Hayao Miyazaki: The Life and Work of A Revolutionary Animator
Hayao Miyazaki is the most famous founding father of Studio Ghibli, and one of Japan's greatest animators. Born in Tokyo, Japan on January 5, 1941, to his father, Katsuji Miyazaki and his mother, during World War II. Miyazaki's father, of which he was not very close to, was an aeronautical engineer and director for the family business. Miyazaki Airplane was known for making parts used on fighter planes and quickly caught Hayao's interest at a young age. In fact, many of his later movies featured delicately drawn aircraft designs and flying contraptions.
Miyazaki's mother had a great influence on his life, especially when she grew sick in 1947 with Pott's Disease. He stayed home with her during this time and took in her outlook on life. She constantly questioned the views of the social norm, and her inordinate love of reading complimented his propensity for art. Due to the conditions of that time, Miyazaki switched schools constantly, many of which copied the styling of American schools. Anime and Manga were becoming well-known and Miyazaki was greatly inspired by both styles of animation. In his third year of high school he saw what was known at the time as the "first ever" Japanese feature length film, Hakujaden (The Tale of the White Serpent). It was then Miyazaki truly knew he wanted to be apart of the animated world.
Knowing he would need to have a practical career path as well, he attended Gakushuin University and graduated in 1963 with degrees in political science and economics. Miyazaki's work was greatly influenced by the styling of famous manga artists Tetsuji Fukushima, Osamu Tezuka and Sanpei Shirato. Although his drawings of battleships, trains, planes and tanks were exceptional, he still had to overcome his obstacle of drawing people. He knew that in order to pursue animation he had to work on his skill, and did so until he grew satisfied with the outcome.
He soon joined Toei-Cine, an animation studio, and contributed 'in-between' drawings, which were added to the main ones in order to make action scenes complete. He realized how much he loved this creative path and never looked back to political science or politics again.
He commanded attention with his unique drawing ability and endlessly creative movie ideas. In 1965 he fell in love with and married Akemi Ota. She was a fellow animator of whom he had two sons, Goro and Keisuke. Miyazaki began working at A Pro animation studio in 1971, with his friend and fellow artist, Isao Takahata. The two had met at Toei-Cine and now collaborated on many projects. Then, in 1973, the two friends decided to move to Zuiyo Pictures where Miyazaki's reputation of forward thinking and appealing animation came to the forefront.
He first worked as both writer and director of Panda! Go Panda! and later followed with Panda and Child: Rainy Day Circus. Future Boy Conan was the first series he directed in 1978. Toyko Movie Shinsha hired Miyazaki to direct a movie version of Lupin III in 1979, which later became The Castle of Cagliostro. Miyazaki soon realized he wanted to expand his world of animation beyond what it was.
In 1984 Miyazaki decided to start his own studio along with Takahata. Studio Ghibli was born, allowing the artists the complete freedom to push the boundaries of animation. Toshio Suzuki joined the team in 2005, re-establishing the studio's image.
Following soon after was Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, both written and directed by Miyazaki. Miyazaki gained even more recognition with his next three films: Laputa: Castle In the Sky(1986), My Neighbor Totoro(1988) and Kiki's Delivery Service(1989). All movies feature Miyazaki's evident fascination with flight.
It's been said that Miyazaki's process in creating these films is a far reach from the more conventional view. He usually begins his films without a script or an exact knowledge of who his main characters actually are. Instead, he allows the drawings to lead him into the direction the film should go in, spontaneously adding to the story as he goes along.
In 1992, Miyazaki made a film that is said to be an abstract self-portrait of the director himself, Porco Rosso. In 1997, the director released one of his most violent pictures, Princess Mononoke. The feature won Best Picture at the Japanese Academy Awards and was one of the highest grossing films in Japans history. In fact, in 2001, the film that broke that record was Miyazaki's next feature, the exotic and stunning, Spirited Away. The film collected numerous awards including a second Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture.
Castle In the Sky: Volumes 1- 4 premiered in 2003, followed by Howls Moving Castle in 2004. Miyazaki received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Film Festival in 2005 for his revolutionary body of work. In 2008, Ponyo was released in Japan and in North America the following year. The film received critical acclaim and won several awards including Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.
Hayao Miyazaki has created unforgettable characters and amazing animations. His films are indulgent, thoughtful and visually breathtaking. His work will continue to influence the artists and dreamers of this world, as he will always be known as one of the most inspirational Directors in Japanese Cinema.
“[on the future of hand-drawn animation] I'm actually not that worried. I wouldn't give up on it completely. Once in a while there are strange, rich people who like to invest in odd things. You're going to have people in the corners of garages making cartoons to please themselves. And I'm more interested in those people than I am in big business.”
― Hayao Miyazaki