REVERED FILMMAKER HAYAO MIYAZAKI AMONG THE MANY STARS IN SMASH ‘ART OF ANIME’ SEQUEL
By Robert Wilonsky and Steve Lansdale
Anime fans and collectors will find must-have treasures in Heritage Auctions’ Art of Anime and Everything Cool II Animation Art Signature® Auction Dec. 10-13. The event will feature more than 700 anime lots, including items from legendary anime properties, among them Akira, Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon.
The timing of this event could not be better: In late November, The New York Times broke the news that Hayao Miyazaki will emerge from retirement at age 80 to direct one final film for Studio Ghibli, the animation company he founded in 1985 with filmmaker Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. The announcement has been met online with nothing short of rapturous celebration.
There are dozens of works from Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli in this auction, among them production cels from some of their masterpieces, including 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service from the following year and 1997’s Princess Mononoke. Heritage is thrilled and honored to offer works from the man film critic Matt Zoller Seitz once called “arguably the most innovative and accomplished mainstream animation auteur after Walt Disney himself.”
“The success of our June Animation Art auction, which brought $2.1 million, and our sale in August that reached $4.5 million spotlights the surging demand for top lots in this category, and this event is full of them,” says Jim Lentz, Heritage Auctions Vice President and Director of Animation & Anime Art. “This auction is an incredible event with more than 700 anime-specific lots from a wide array of exceptional artists, an absolute treasure trove that serious collectors cannot afford to miss.”
The sale is Heritage’s fourth of the year and the first to span four days – a distinction made necessary by the deluge of outstanding offerings among the more than 1,500 lots that will cross the block.
Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli
Generations of cinephiles will tell you the works of Miyazaki and his studio transcend genre, medium, description; the greatest is the greatest without further need of label or classification. No filmmaker since Disney has better understood the mind and heart of the child; but as Seitz once wrote for Salon, he knows, too, “that while the ability to delight and comfort children is a rare talent, it’s not the only one worth cultivating.”
And: “He still draws the majority of the frames in each film, numbering in the tens of thousands, himself,” as Ligaya Mishan writes in The New York Times. “Only occasionally has he resorted to computer-generated imagery, and in some films not at all.”
Hence the exhibition of his work on display at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles since September; each moment in each film is art itself, a frame worth framing. Which makes it all the more remarkable Heritage is able to offer dozens of works from the master. Among them:
This production cel setup from 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro, featuring a desperate Satsuki looking to the forest spirit Totoro for help, is a rare offering from this beloved film that essentially established Studio Ghibli as the modern animation benchmark. This scene, from the 1:18:03 mark of Miyazaki’s masterpiece, is as memorable as any in the film. And any work featuring Totoro is scarce and highly coveted.
This offering from My Neighbor Totoro is also sure to be at the center of a bidding war: a production cel featuring the weird and wonderful Catbus. If ever one needed proof that Miyazaki’s work is as likely to be exhibited as it is screened, this stunning and surreal proof ends all arguments. We’ve never seen a better Catbus; but, who has?
And while we’re on the subject of buses, look no further than this production cel setup and animation drawing from 1989’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, in which the title character narrowly dodges traffic on her first day in a new bustling coastal city. This offering contains something of an Easter egg, too, for fans of the filmmaker and his studio: Look closely at the bus, and you can see it features a charming detail easily missed in the film, a logo that says “Studio Ghibli.”
Here, too, is something exceptionally special and undeniably rare: an original drawing of Nausicaä, princess of the Valley of the Wind, by the hand of none other than Miyazaki himself. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was his second animated feature after The Castle of Cagliosto, and while it was made before Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli, it is widely considered part of the Studio Ghibli canon. This piece is also signed by Miyazaki and dated August 4, 1987.
Considered the seminal Japanese manga and later adapted as an animated theatrical film in 1988, Akira is a classic in any medium. Set in a dystopian future in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster and war, the vast story deals with corruption, rebellion and a struggle for what’s best for society.
The anime sale features a nice pile of production cels from the 1988 film, including cels that feature the red motorcycle frequently seen in the press materials for the film. This is a chance to own a piece of a mainstream breakthrough that changed how the world saw manga.
Dragon Ball Z
Originally released in the mid-1980s as a manga, the Dragon Ball franchise (especially with its Dragon Ball Z entry) is known as one of the biggest and most regarded anime franchises of all time. With a series and films, there is a long list of hit properties from this umbrella.
Nearly 100 production cels and animated drawings featuring the artwork from Toei Animation are a major component of this auction. From group shots to action shots to individual shots, there is plenty of variety to choose from.
Known as the quintessential “magical girl” manga, the Sailor Moon franchise started in the 1990s and remains one of the best examples of Shōjo manga.
Almost 60 lots in this auction contain production cels and animated drawings of a vast array of action shots from the property.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
A Japanese mecha anime television series animated and produced by Gainax and Tatsunoko and directed by Hideaki Anno, Neon Genesis Evangelion was set 15 years after a worldwide cataclysm in the futuristic city of Tokyo-3. Teenaged Shinji was recruited by his father, Gendo, to the organization “Nerv” to pilot a massive bio-machine mecha named “Evangelion” against adversaries known as “Angels.”
Some of the top Neon Genesis Evangelion lots include Neon Genesis Evangelion Eva Unit 01 Production Cel with Production Background and Animation Drawing (Gainax, c. 1995-96), Neon Genesis Evangelion Eva Unit 01 Production Cel (Gainax, 1995) and The End of Evangelion Eva Unit 02 Production Cel Setup (Gainax, 1997).
Also known as Mach GoGoGo, Speed Racer is a Japanese television show about auto racing. Originally serialized in Shueisha’s 1966 Shōnen Book that originally was released in tankōbon book form by Sun Wide Comics and later re-released in Japan by Fusosha, it was adapted into anime by Tatsunoko Productions and aired from April 1967 to March 1968. In the United States, the program aired on ABC. The sale features six Speed Racer lots, including Speed Racer Speed Racer Production Cel with Production Background (Tatsunoko Productions, c. 1967-68) and Speed Racer Trixie and Spritle Racer Production Cel (Tatsunoko Productions, c. 1967-68).
ROBERT WILONSKY and STEVE LANSDALE are staff writers at Intelligent Collector.