‘The Legend of Zelda’ Movie Dashes the Long-Held Dream of Hayao Miyazaki Fanatics

So, The Legend of Zelda will finally be getting a live-action movie adaptation. While that is exciting news it also spells a crushed fantasy for many anime fans.

It’s been a long-held dream to see an animated The Legend of Zelda movie in the style of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, as the video game franchise has clearly taken frequent inspiration from Studio Ghibli’s Oscar-winning maestro of animation. What’s more, Miyazaki’s 1997 classic Princess Mononoke already looks like what an anime version of The Legend of Zelda could be like.

When I booted up The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the first time a few years back, I remember getting the distinct feeling during the opening “awakening” scene with Link scoping out a vast landscape that I’ll never forget. The subtly cell-shaded graphics and sprawling grassy fields that moved in the wind made me feel like I was in the world of Princess Mononoke, playing out Prince Ashitaka’s journey of redemption. In fact, you can plainly see the influence of that film in both Breath of the Wild and its sequel, Tears of the Kingdom.

Miyazaki’s influence on Zelda can’t be understated

For instance, the spiritual apparition known as the Lord of the Mountain in Breath of the Wild, a ghost-like horse creature, clearly resembles the Spirit of the Forest from Princess Mononoke. The plot point of Link having his arm cursed by a demon in Tears of the Kingdom also heavily resembles Prince Ashitaka’s main conflict in Miyazaki’s masterpiece. Other Miyazaki films can be considered influential to the franchise, such as the dragons in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom resembling the design of Haku in Spirited Away. It’s also widely known that the more cartoony art style of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was inspired by a film Miyazaki worked on earlier in his career as the writer and key animator, Animal Treasure Island, directed by Hiroshi Ikeda.

Though the possibilities seemed very promising for an anime version of The Legend of Zelda, that will likely never happen now that Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto has announced the forthcoming movie will be live-action. In his announcement, Miyamoto explained he’d already been working on the film for years with producer Avi Arad but that the movie would now officially go into production.

It was never a guarantee that Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli would agree to make The Legend of Zelda film, even if they were asked. However, even if Nintendo worked with another animation studio to craft a film that paid homage to the legendary filmmaker, the results could’ve been incredible. Imagine if, for example, the team behind Universal’s animated masterpiece from last year, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, were given such a task. The results might’ve been breathtaking since the Antonio Banderas-starring fantasy already arguably had some Miyazaki vibes, albeit with an intriguing mixture of both 2D and 3D animation styles. 

However, don’t feel too bad about the whole Zelda situation if you’re a Miyazaki fan. You see, the legendary director is coming out with another one of his masterpieces, The Boy and the Heron, which is coming to theaters and IMAX nationwide on December 8.

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