Miyazaki Hayao (Tokyo, 1941- )
Miyazaki is the best-known maker of animated movies in Japan.
The 1997 hit Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime, poster)
was the biggest box-office film ever in Japan at the time, and
Miyazaki's features have continued to break box office records.
He and his Studio Ghibli have become the Japanese equivalent of Disney,
though they still maintain the levels of artistry that built that US
empire in its heyday. In 2001, a popular Studio Ghibli museum opened
in western Tokyo, but a Disneyland-type of project seems
unlikely and would be out of character for the man himself.
A graduate of an elite university, in 1963 Miyazaki joined Toei
Animation, the biggest animation studio in Asia. There, he met
Takahata Isao and a working partnership began which continues
to this day. 1984's multi-award winning Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no
Tani no Nausicaa, poster) was based on a manga drawn by Miyazaki.
Takahata was the producer of the film version, while Miyazaki
scripted and directed. He continued to expand the manga until
he had completed 59 episodes in 1994.
Following this success, Miyazaki and Takahata set up Studio Ghibli.
Over the years, the studio has turned out a string of hits, with
the works of Takahata battling ably with those of Miyazaki. Although
not quite as successful as Nausicaa, My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro, 1988,
poster) became an instant classic and remains
very popular. Totoro, a woodland spirit (left), is said to be
a caricature of Miyazaki himself. Other Studio Ghibli hits include
Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyubin, 1989) and Porco Rosso
(Kurenai no Buta, 1992, poster) and most are distributed worldwide in
a link with...who other than Disney.
2001 saw the release of the magical Spirited Away
(Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, poster), a kind of Japanese Alice in
Wonderland. The movie set a new box office record for a Japanese production by breaking the almost
15-million attendance figure for Mononoke Hime. It then went on to break the domestic all-time
record of Titanic, took the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival, and then the crowning glory
- the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar in 2003. (Incidentally, we named our yet-to-be-born daughter
Chihiro, though we weren't directly influenced
by the movie).
The next Miyazaki feature wasn't even supposed to be directed by him at all. "Howl's Moving Castle" was
originally to be the first Ghibli project with an outsider at the helm. But Hosoda Mamoru's artwork was not
thought to be up to the high standards set by the studio. The delayed production was finally set for release
in November 2004. But before that it has the nicely timed public relations coup of being named to compete at
the prestigious Venice Film Festival that September, a first for a Japanese anime. The film is based on a
children's book of the same name by Diana Wynn Jones and is in the classic fairy tale style, with witches and
wizards...and a moving castle. As is usual with Miyazaki's films the central character is a young girl.
2005 saw yet another accolade for Miyazaki when he was given the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award
at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival.
Miyazaki fans worldwide were shocked at the very same festival 8 years later when it was announced that the
eagerly awaited "Kaze Tachinu" (The Wind Rises) - the master's first film in five years - was to be his last.