Miyazaki, Hayao


Miyazaki, Hayao
▪ 2003

      In 2002 international acclaim came at last for Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki. His Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (released in English as Spirited Away) captured the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, won best Asian film at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and generated considerable Oscar buzz after its October release in the U.S. In his native Japan it had already won best picture at the Japanese Academy Awards and replaced Titanic as the top grossing film in Japanese history.

      Miyazaki was born in Tokyo on Jan. 5, 1941. His father was the director of Miyazaki Airplane, a manufacturing concern that built parts for Zero fighter planes. The family business instilled in Miyazaki a love of flying that became apparent in virtually all of his work. After having completed studies in economics at Gakushuin University, Tokyo, in 1963, he took a position as an entry-level animator at Toei Doga, Asia's largest animation studio. While at Toei Doga, he met fellow animators Isao Takahata and Akemi Ota. The first became a lifelong friend, collaborator, and business partner. The second, after a one-year courtship, became his wife. Miyazaki moved through the ranks at Toei, working on such projects as the television series Wolf Boy Ken and Takahata's feature directorial debut, The Great Adventure of Hols, Prince of the Sun (1968). After leaving Toei in 1971, Miyazaki, accompanied by Takahata, continued to work for various studios throughout the 1970s. Highlights from this period included the Panda & Child film shorts and, in 1979, Miyazaki's first full-length film, Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro.

      Miyazaki's individual style became more apparent in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds, a monthly manga (Japanese cartoon) strip he wrote for Animage magazine. Its success inspired a film of the same name (released in 1984) and encouraged Miyazaki and Takahata to undertake a more permanent partnership arrangement. Together they launched Studio Ghibli in 1985. The following year Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky was released in Japan and Nausicaä was released in the U.S. as Warriors of the Wind. Confusing edits and poor dubbing rendered the American version virtually unwatchable, and more than a decade would pass before Miyazaki would consider another Western release. He and Studio Ghibli continued to produce works for the domestic market, however. Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro debuted alongside Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies in 1988. While both films were well received critically, the financial success of the studio was secured by the phenomenal sale of Totoro merchandise. Miyazaki followed with Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) and Porco Rosso (1992), which became the year's top-grossing film. This set the stage for 1997's Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke), a blockbuster that shattered Japanese box-office records.

Michael Ray

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Universalium. 2010.

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