My introduction to the work of Hayao Miyazaki was a crash course right around the time Miramax was getting ready to release "Princess Mononoke" here in the US. One of the regular contributors to AICN, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra, was a raving Miyazaki lunatic, and he had spent months trying to talk Miramax into letting AICN have one of the one-on-one interview spots when Miyazaki came to LA. He finally talked them into it... and then couldn't make it to LA for the interview.
He was gutted, and I still feel bad about it. He really should have been the one to sit down and talk to this master animator. He'd spent years thinking about what he would ask his idol if he met him and it just didn't work out. So I was sent in his stead. I was only able to see "Kiki's Delivery Service," "My Neighbor Totoro," and the Neil Gaiman-scripted dub of "Mononoke" before I spoke to him.
It was an amazing encounter that culminated in him drawing me my very own Totoro.
So, yeah, after that and then after catching up with the rest of his work and getting laid flat by how amazing it is, I've become a the same sort of raving fan, and I understand now why Paul took his work so seriously back in 1999. Since then, he's added several more masterworks to his resume, and he's back with a new one later this summer, a film that played last night as the closing night event at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
[more after the jump]