Studio Ghibli’s Porco Rosso: Behind-the-scenes trivia and secret Easter eggs revealed

Insider revelations shed new light on the beloved anime film.

TV viewers in Japan have had a great start to the year, with broadcaster Nippon TV airing two Studio Ghibli films in its “Friday Roadshow” weekly movie slots for the first two weeks of 2022.

On 7 January, Ghibli’s 2001 film Spirited Away was broadcast, with the studio answering fan questions about the movie while it aired as part of a special Q&A session on Twitter. Then, on 14 January, Ghibli’s 1992 film Porco Rosso was broadcast, and this time Nippon TV’s official Friday Roadshow Twitter account was on hand to provide interesting snippets of background information and behind-the-scenes secrets for viewers.

Friday Roadshow shared a barrage of constant updates throughout the evening, so let’s take a look at some of the highlights below.

Porco Rosso wasn’t intended to be a feature-length film

“Initially, this work, which started out as a 30-minute-long video project, was made to be screened inside planes in order to garner a big budget. After that, the content became more in-depth and it looked like it was going to exceed 60 minutes, so it was made into a feature-length film.”

The feature-length Porco Rosso was produced by Studio Ghibli in collaboration with a number of companies, including Nippon TV and Japan Airlines. This fact prompted one fan to shared a photo of a 1992 JAL inflight magazine promoting the film.

The Translation for the Opening Scene 

“The opening subtitles in 10 languages was an idea written into the storyline from the beginning. Translators were asked to translate the text, but they had a hard time confirming [its accuracy]. Using various connections, ‘language masters’ for each language, such as university lecturers, embassy staff, and overseas TV station employees, checked the translations in time for the release.”

Because the ten-language translation was part of the story from the very beginning, a number of fans believe this was part of the initial agreement to show the film on JAL’s international flights.

Porco Rosso is based on a Miyazaki Manga

“Porco Rosso is based on ‘The Age of the Flying Boat’ episode from Hayao Miyazaki’s Zassou Note, which was serialised in Monthly Model Graphix. The dynamic scene of Mamma Aiuto’s ‘bounty hunter’ is drawn in Part 1.”

Why Porco Rosso Remains a Pig Throughout the Film

“Director Miyazaki said, ‘I think it’s more true-to-character for Porco to live as a pig right to the end’. When Porco appeared in the sunlight, as a pig, that’s who Gina fell in love with.”

Gina is Argentinian

“Pay attention to the flag on the boat owned by Gina. Even though it’s set in the Adriatic Sea, the flag of Argentina is raised. It seems that this is because Gina’s backstory includes the fact that she’s Argentinian.”

A Forever Farewell?

“Tokiko Kato, who played Gina, felt that the scene in which Gina and Porco stared at each other was a “forever farewell”. However, Miyazaki said it wouldn’t matter if Porco were to appear at Gina’s bar afterwards as if nothing had happened.”

The film’s open ending leaves many viewers reading into that final look shared between the two characters to see if it revealed anything about their possible future together. However, Miyazaki’s statement can lay rest to any fears about this being a “forever farewell”.

Two Producers had Cameos in the Film

“At the time of recording Kato’s song, Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki and former Nippon TV producer Seiji Okuda decided to play customers at Gina’s bar. In the scene they were in, the man who takes Gina’s hand with a nervous look was based on Okuda’s performance, and the man with glasses behind him was based on Suzuki’s performance.”

Animating the French Singing Scene

“The audio for ‘Le Temps Des Cerises’, sung by Gina at the hotel bar, was recorded at a Russian restaurant in Aoyama [in Tokyo]. This scene was shot in advance with a video camera, and Miyazaki used it for reference when drawing the scene. Take note of Gina “reenacting” Kato’s mouth movements as she sings in French.”

Kato, an acclaimed singer and actress, shared a video message with fans before the broadcast, asking them to watch the show. She also joked that today was Valentine’s Day, before correcting herself to say it was actually a month before Valentine’s Day.

Porco Smokes the Same Brand of Cigarettes as Another Anime Character

“The cigarette that’s constantly in Porco’s mouth is Gitanes, a representative brand of cigarettes from France. Porco seems to like the ones with both ends cut off. It’s the brand that Lupine III [from The Castle of Cagliostro] also smokes.”

The Castle of Cagliostro, known in Japan as Lupin III: Cagliostro no Shiro, is a 1979 Japanese anime film that was co-written and directed by Miyazaki, although it pre-dates the 1985 founding of Studio Ghibli.

The Motives Behind the Characters

“In his proposal for Porco Rosso, Miyazaki clearly wrote, ‘The main characters all adhere to a reality carved out by their lives. They fool around because they’ve experienced tough times. They’ve acquired simplicity through maturity. We have to cherish every character. That stupidity should be loved, and cutting corners with the portrayal of other characters in the crowd is to be avoided. The common mistake — the misconception that drawing someone dumber than you is manga — must not be made.”

Professional actors often say that characters are multifaceted and therefore should never be viewed as either good or bad. Miyazaki’s statements prove he too has a deep level of understanding and affection for characters and their background stories, which is why they connect so well with audiences.

Using Colour to Express a Change in Porco’s Mental State

“In the scene where Porco tells Fio a story, there was a direction to change Porco’s psychological state with “colour”!! Before he tells the story, the shadow hues are blue. After the story is over, they change to brown.”

A New Heart on Curtis’ Plane

“Pay attention to the white section on the rear body of Curtis’ beloved plane, his R3C-O. At the beginning of the story, there’s no pattern in this section, but during the final battle with Porco, an illustration of a heart pierced with an arrow has been added.”

▼ Another heart appears in the frame of Porco’s glasses after their punch-up, proving that love is truly at the centre of this tale.

The Inspiration for Porco’s Plane

“‘Savoia’ is a manufacturer that actually existed in Italy, but Porco’s beloved plane, the “Savoia S.21 prototype combat flying boat” is a fictitious aerial flying boat created by Miyazaki. It’s said to be modelled on the ‘Macchi M.33’ flying boat that was in the Schneider Trophy race.”

The Meaning of the Letter “R”

“The symbol on the tail of Porco’s aircraft is modelled on the city emblem of Porco’s hometown of Genova. The letter “R” above it is said to be taken from the first letter of ROSSO and Republican (Repubbicano).”

We knew Porco was a Republican when he said he’d rather be a pig than a fascist in the film.

Porco Rosso Turned Himself Into a Pig?

“Porco’s real name is Marco Pagot. Born in 1893. The name is taken from the Italian producer of Sherlock Hound, which Miyazaki directed. “Porco Rosso” is a nickname given to the character by the sky pirates. After World War I, he retired from the Italian army and performed a spell on himself to turn himself into a pig.”

The above tweet comes from a diehard Ghibli fan, who included photos of the above-mentioned statements, which appeared in the movie booklet that was published when the movie was first released. Sherlock Hound is an Italian-Japanese anime TV series that debuted in 1984, eight years before Porco Rosso debuted in Japanese cinemas.

Porco’s Face Returns to its Human Form…But Only Sometimes

“Curtis is surprised when he sees Porco’s face, but Miyazaki says that doesn’t mean Porco has returned to his human form. Although his face sometimes returns to its human form, it seems that it goes back to looking like a pig straight away.”

That same Ghibli fan posted the above tweet with photos from the same booklet to back up the statements. It certainly does align with Miyazaki’s previous assertion that Porco should remain as a pig throughout the film.

The Federation of Air Pirates is a Multinational Organisation

“The bosses in the Federation of Air Pirates, an organisation formed by seven groups of air pirates based in the Adriatic Sea, have different birthplaces. The boss wearing an eyepatch is from France, while others are from Switzerland, Sicily, Provence, Croatia. There also appears to be Norman descendants and aristocratic descendants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”

The Real-Life Major Ferrarin

“Porco’s comrade, Ferrarin, was modelled on Arturo Ferrarin, the pilot who made the world’s first European-Far East flight between Rome and Tokyo!”

A Tribute to Porco’s Voice Actor

“Shuichiro Moriyama, who played Porco. He dubbed roles like Telly Savalas’ in the drama Kojak. Unfortunately, he passed away last year.”

Japanese voice actor Moriyama was the official Japanese dub artist for actors like Spencer Tracy, Telly Savalas, Jean Gabin and Lino Ventura. Moriyama passed away in February last year, at the age of 86.

Debut Role for a Famous One Piece Voice Actress

“Fio was played by Akemi Okamura, who’s known for playing the role of Nami in One Piece. She made her voice acting debut in Porco Rosso.”

Fio’s Older Sister

“Among the female relatives working at the Piccolo factory, the woman wearing a cream-coloured dress is Fio’s older sister, Giliora. On the storyboard for this scene, “Fio, Five years later” is written.”

So that’s what Fio would look like in five years’ time!

Women Played Main Roles in the Film, and also at Studio Ghibli

“At Mr Piccolo’s factory, the men are all working away from home, so women gather together to work. Actually, at Studio Ghibli as well, women like animation director Megumi Kagawa and art director Kazu Hisamura occupied main roles, which was an unprecedented arrangement in the animation industry at that time.”

A Hat From Another Ghibli Film

“On the image board for Mr Piccolo, drawn by Miyazaki, he added the note ‘Pazu Hat’!! The design of the blue hat worn by Mr Piccolo is based on the blue hat worn by Pazu in Laputa: Castle in the Sky.”

Ghibli Leaves its Mark on an Engine

“The engine in the Piccolo warehouse. If you look closely at the engraved sign…!?”

Yes, that sign reads “Ghibli” in all caps, even though the engine is meant to be a Fiat A.S.2 “Folgore” V-12. It’s not just the studio that’s referenced with the appearance of the word “Ghibli”, though — the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli was an Italian aircraft used in World War II, and its nickname, “Ghibli”, means “desert wind”, which is where the studio gets its name from.

The Pigs in Planes at the End of the Film

“The 22 illustrations seen during the ending were all created by Hayao Miyazaki. The pigs he drew are said to reflect the notion that airplanes were beginning to be used as a means for various interests in the world, and men who had to fly in the sky on a “mission” would be unable to escape from a certain type of shamefulness.”

The messaging is certainly deep in Porco Rosso, a film coloured by the backdrop of war and conflict and set during a period of rapid change. However, Miyazaki perfectly navigates us through the film with equal amounts of hope and humour, leading many fans to rate it as one of their favourite Ghibli films.

With the film based on an original Miyazaki manga, the studio itself named after one of Miyazaki’s favourite planes that made it into the story, and Mamma Aiuto, the name of the Sky Pirates, serving as the name for the Ghibli Museum gift shop, it’s clear to say that this underrated work is one of Miyazaki’s favourite films too.

Source: Twitter/@kinro_ntv via Hachima Kikou
Top image: Studio Ghibli
Insert  image: Studio Ghibli

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Studio Ghibli’s Porco Rosso: Behind-the-scenes trivia and secret Easter eggs revealed