Kung Fu Panda and The little Prince Director Mark Osborne spoke Tuesday in a master class at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa about his respect for Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki, his creative processes and the impact Netflix has had on global animation audiences.
Osborne is currently working on an animated feature, escape from hatfor Netflix Animation, which has him with BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated animation producer Jinko Gotoh (Klaus), his executive producer The little Prince.
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A French-American production using a combination of stop motion and computer animation, The little Prince is an adaptation of the iconic children’s book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which has sold 140 million copies worldwide. Osborne said he needed some persuasion to adapt the book because of a deep personal connection — his wife-to-be gave him a copy when they were both students — but he began to think about Miyazaki’s films when he finally agreed.
“My neighbor Totoro was a huge inspiration to me – I thought that’s what we’re going for sonically – and I love Miyazaki films because he always uses female characters and that was very inspiring. But I also thought about him because I knew he loved this book and if I made a bad film it would be terrible to make him mad at me. So I always thought about doing something that he would appreciate.”
Technically an independent production, The little Prince premiered in an Out Of Competition slot at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015 and was released theatrically in France by Paramount Pictures before Netflix acquired a number of English-speaking territories. Osborne said that as far as he knows, Miyazaki has never seen the film.
“We’ve tried reaching out to him and showing him, but he doesn’t notoriously watch other people’s films and I’m kind of glad,” Osborne admitted. “As much as I made the most of the film and I love the film, I was really nervous that he was going to see it. But I know he’s a big fan of the book and heard a rumor that he once took a trip to the Sahara to experience something that happens in the book.”
Osborne also spoke about his creative and storytelling processes and how difficult it is for him to work on a project when he doesn’t have a personal connection to the material: “My first [short] Movie greener came out of a nightmare i had. And that’s when I discovered that filmmaking really is like therapy. When you immerse yourself in work, you need to immerse yourself in something that matters to you, and you will discover something about yourself in the process. Every single project I’ve worked on has been a discovery for me, and I never really understood what the film was about until it was done.”
He said he went through this process at DreamWorks Animations as well Kung Fu Pandahis first full-length animation, where he went from a crew of about seven to more than 400 people: “I really wanted to do a feature film, but I was also afraid that I might fail, so I was bringing my own journey in the experience.”
Kung Fu Panda It ended up grossing more than $625 million worldwide, but Osborne said he avoided working on the sequels as he had other projects he wanted to work on. He also said that while Miyazaki was influencing him The little Princehe drew on Chinese martial arts films like Ang Lee’s Crouching tiger, hidden dragon and Zhang Yimous hero in the manufacture of Kung Fu Panda.
“All these epic martial arts movies really inspired us to tell this huge story in a way that pays tribute not only to this great cinema but also to the architecture, landscapes and art of China, and it was so inspiring . ”
Osborne’s upcoming Netflix project, escape from hat, based on the children’s book of the same name by Adam Kline, is set in a fantasy world where the balance of nature is threatened when a magical rabbit is thrown into a mysterious realm of danger and shadow. He commented on how streaming has expanded global audiences for animation – not just animated works from the US and Europe, but also Japanese anime – although he noted that the streaming business collapsed after the pandemic subsided.
“But I think creating content for a global audience is becoming more of a norm, and that’s exactly what we’ve done Kung Fu Pandasaid Osborne, who reportedly also spoke to potential production partners during his trip to India.
“I think that’s what Netflix has done really well — thinking about how we’re going to reach the world? Anime is awesome, and once you see it, you’ll want to see more. So there are all these trends. But I think the biggest trend is emotional storytelling. That’s the most important thing about any story – you have to connect with people, wherever they are.”
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