for Cinetalk.net

Never-Ending Man  is a charming look at ‘old school’ and new animation technicians trying to bridge the gap.

Hayao Miyazaki retired from the Japanese animation industry. And then he came back. And then he retired again. But the tireless artist behind My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away just can’t sit at home waiting to die. He contemplates why friends and colleagues – some younger than him – continue to pass away, yet he remains. Never-Ending Man shows a cynical side to the co-founder of Ghibli Studios, as he beats himself up for being ‘too old’, while also falling back in love with creation and teamwork.

Kaku Arakawa’s TV documentary follows the elderly chap from doodles at home to brain-busting work back at the formerly closed-down studios. He gets tired more quickly than in his youth, and can’t quite put to paper what’s in his mind’s eye. But he won’t stop despite retirement. His determination to prepare a short (a feature length would be too demanding) brings him back to the animation world. He decides to collaborate with a team of young digital animators not because he feels that CGI has taken over the industry, but simply to help make the output match his ideas.

Never-Ending Man follows the creation of Boro the Caterpillar. There are complications involved when an old-school 2D animator cannot explain traditional notions of “squash and stretch” or “anticipation” to a group of zealous 3D youngsters. Similarly, the self-proclaimed old geezer cannot understand the new technologies. As his colleague mentions, Miyazaki’s frustration ages his 3D teammates, while he feeds on their youthful energy. Working is what keeps the artist alive.

Miyazaki is that little brat who thinks he’s older than he really is. Ghibli has kept him young at heart, even if he doesn’t see it himself.

Never-Ending Man is showing at FIFA: 5:45pm March 11th at the Canadian Centre for Architecture

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