When Pixar’s top creative John Lasseter was asked to give a talk on “Cool Japan” Friday at the Tokyo International Film Festival, he was not immediately sure of what he would say during the presentation. The way to do it, he eventually decided, was to speak personally about the ways his career had been impacted by Japanese culture, particularly in his encounters with the work of master animator Hayao Miyazaki.
The Hollywood Reporter
points out that Miyazaki, known for writing and directing masterpieces like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, first inspired Lasseter on a visit to the Walt Disney Animation Studio in 1981. Lasseter was starting his career as an animator and was shown an early clip of Miyazaki’s first feature film, The Castle of Cagliostro. Lasseter recalled the experience during his talk Friday, saying, “I was absolutely blown away. It had a very strong effect on me because I felt that this was the first animated feature film I had seen that had a vision to entertain for all ages. It made me feel that I was not alone in the world. It filled my soul with a drive that said ‘this is what I want to create.’” He referred to Miyazaki’s work as his “greatest inspiration.”
“I always said at Pixar that you are what you direct,” he told the audience. “Your heart and soul goes into everything you make. I learned that from Miyazaki.”
Lasseter was a seminal figure in Pixar’s rise to the top of the animation world, writing and directing films like A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, and Toy Story 2. He has assisted with the English translations of Miyazaki’s films since 2001 and now serves as chief creative officer at Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios.