Monday, March 17, 2003 — St. Patrick’s Day

I stayed up way too late Thursday night, trying to unwind after several weeks of frenzied activity. Unusually for me, I watched television for several hours. The TV’s addictive tendency is really amazing. But in this case, I’m glad I did.

First, I watched an episode of The Office, a British comedy series that’s presented as a documentary of a bunch of office workers. It was brilliant. The actors are fabulous. The show nails bad workplaces with such excruciating perfection that I had difficulty watching it, at times. Ah, it was amazing.

Then, after some of the fabulous Futurama, I watched an episode of Reign, an anime series by the character designer of Aeon Flux. Reign tells the tale of Alexander the Great as though he were incarnated on another world. While I still don’t like that designer’s style, I was mesmerized by the show. The overall mechanical designs are fascinating, the storyline brings in enough characters and conflict to keep the show interesting, and the characters are a fascinating lot. It’s not fabulous, but I was intrigued and entertained. It’s completely different than anything else I’ve ever seen, which says something.

Then I tried to watch an episode of the classic anime series Lupin III, which was…well, to put it bluntly, horrible. If Hanna-Barbera had tried to make this show, it would’ve looked like this. The animation was of the lowest quality, and the story was puerile. A few of the voice actors were quite good, but several were poor. The whole thing was…ugh. I couldn’t watch it.

So I switched to Ovation (“The Artsy-Fartsy Network”) to watch the end of a documentary on Arthur C. Clarke. It focused mostly on 2001, but it was his final statement in the documentary that struck me. It was along the lines of, “I never really liked writing dark futures, like cyberpunk has their dark worlds, which makes for easy drama, but I’ve always felt that, if you create an optimistic future, you have the opportunity to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

I was struck by how this related to Hayao Miyazaki. There’s been some aspect to how he approaches his work — particularly his childrens’ films — that resonated with me, but I’ve never been able to identify it. And this was it.

I believe that Miyazaki’s movies are optimistic because he wants to instill in his audiences the belief that goodness and optimism are possible. That we can make the world a better place if we try, even if that attempt looks strange. That the world is or can be a really lovely place.

It’s not empty optimism; it’s optimism because the alternative is defeat. I agree, strongly. And I think that’s what I want to do with my own animations.

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