Next Up for Miyazaki Hayao

The first details have been revealed of the next project for master animator Miyazaki Hayao (66). “Gake no Ue no Ponyo”, his follow up to 2004’s “Howl’s Moving Castle”, will be drawn entirely by hand and is scheduled for release in July 2008. An original story that draws on the classic tale of the Little Mermaid, it tells of the relationship between a mermaid princess who longs to be human and the 5-year-old Sousuke. The inspiration for the story came to Miyazaki in 2004 when he and Studio Ghibli employees took a company trip to a small town on the Seto Inland Sea. Miyazaki ended up spending two months in the town. The character of the young boy is said to be modeled after Miyazaki’s own son Goro (40), who made his directorial debut with last year’s “Gedo Senki” (Tales From Earthsea). The elder director is following his usual unorthodox style, and so far has drawn out a story board for about the first hour of the movie, with the remainder yet to be decided. Fans of the animator in Japan will be able to watch a rare documentary on his creative process on NHK’s “Professional” on March 27. The show documents the first several months of the development of his latest project.

• Actor Funakoshi Eiji died on Saturday night of a brain hemorrhage at a Shizuoka Prefecture hospital. He died on his 84th birthday. One of the leading actors of the Daiei movie studio in the 1950s, he made his real breakthrough in 1959’s “Nobi”, directed by Ichikawa Kon. After a career of some 200 movies and high-profile TV drama roles, he retired from acting in 1999. His eldest son is the actor Funakoshi Eiichiro (46).