Successful Movie Directors: Hitchcock & Miyazaki

Movies are a series of moving pictures that are placed together to tell a story. The medium of motion pictures has had a great influence on the lives of the audience because of the art style and stories they present. The two main categories of movies are live-action and animation. Two directors that have had major influences on their respective styles were Alfred Hitchcock and Hayao Miyazaki. Although the two directors differ in terms of their genres and mediums, they both have influenced filmmaking in major ways.

Alfred Hitchcock was a director who started his career with The Lodger: The Story of the London Fog (1927). He worked primarily in spy thrillers, dramas, and horror films over the forty-plus years he had put into his work. His work has been recognized by the American Film Institute and has four movies on the top one hundred list of greatest American movies of all time. Hitchcock was known to be innovative for his time and has influenced the way filmmakers plan out and create movies.

Although he never won an Academy Award for any of his films, his impact and legacy are what most people take about when they mention the name, Alfred Hitchcock.

On the other hand, Hayao Miyazaki is an animation director who resided in Japan. He was originally a manga artist but decided to move to animation when he adapted his story into Kaze no Tani no Naushika (1984). This translated over to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) and shows Miyazaki’s art style for the first time.

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He has primarily worked in the fantasy genre and focuses on a strong femalprotagonistsst. With his work, he has captured the hearts of children and adults alike. Throughout his career, he has taken home an Academy Award for Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001) or translated as Spirited Away (2001). His influence on the animation world is his legacy as a director. Another aspect that both of these directors share is their understanding of music or the score for their films. Hitchcock had Bernard Herrmann for most of his career for his movies. Herrmann was responsible for the shrieking violins that accompanied the shower scene in Psycho (1960).

He was also one of the first sound designers when he worked on The Birds (1963). He created the mix of the birds flying around and squawking during the opening credits. Herrmann was innovative and his partnership with Alfred Hitchcock furthered his career in sound design and music.

Paring up with Hayao Miyazaki was Joe Hisaishi. Joe Hisaishi was the composer for Hayao’s first film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) and has collaborated with him ever since. Miyazaki’s art is very rich with texture and is of a grand scale with grand sweeping backgrounds and mystical creatures and atmosphere. To bring that out, Hisaishi’s music also brings that sense of grandness to the movies. His music is as recognizable as the movies they were in. They accompany Miyazaki’s visuals and they can also stand on their own. Joe Hisaishi’s music has influenced many composers to strive to create music.

Hitchcock and Miyazaki both focused on the strength of female characters. Although men occupied more of the spotlight back then, Hitchcock made the female characters in his earlier work dynamic. Hitchcock makes the female characters active and gives them the right to choose who they want to be with or make decisions on their own. His best examples come from his earlier works like The Lodger (1927), Blackmail (1929), and The Lady Vanishes (1938).

Blackmail (1929) is my favorite example of these three because of inciting incident in the film. Alice White was almost raped in the movie and she defends herself when she finds a knife and stabs the man. She is filled with guilt and we see that play out throughout the film. The reason why I liked this one, in particular, is that it shows, through her physical action, that she has the right to choose what she does with her body. She didn’t want to have sex so she said no. This went against what men thought at the time, that women wanted it when they did.

Although Hitchcock had a history of falling for his lead actresses, he was one of the first to give female characters a voice in their roles and make them more than just an accessory to men.

Miyazaki is known for having female characters in his leading positions. Out of his most popular movies, there were only three movies that starred a male character. Those were Princess Mononoke (1997) with Ashitaka, Porco Rosso (1992) with Porco, and The Wind Rises (2013) with Jiro. All of his other movies, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) all had female main characters. These characters were made to inspire and empower females to do what they wanted to do in life. For example, Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) is a strong, independent thirteen-year-old witch-in-training who moves to the big city. She has to live on her own and makes her living as a witch. It’s a story about growing up and accepting responsibilities. The characters embody a warrior archetype, for the most part, standing to protect what’s theirs and being willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goals.

The final aspect that they both share was that they were both perfectionists. They would both hone their craft to the point of perfection. Hitchcock was known to have an extreme pre-production style. His work and effort would go into storyboarding, blocking, scripting, and finding out the nooks and crannies of his sets. He would know what shot he wants and how to do This was his style for a long time and this allowed him to have more time when working with the actors. From sources, Hitchcock said that pre-production was the best part of the filmmaking process and when it came to shooting it on set, it would be boring because he knew how everything is going to be done. This shows how much time and effort Hitchcock put into his work before even stepping on set. Even today, we use his pre-production work as a guideline for the breakdown and blocking of a script. The best-known example of this is the balcony scene from Notorious (1946). The placement of the camera as well as the motion and eye contact of the actors shows us what parts of the script are important and how they create the feeling he wants. It shows the trading of power between Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Their pre-production work of Hitchcock is a stepping stone to becoming better directors.

For Miyazaki, he took this to a whole new extreme. He wanted each frame to be correct in terms of what he wanted to see. This is why some of his works take forever to make. He would go and watch an animated sequence and if he didn’t like one specific frame, he would scrap that one frame and draw it again. This meticulous process makes his work beautiful when the film is released. We know how much effort he puts into every frame of his movies.

The two directors have influenced many of their fellow filmmakers in terms of their movies. Hitchcock was a master of innovative camera angles and sequences. One of the most popular camera moves was from Vertigo which filmmakers call the push-pull move. This is when you physically push the camera forward while at the same time pulling the focus back to stay on the same plane. This was used to accentuate Scottie’s (James Stewart’s) feeling of jarring feeling in the audience. The most well-known use of this effect that wasn’t by Hitchcock was in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). He used it to show Officer Brody’s realization of the shark attack on Amity Beach. This push-pull effect made it hit home for both Brody and the audience, bringing us in with him into the effect. Another example of his legacy is the shower scene in Psycho (1960). This scene is iconic for influencing the horror genre. Many movies have either parodied or used the soundtrack to push the horror even further.

One of the most interesting aspects of Hitchcock’s later works was his collaboration with Saul Bass. Bass helps create logos for people who want them for their business. In collaboration with Hitch, Bass brought in one of the first moving title screens that started with Vertigo (1958). This technique keeps people interested in the film, even if you are giving information. For Vertigo (1958), it was the body parts of Kim Novak as well as spirals. This later became a normal thing for Hitchcock movies and is now a staple in some movies. The best recent example of this was the first scene of Deadpool (2016). We are suspended in time and it shows the pure carnage of Deadpool’s abilities while poking fun at the people who made the film itself. Another iconic example of this is the opening to any James Bond movie. When he walks in, turns to the camera, and,   fires a bullet, that was their title screen.

Hayao Miyazaki is known for bringing supernatural worlds into his films. From enchanted bathhouses in Spirited Away (2001) or the king of the forest in My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Miyazaki has used vivid colors and mystical creatures to influence the animation world.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988) is the most influential movie in terms of Japanese animation. Totoro is the spirit of the forest and his interaction with two children shows the god as a benevolent creature. There is one sequence in particular that has been referenced from this movie. There is a scene where Mei, the youngest sister, climbs on the belly of the furry forest god. This scene is iconic of it being our first reveal of the size of this forest god. Once again referencing Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), this was the same technique of building expectations before we meet the creature.

Totoro has even influenced western animation, even having a spot in Bonnie’s room in Toy Story 3 (2010). Miyazaki was also known for adding moments to his films. We are taught here by our professors to cut out as much unnecessary information and shots out of our movies to make them read better. Miyazaki challenged that idea with his work. There are multiple shots in his work that present no further information. This is used to allow the viewers to take a break and enjoy the world that he has created. There are moments where they will cut away to a shot of nature and it’s refreshing. I don’t know the specific term for it, but these extra frames have been something that has been used in animation now to give the same effect.

The cultural impact of these two directors is one of the biggest aspects of these two directors. Hitchcock had defined the movie-going experience ever since Psycho (1960). Because of Paramount’s limited distribution of the movie when it was set to release, Hitchcock was clever in creating ways to make his audience work to get a ticket. He created the first outdoor line for movies. He stated that no one would be let in after the film has started. If you were late, you would have to wait outside for the next showing. This made it something that people were excited to see. This still happens today when a movie’s opening day. People dress up, camp out or sit for ridiculously long nights to see the midnight showing of the latest film. That was started by Psycho (1960). Another thing that was developed by Hitchcock was the spoiler alert. Hitch didn’t want people to spoil the ending of his film. He also stated that the movie would have a twist ending and that’s what makes the film interesting. By stating that there was to be no spoiling of the finale, people would line up to go see it. The last thing that Hitchcock was known for doing was making a brief cameo in his films. This is a way for Hitchcock to sign his work besides putting it in the title sequence. He would find a clever way to squeeze it into the film. His impact has influenced countless directors and set the foundation for movie theater procedures.

On the other hand, Miyazaki is known for bringing anime to the world. This may seem kind of silly, but the Totoro character is a world-known icon. His influence and popularization of his art style brought interest from all over the world. He is the reason why Japanese anime was able to spread because Miyazaki created an iconic figure and make it something that people will recognize. Even though he retired in 2013, his work will live on forever and push people to join in the fantasy worlds that it has brought to life.

In conclusion, Hitchcock and Miyazaki have changed the way people view and experience movies. Although they have some similarities in terms of using musical talent, having strong female characters, and being perfectionists, the way they influenced cinema and movies differ due to their careers. These two men deserve their spots as great directors because they were ahead of their time or were willing to adapt to new technology and ideas.

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Successful Movie Directors: Hitchcock & Miyazaki. (2022, Aug 16). Retrieved from

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