynne Jones. What did you feel when you read the original Earwig and the Witch novel for the first time? What inspired you to turn it into a film?
Gorō Miyazaki: When I first read the book, there were two things that really stuck out as very interesting to me. The first one was the protagonist, Earwig. I love the fact that she wasn’t portrayed as your typical, good obedient girl. She’s someone who, when she knows what she wants in her life, in order to achieve those goals, she doesn’t hesitate to use people or make people do as she wants them to do. And even in scenes where something bad happens and she could cry, she doesn’t cry. She’s strong-willed and works to overcome those challenges. She acts and works to come up with ideas of how she could overcome these challenges, so those traits of that character really appealed to me.
The other thing was how Jones portrays the concept of magic in the book. Bella Yaga, the witch, while she’s making all these magical spells and potions in the workshop, there’s also a physical sort of work at play. She has to blend these elements and ingredients, the mystical and the physical, and mix them together. So to see someone create magic in that way was a very intriguing idea to me.
What kind of stories do you typically enjoy reading? What are some of your favorite books, and what are you reading right now?
In terms of fiction and fantasy, I’m a fan of Dianne Wynne Jones’ writing. What I like about her stories is that they have a lot of quirky characters. Sometimes the protagonist will be someone who would be quite difficult to interact with in real life. The characters have flaws and dimensions. They’re not often one-dimensional, neither good or bad. Her characters have different sides to them that make them really attractive and charming. In terms of books I regularly read though, I tend to prefer reading more non-fiction books than fantasy.
How did the experience of working on Ronia, a 3DCG-animated series, prepare you for the experience working on this film? Do you feel you’ve grown as a director since your last film in 2011?
It’s hard to tell whether you’ve grown or not by yourself, but in terms of working in 3DCG with Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, I was able to see what the possibilities of working with 3DCG were in terms of being able to [make] the characters act more, perform more, and show a different range of emotions. With Earwig and the Witch, I wanted to make it a story that was less driven by the [narrative], but driven by the characters and their performances, such as Earwig’s reactions, expressions, thoughts and feelings. I would say that the experience I had with Ronja was very much a learning experience and place to experiment with different ideas. Each episode of Ronja would have a different challenge—where for one episode I would try to make it into more of a comedy, the next episode would be just the two main child characters talking with each other, and then there were episodes with elements of horror or violence featured throughout. It was a place for me to explore and experiment with what was possible through 3DCG animation.