As a parent, one of the surprising things about my daily life is how many cartoons I end up having to sit through. I know, right? The irony. And I’m wondering what it is that is the cartoon of choice among the kids at Mamoru Hosoda’s house.
“Oh,” he says, “they are mad for PAW Patrol. It’s PAW Patrol all the time at our place.”
Blimey, I say to the director of Summer Wars and Belle, that must be awful.
“Oh no, it’s great,” he says graciously. “All these little dogs and it’s kind of like a sentai show. They love it.”
I personally can’t imagine the horror of being a world-class animator, who comes home after a tiring day making films to discover that your kids are obsessed with Canadian cartoon dogs, but Hosoda is determined not to be That Kind of Animator.
“I don’t make a big deal about being The Guy Who Made the Films,” he says, despite literally being the guy who made the films. “I did take my daughter to see Belle at the cinema, and there was one of those UFO Catcher machines at the cinema, which had Belle dolls in it. She was keen enough on the film to ask me to win her one. I must have put three thousand yen [£20] into that machine!”
At this point, I have to point out to him that he wrote and directed Belle and owned all the licences. If he wanted a box of Belle dolls dropped on his doorstep that night, he only had to make a phone call.
“Yes,” he says shyly, “but I’m not the kind of guy who says I directed the film. I’m the kind of Dad who wants his daughter to see him win something.”
It’s a lovely little window into his character, and into how sweetly he puts family ahead of work. But with the sight of both Belle and PAW Patrol: The Movie on the Oscars Best Animated Feature longlist, will there be a ceremonial burning of doggie merchandise at the Hosoda home?
“I think if my kids were voting members of the Academy, they would be voting for PAW Patrol without a second thought,” he grimaces. “But luckily, they’re not.”
[Peace was preserved when neither film made the shortlist] Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO #217, 2022.