If the name Hayao Miyazaki means anything to you, new documentary Never-Ending Man will, too. The film provides a pretty intimate, charming portrayal of the legendary animator from the announcement of his retirement (September 2013) through much of the production on Boro The Caterpillar, Miyazaki’s first film done entirely with CGI (that short film debuted last year).
Throughout a short hour-ish run time, this documentary maintains a very narrow focus. Never-Ending Man really only consists of footage of Miyazaki at home or at the studio, and it relies solely on interviews directly with the man or with collaborators on this project. The approach allows viewers to draw their own conclusions about why this work remains great and what makes Miyazaki tick rather than having any longtime observers or contemporaries spell such things out.
Even at this age (in his 70s), Miyazaki has an incredible dedication to detail, for instance. To make a less-than-15-minute short about a caterpillar, he’s putting insects under a microscope and working through several hand-drawn interactions before anything shows up on a computer screen. In early film footage showing pre-CGI life at Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki stands over young illustrator shoulders and offers nuanced feedback: “It’s important to draw full human beings, you’re drawing people not characters” he tells them, soon offering slight critiques on a character’s running form or how they hold a bundled up blanket. Later when working with CGI, Miyazaki may not understand or have comfort with the tools and medium, but he continues to share similarly micro observations. “The turning motion is too adult like,” he says, watching an early render of Boro looking around his landscape. “Babies don’t turn their heads so sharply.”