Boro the Caterpillar (毛虫のボロ Kemushi no Boro) is a 14-minute animated short film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. It premiered on March 21, 2018, and is screened exclusively at Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo.
The story is about a recently hatched caterpillar named Boro as he takes his first steps into the world. It is the Ghibli Museum's tenth exclusive short film, and similar to Water Spider Monmon (2006), is Hayao Miyazaki attempts to represent nature from the perspective of an insect measuring no more than a millimeter in length.
This is Ghibli's first new movie directed by Miyazaki since The Wind Rises (2013) and made completely in CG. The film's animation director is Takeshi Honda while the original picture is handled by Akihiko Yamashita. The film was subject to an NHK TV documentary special, Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki (2016) by Kaku Arakawa.
Behind the Scenes
According to French fansite Buta Connection, when Hayao Miyazaki retired in 2013, he was careful to make it clear that he was only retiring from making feature films, but that he still had plenty of projects in mind, including potential shorts for the Ghibli Museum.
For his part, at the end of 2010, at the end of the production of the eighth short film, Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess, the director of the Ghibli Museum, Kiyofumi Nakajima, had told Miyazaki that the director originally planned to create a total of twelve short films. This got Miyazaki into thinking what he would make for his next films.
It was in June 2015, during an interview, that Goro Miyazaki revealed the 'astonishing' information that his father was working on a 3D CG short film for the Ghibli Museum. The information was then confirmed by Studio Ghibli's producer Toshio Suzuki in October 2015.
Several months earlier, the producer had confessed to pushing Hayao Miyazaki to look at the first images of the 2D-3D hybrid series, Ronja, the Robber's Daughter, directed by his son Gorô, and that the director had been pleasantly surprised by the results.
Boro the Caterpillar is not a new project for Studio Ghibli. This is a project that Hayao Miyazaki has been wanting to bring to the big screen since the mid-90s. At the time, the director hesitated between moving towards the production of Princess Mononoke, a period epic, and Boro the Caterpillar, a more intimate project, before Toshio Suzuki managed to convince him to work on the first, more ambitious film.
“I want to show that even a tiny caterpillar has its own universe, its own life.", explained Miyazaki at the time of the film's production.
The director had this idea since he was in elementary school. As he was taught how photosynthesis works, he wondered how the smallest insects could perceive it. If a caterpillar could see the particles in the air, if the leaves tasted like jelly when it nibbled on them. Or, if from his point of view, a bee looked like a drone flying over a battlefield.
Several manga in his youth influenced the director, such Soratobu Akuma (The Flying Demon), a story derived from the 1948 book Kogumo no Bôken. From his childhood reflections and this reading was born the concept of Boro the Caterpillar.
The project took on several lives before finally making it into animation. The first was on a special Ghibli Museum display "panoramic box", an ancestor installation to Disney Studios' multi-plane camera. It can be found in the permanent exhibition room on the ground floor of the Ghibli museum. In the mid-2000s, when it was decided that three new short films would be produced for the Ghibli Museum, Miyazaki took the opportunity to make a short film based on this old project. He changed his mind at the last minute and favored a similar concept which is also based on a panoramic box display, namely, Water Spider Monmon (2006). After its release, Miyazaki believed he had a base of inspiration and characters for his next museum installation.
In October 2015, Toshio Suzuki announced that Boro the Caterpillar is scheduled to last around ten minutes and that its production will run over three years. According to the producer, Hayao Miyazaki seems far from intimidated by digital technology but is ready to take on this new challenge. Hiring began for CG experts, including 3D animator Yuhei Sakuragi.
By November 2015, Studio Ghibli's official website announces that the e-konte or storyboard had been finalized in early October. It had been entirely colored in watercolor by Hayao Miyazaki.
On November 16, 2016, the NHK documentary special Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki (Owaranai Hito Miyazaki Hayao) is shown and lifted the veil on the production. The first images of the film were seen, and clips of the documentary regarding Miyazaki's disdain for the early CG prototypes were widely disseminated online.
Toshio Suzuki suggested that the short film could be finalized in spring 2017. In April 2017, he confirmed that it would be shown at the Ghibli Museum by July. By the month of July 2017, the film had missed its deadline.
Several months then pass without a programming date. At the end of 2017, Kôji Hoshino, the president of Studio Ghibli, announced in turn that the short is set to be released on 2018, but no specific date was given.
During December 2017, in Toshio Suzuki's radio show Ghibli Asemamire, he gave a possible reason for the delay. He hinted half-heartedly that the short returned to production, with himself and Hayao Miyazaki unhappy with the first version of the film. The importance given to the use of computer-generated imagery was also significantly reduced.
Following the release of the film, the truth of the delay was revealed when Yuhei Sakuragi had ceded his post to Yukinori Nakamura. Sakuragi stated officially that the production had gone on too long and he was expected to work on another project. His name was not credited in the film's credits, but is instead found in the booklet of the short film. The credits notably have names towards a director for traditional animation.
In January 2018, the Ghibli Museum finally announced that Boro the Caterpillar would be released on March of the same year. A preview was quickly organized for the Japanese media who could no longer wait for the director's new project since the announcement of his retirement in 2013.
The film premiere on March 21, 2018, and a dedicated temporary exhibition was also on display in the gallery on the first floor of the museum.
Tamori, the famous dark-glasses comedian, who had previously worked with Studio Ghibli in the 2006 short film Looking for a Home, was hired once again to provide his voice talents for Boro the Caterpillar. He was responsible for providing the entire soundtrack of the film (voice and sound effects), with the exception of a piece of music composed and played on the piano by Joe Hisaishi for the end credits.