Mamoru Hosoda, director of Summer Wars, Wolf Children, and The Boy and the Beast, came to LA last month to promote his latest film, Mirai. Hosoda's films are beloved by critics and audiences alike, and his focus on family makes his films the sort of story anyone can enjoy. We spoke with Hosoda-san to hear what he has to say about Mirai, as well as the process behind his films and what comes next. Here's the scoop:
Where did you initially get the idea for Mirai?
Mamoru Hosoda: In my life, we welcomed a new baby girl when my son was three years old. When the baby came, my son had a weird expression on his face, and then when I saw it I thought "I wonder how he's going to accept his younger sister?" And that's how the movie came about.
Your films often blend Sci-Fi or fantasy elements with more grounded character drama. How do you maintain that balance without leaning too hard on either side?
MH: I often think "Why does Sci-Fi and fantasy exist and what is it for?" When we're younger we tend to see Sci-Fi and fantasy as it is, and we don't really understand that it's to explain other aspects of life in a clearer way. So I feel like it's important to understand the world through sci-fi and fantasy. Because I understand that sci-fi and fantasy are just tools to depict how life is, maybe that's why you feel that it's balanced.
Is that the mindset you went in with when you directed franchise films like the Baron Omatsuri One Piece and the Secret Island movie or the Digimon movie?
MH: Digimon and One Piece tend to be seen as blockbuster films or franchise films. I didn't want to be restricted into just that, to promote the property. I wanted it to be a proper movie with themes. I feel like the way I thought "I need this to have themes and balance," they were able to be successful movies.
Would you ever be interested in working on similar projects again?
MH: (Asks the producer) What do you think? The reason I asked my producer is that ten years ago, I had offers like "Would you be interested in doing this film or would you be interested in that film," but I'm so busy creating my own films that I feel like the offers stopped coming. (laughs)
Producer: Yeah, it's probably not going to happen.
What is the production process like for your original films? How long does it usually take between when you propose an idea and when the film is actually complete?
MH: I start working on my next movie once my previous movie is completed, so I start thinking about the idea and then it would take about three years from the idea to completion. That's why my movies come out about three years apart. I feel like three years is a good time because if the production period is too long, the idea becomes outdated, and if the production period is too short, the animation wouldn't be done well.
It's been three years since The Boy and the Beast. What was it like going from a more action oriented film like that to a more laid back film like Mirai? Do you prefer one style over the other?
MH: I tend to balance action and drama consecutively. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was drama, then Summer Wars was action, then I went back to Wolf Children which was a drama, then The Boy and the Beast was action, now Mirai was a drama. I tend to do that because once I do action I tend to get tired of the action, and once I do drama I tend to get tired of the drama so I want to do action. It's not that I prefer doing one over the other, I like doing both of them in turn because it helps me keep balanced mentally.
Does that mean your next movie is going to be more action oriented?
MH: Yeah, probably. I don't know yet how it's going to turn out, but it's probably going to be different from Mirai.
We're looking forward to it!
MH: So Mirai is based on incidents that actually happened to my family, so my next film might just be something completely fictional and completely stuff that didn't happen to me.
Does that mean the subplot about Kun's father learning to handle taking care of two children is based on your personal experience with your kids?
MH: With Kun's father, or with the parents in general, I wanted to show the parents' growth. And especially with male parents. I think this is common worldwide: male parents aren't used to raising children, so they struggle a lot more. I wanted to show how they get used to it and how they grow from interacting with children. That was definitely an experience that I had myself.
You mentioned in a previous interview that you wrote the script for Mirai by yourself. What was it like doing it alone compared to having a co-writer, and would you do it again?
MH: Because Mirai was such a personal film depicting incidents that happened with my family, it would be hard for someone else to write because the other writer wouldn't really know my family, and it would be hard to show them my family and my personal experiences. I don't know about the next film. I mean, there's good and bad elements to writing on my own because I feel like when you're writing on your own, your personal experiences would be more truthful. But that's also a bad side of it because it might get too personal. It's not like I'm writing this on my own. I do get input from my staff, so it's not like I can say that I'm writing this all by myself.
Big thanks go out to Hosoda-san for taking the time to answer our questions, and to GKIDS for setting up the interview. Mirai itself is a charming film about a little boy who has to come to terms with having a new sister, perfect for audiences of all ages and tastes!
Are you excited for Mirai? Let us know in the comments, and don't forget to catch it in theaters this week!
Skyler has been an anime fan since he first saw Naruto on Toonami in 2005. He loves action shows and strong character writing, and finds writing about himself in the third person awkward. Read more of his work at his blog apieceofanime.com and follow him on Twitter at Videogamep3.