[Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Mamoru Hosoda for the Movie BELLE

BELLE_Image02-700x293 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Mamoru Hosoda for the Movie BELLE

Hello and welcome to this wonderful and amazing interview we had with the famous Japanese director, Mamoru Hosoda, about his new film which was released in theaters this past weekend! If you are still on the fence about watching this film, then why not head over to our review to get some insights. Or, if you have seen the film, make sure to check out our review for our thoughts and also, glad you stopped here to find out more about BELLE and what process and difficulties Hosoda-san may have gone through during production.

This interview was a group interview with 3 other outlets and ourselves. Their questions will be a part of this interview along with our own so make sure to keep scrolling to find out what we asked Hosoda-san as we pick his brain to know more about production, casting, and more!

Mamoru Hosoda

Alfonso Ortiz

Many others
Interview with Director Mamoru Hosoda for the Movie BELLE

BELLE_Image02-700x293 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Mamoru Hosoda for the Movie BELLE

Melvyn Tan & Kwok for Anime Trending:

What inspired you to combine the Beauty and the Beast story with technological elements?

So I’ve always been a big fan of Beauty and the Beast and what draws me to the story the most is the character of the beast and him having a violent side and a gentle side. And for the internet, there are two sides as well where you have the real you and you on the virtual scope, and I thought having these two would be a good way to echo the world that we are living in. That is where I got the inspiration of combining Beauty and the Beast and the internet.

Mai Nguyen for Asia Pacific Arts:

You have been depicting the virtual world in many of your works. So can you speak more on how you’ve seen the internet evolve and how you wanted to show that in this movie?

So I’ve been making internet themed films for about 20 years where the internet has been around for only 26-27 years and I think I might be the only director using internet themes in films but it does allow you to meet many wonderful people and talented people who are maybe famous or just getting their start. So in this film, the main character Suzu, is a country girl and through the world of U, she becomes a very famous singer. When I tried to design the world of U, I wanted to find some talent who I believe would be perfect to design this world out there, so I found Eric Wong who is the architect who designed it. I found his bio on the internet and I didn’t even know he was in London, so what we went through in production and what goes on in the film echoes with each other and that was interesting.

Evan Bourgault for Boston Bastard Brigade:

You have spoken before on how many things in your life have become seeds to help grow many of your films, from meeting your wife's family that is Summer Wars to your desire to have kids which brought Wolf children, is there something you experienced personally that inspired the creation of BELLE?

Yes! There was definitely something in my personal life that inspired BELLE. I have a 6-year old daughter who acts very confident and acts like a princess at home but once she went to kindergarten, she kind of shuts herself down a little bit and become shy and only plays with certain friends in kindergarten so even a 6-year old can have dualities (different personalities) and I thought that was very interesting. So in BELLE, Suzu—this very unfamous high school student, she experiences the virtual world of U and becomes famous so that contrast or parallel definitely came from my personal life experience.

Alfonso Ortiz for Honey’s Anime:

How long did production take to complete BELLE, and were there any difficulties you faced while producing the film? This can be regarding the pandemic or unplanned circumstances along the way?

So it took 3-years to make the film from the ideas to the actual completion of the film. The production of the film actually started in March of 2020 which was the same time the pandemic start and we were forced to shift gears anyways and normally all the creators get together in a studio and work together but we were pretty much forced to work remotely which was definitely a challenge. And actually, the film was completed only 10-days before the film was released in theaters. So we were working till the very last minute but there was one good thing that came out of this circumstance which was just because of the pandemic and people were staying at home, a lot of artists were staying at home and not doing anything so it was very easy for us to approach a lot of talented people around the world. So it was good and bad.

Melvyn Tan & Kwok for Anime Trending:

Given the very high production values in BELLE, what visual aspect or scene in the film was the most challenging to bring to life?

So the challenging thing, visually, was the creation of the world of U. It was just a balance of how realistic it should be versus how unrealistic it should be because I want the viewers of this world. It is not a real-world but an extension of the internet world that everyone is familiar with. So that was a challenge and it was definitely worth the challenge with the recent talks about the Metaverse and a lot of companies are releasing a lot of visuals. None of them are interesting enough and I think that U’s visuals are a lot more interesting. I kind of want to say to those IT companies that unless you make it more interesting and more intriguing, no one is going to buy it or do anything with it. *chuckles*

But that was definitely the challenge. Keeping up with a realistic and unrealistic world of view.

BELLE_Image02-700x293 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Mamoru Hosoda for the Movie BELLE

Mai Nguyen for Asia Pacific Arts:

To dive more into the internet, you have succeeded in reflecting the positive and negative nature that the internet can provide—like comments that people post and understanding the best parts of BELLE and the internet, where do you see that leaving room for the virtual world after you have obtained that?

So as a filmmaker, I want to portray a world that values are constantly changing worldwide and this is based on Beauty and the Beast which is 18th-century folklore where a prince meets a beautiful girl and he is prince-charming and they live happily ever after and that world compared to today's modern world definition of happiness was definitely different from back then. So as a filmmaker, it was a challenge of how to express that in my film and after the characters find out who they really are through this journey, Suzu becomes very strong and enough to help other people. And when I see today's definition of beauty and happiness, I was confident that I could make an updated version of Beauty and the Beast with a more modern sense of values.

Evan Bourgault for Boston Bastard Brigade:

One thing we are impressed with is your ability to draw animated humans with real-life emotions, can you describe the techniques you use in order to create these real emotions in both animation and voice acting performances?

I think that what is important to show is how the protagonist is cornered, what kind of conflict and experience they will go through, how they will react in certain situations, and what kind of choices they will make. The choices they make will reflect what kind of person they are so I think that is very important and their choices will lead to the story's conclusion. In the process, the characters go through suffering, sacrifice, and in the case of Suzu, she needed to reveal her real identity in order to save these 2 boys and that definitely shows what kind of girl she is and I definitely value that approach.

BELLE_Image02-700x293 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Mamoru Hosoda for the Movie BELLE

Alfonso Ortiz for Honey’s Anime:

The movie portrays youngsters going through extreme life hardships (like bullying and abuse while taking solace in technology). What was the reason or inspiration for showing viewers what these characters are going through and is there a character in the film that you can relate to the most?

So as a parent, I am very curious to see how the young generation will survive in this internet age that can be potentially challenging or dangerous sometimes but I made this film with the hope that they will survive. They will go through this throughout their lives but still live strongly and the character that I relate to the most I have to say is Suzu’s father. I have a 6-year old daughter and she comes to all “daddy, daddy” right now but will eventually grow out of that phase, and then she might not even want to talk to me. Still, like Suzu’s father, I will probably care about her no matter what age she is going to be so that is the character I relate to the most!

Melvyn Tan & Kwok for Anime Trending:

What led to the casting of miss Kaho Nakamura as Belle?

So in casting Suzu and Belle, we considered many options from musical actors, some voice actors who can sing, and regular actors that can sing because both of these characters have a lot of singing parts so obviously w went that route. We also auditioned many musicians and among them, Kaho Nakamura really stood out and she is really well-known amongst music fans but she isn’t a music icon, yet. The reason why we picked her was her ability to express emotions behind the lyrics and even though the songs are in Japanese, I thought that her words and sound were definitely picked up the emotions from her sound. I hope that the viewers feel the same way about her voice and my choice of casting!

Mai Nguyen for Asia Pacific Arts:

In terms of the music and theatrical release, people are commenting on their excitement for the music and it coming out in theaters—I believe the music came later in the process of making this film, but could you share any direction you had in deciding about how you wanted the music to be expressed and what is a song that you felt really hit home with a message you want in your film?

Yes, music is definitely a big element in this film and our music team which consisted of 3 Japanese members and 1 Swedish member and we talked a lot about what kind of music will be played or heard in the global virtual world of U. We wanted something that is not an extension of pop chart music and songs that are catching. We wanted to beyond commercialism and something that will definitely carry and reflect the message about the vastness of the world of U. This is not a story of someone who sings well and becomes successful, it is kind of the opposite. It's about this shy, introverted girl who becomes liberated through her singing and songs so it couldn’t just be some pop song so we definitely had a lot of talks about this.

The first song Belle sings in U, as well as the song that plays at the Beast Castle, are two songs that really carry the message of the whole story and I think it came out very nicely. The most important song has to be U that plays at the very beginning of the film!

Evan Bourgault for Boston Bastard Brigade:

You worked with the Irish studio, Cartoon Saloon, to help bring the vision of U to life in BELLE—and Cartoon Saloon has its own brand of beauty and works, how did their contributions help to evolve your original vision of U?

So Cartoon Saloon is definitely special amongst the global animation producers in that their design/art is very abstract, and both in Japan and the US, a lot of stage designs are kind of leaning towards realistic direction but their art is also very abstract but they [Cartoon Saloon] stood out the most. So we met with the studio when they came to Japan to promote Wolfwalkers, I actually helped them promote the film because they made Wolfwalkers and I made Wolf Children so there was an interview set up to meet and we found out that shared a lot of ideas and we both sided with the wolves instead of the humans so we hit it off very well. That’s how we met.

After Wolfwalkers, they [Cartoon Saloon] began their vacation but that was the time the pandemic hit and I was like “what are you talking about a vacation? You can’t go anywhere…” So they were staying at home and that is how I approached them and said, “Well… Do you want to work with us?” That is how the whole collaboration came about and the scene where Belle goes to the Beast Castle was a scene, in particular, that the studio contributed the most. Tomm Moore, another director, was the one who directed that scene and it came out very nicely!

We definitely shared a lot of ideas and I think partly because they are Irish, with their history and how they have been invaded in the past, we both value nature a lot, and that is how the Wolfwalkers story came about. So it is definitely different in that sense and I hope that the collaboration can be appreciated by US viewers as well!

Alfonso Ortiz for Honey’s Anime:

Picking up from another question, knowing how the internet is the bridge to the rest of the world, how do you feel about your films being released outside of Japan, and are there any other studios you would like to work with, in the near future?

It is definitely exciting to know my films are going to be released in other countries around the world, and this wouldn’t be possible before, obviously, as I have been in the anime industry for about 30 years. Before, there was definitely a wall. In America, you had American anime and in Japan, you have Japanese anime, and Europe has its own anime. So there were borders or walls in between that were hard to get over but with the surge of the internet, it has definitely changed a lot, especially, with streaming services making it possible for people around the world to see animation films being produced in all parts of the world. Maybe before, American films were widely available everywhere but you had your own films in your own countries to watch. So now, it is really nice that we can enjoy a lot of content through movies being released worldwide and all the streaming services.

As a filmmaker, I feel we too have to get over this wall and forget about the borders and collaborate to make something great together. I think that is very important and at the same time, I think the films themselves have to change over time to be relevant to what's happening at the time. That is my take on that.

Final Thoughts

That was it for the interview with Hosoda-san. While he didn’t directly answer the last question, it definitely left the room open for wanting to collaborate more as it is much easier, now. His films have always been about technology with the internet becoming the basis for some of his recent films like Summer Wars and now, BELLE. His ability to adapt to life and modern changes is nothing short of amazing, and the emotions he is able to capture in his films while making us feel exactly what we’re seeing is complete mastery.

We thank the other outlets for their questions during this interview and we also hope you, the reader, enjoyed this awesome interview here at Honey’s Anime! Make sure to follow us on social media and visit our Anime page at the top left of the website for more great content about what we all love. Anime!

Have a good day!

BELLE_Image02-700x293 [Honey’s Anime Interview] Director Mamoru Hosoda for the Movie BELLE

Editor in Chief

Author: Alfonso "Fonzy" Ortiz

I'm a Geek, Nerd, Writer, and lover of all video games, anime, science, technology and the internet. I previously worked for STFUandPlay.com, a contributing writer as the Japanese Corespondent at TheKoalition.com and founded a website called Transcend-Gaming.com! I currently live in Japan as Editor in Chief of Honey's Anime and its very talented writers! I'm down for anything! What do you want to do?

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