If you’re a fan of lush animation, iconic characters, and evocative, thematically resonant filmmaking, then here are some words that should be music to your ears: Hayao Miyazaki is coming out of retirement for one last film. At least, if Studio Ghibli—the exceptional animation house he helped found in 1985—wants him back.
But that would seem to be a perfunctory question. Miyazaki, 75, has been at the helm for all of the studio’s most prestigious, well-received releases, including 1984’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro, 1997’s Princess Mononoke, and 2001’s Spirited Away, which claimed an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In short, Miyazaki is the central creative force behind some of the most renowned animated feature films in Japan’s history, stories that have made their way throughout the world.It’s not the first time Miyazaki has emerged from the shadows with the promise of at least one more feature film. In fact, as Gizmodo notes, he’s kind of an old hand at this pseudo-retirement stuff—he's come out of prematurely declared retirements multiple times in the past, most recently returning to the industry in 2013 when he worked on Ghibli short film Kemushi no Boro.
And, for the record, that's what the new film will be: a feature-length version of Kemushi no Boro, the tale of a tiny caterpillar that the legendary writer/director/animator didn't feel he could fit in the space of 20 minutes.
While it's impossible to know how long the new film will take to produce, it wouldn't come as no surprise if it takes a while, owing to Miyazaki's notoriously high standards and willingness to take his time. He's reportedly hoping it'll be done within five years, which means he could be 80 years old by the time it's completed.
But this is fantastic news for any Miyazaki devotee, or fans of moving and beautiful animated stories more generally. If there's any news that can start to brighten up a decidedly gloomy 2016, maybe this can be it.