Pixar Animator Enrico Casarosa On The Inspiring Work Of Hayao Miyazaki

Enrico Casarosa, writer and director of the Oscar-nominated Pixar short, La Luna, sifts through the Studio Ghibli archives to discuss how Hayao Miyazaki has influenced him.

You know that almost overwhelming sense of wonder you get while watching the best Pixar movies? That sensation also infuses the work of Japan’s Studio Ghibli. And the shared qualities are no accident. Animators at Emeryville, California’s Pixar Studios are devoted fans and lifelong friends of Hayao Miyazaki, cofounder of Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio behind such films as the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away. As a traveling retrospective of Studio Ghibli films wraps up in Los Angeles this weekend and continues until early March in Boston (next stop: Austin, Texas), Pixar animator Enrico Casarosa talks about his favorites.


Growing up in Genoa, Italy, Casarosa was a devoted fan of the Japanese anime TV series Future Boy Conan, which captured his imagination. “Conan was a super-powerful boy,” recalls Casarosa. “He sometimes defied the laws of gravity and nature, and there were these great mechanical designs–those are the things I really love, you know, flying and flying machines.” He didn’t know then that the import was the early work of Miyazaki, whose feature films Casarosa first saw when he started working in animation in the 1990s: “That’s when I realized, Oh, my god, this is the same person who made the series I loved growing up!”

Since 2002, Casarosa has worked at Pixar, where he has been a story artist on Cars, Ratatouille, and Up. His directorial debut, La Luna, is up for an Oscar for best animated short and can be seen in more than 200 theaters across the U.S. and on demand. It’s the beautiful story of a boy who looks up in wonder. Being nominated was a rather new experience for the San Francisco resident, as his early-morning tweet revealed the day they were announced: “Come to think of it, that nespresso could be the best nespresso I ever have…They don’t come with Oscar noms on the side usually.”

In addition to racking up honors for his work, Casarosa created SketchCrawl, an international drawing marathon that has been raising money for victims of 2011’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. SketchCrawl was born of Casarosa’s belief in the power of creativity, a belief that infuses his animation, comic books (such as The Adventures of Mia) and illustrated stories (The Venice Chronicles), all of which find a kinship in the movies of Miyazaki. “That sense of wonder he captures,” Casarosa says of Miyazaki, “that is something I really wanted to do. I really wanted to capture it in La Luna because I wanted it to be very much about seeing the world from a kid’s eye. Can we put ourselves back into looking at the world as a kid, you know?”

In the slide show above, Casarosa discusses his favorite Miyazaki films, including the one that inspired the naming of his daughter.

About the author

Ari Karpel is a frequent contributor to Fast Company and Co.Create and an instructor at UCLA Extension. His writing about culture, creativity and celebrity has also appeared in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Men's Health, The Advocate and Tablet.