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Miyazaki, Hayao

Hayao Miyazaki

Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (born 1941) is considered to be one of the world's greatest animators. His naturalistic style has shaped the genre of animation both in Japan and around the world.

Art Had Wartime Origins

Born in Tokyo on January 5, 1941, Miyazaki spent his early childhood amid the chaotic political climate of World War II. His father manufactured fighter airplane parts, which led the young Miyazaki to start drawing airplanes and to develop a lifelong passion for aviation. His mother was ill with tuberculosis and confined to her bed for most of his childhood, yet she remained a positive presence in his life.

During the occupation of the postwar years, Japanese comic books, or manga, started to emerge as a new medium. Miyazaki began drawing his own manga by studying the work of Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy. Animation, or anime, was also growing in popularity in Japan in the years following World War II. Miyazaki first became interested in becoming an animator after seeing the featurelength color anime film The Tale of the White Serpent while he was still in high school.

He furthered his interest in animation by joining a children's literature club at his college, Gakushuin University. After earning degrees in political science and economics in 1963, Miyazaki joined Toei Animation, where he received basic animation training and met his future collaborators. There he would also meet his wife, fellow animator Akemi Ota, alongside whom he worked on the early animated films Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon, Flying Phantom Ship, and Animal Treasure Island. The pair raised two sons, Goro (now a filmmaker) and Keisuke.

Miyazaki started as an in-between artist, drawing the pictures in between the key frames (the most important frames) to make the images flow smoothly. He soon moved up to the key animation department as well as the writing department, and became heavily involved with the animator's union. As a member of a new team of progressive animators, Miyazaki was able to work on Hols: Prince of the Sun, the directorial debut of Isao Takahata. Containing socialist themes and innovative animation techniques, the film caused a stir when it was released in 1968 and remains a landmark in anime history.

Directed Animated Television Series

Miyazaki and Takahata left Toei Animation in 1971, starting what would become a lifelong collaborative relationship. During the 1970s, Takahata and Miyazaki worked together at several production studios for both film and television. At A Pro, the team co-directed several episodes of the animated television series Lupin III, based on the popular manga by Kazuihiko Kato (also known as Monkey Punch).

The team also worked together on the short films Panda! Go, Panda! and Panda! Go, Panda!: Rainy Day Circus for Tokyo Movies Shinsha. In 1978 Miyazaki directed his first television series, Future Boy Conan, for Nippon Animation. Future Boy Conan was an adaptation of Alexander Key's novel The Incredible Tide, and the series followed the adventures of two children looking for hope amid world destruction. Miyazaki would return to the themes of ecological disaster in his later films.

During this time, Miyazaki was also practicing his craft as a scenic design artist. He traveled around Europe to observe landscapes and backgrounds for projects based on Western literature. In 1979 Miyazaki made his directorial feature film debut with Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. Lupin III, the fictional grandson of the master thief Arsène Lupin, was originally a character created by French novelist Maurice Le Blanc. Miyazaki was able to use his experiences traveling in Europe to inform the detailed settings and background scenery. Although commercially successful, the film was still mostly a genre exercise, and Miyazaki was left with a desire to expand the horizons of the art of animation.

In the early 1980s Miyazaki began writing an epic manga series about Nausicaä, a fearless princess who defends her peaceful valley from a toxic jungle and inevitable war. A fusion of figures from Japanese folklore with a character in the Odyssey of ancient Greece, Nausicaä struggles to defend her people's way of life as well as respect the dangerous environment she has come to understand. The feature film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in 1984 (the manga series continued into the late 1990s). Miyazaki did the writing, directing, and storyboarding, with Takahata as the producer.

Emerged as Anime Auteur

The first major work done in the classic Miyazaki style, Nausicaä, marked Miyazaki as a filmmaking auteur. With its strong female protagonist, realistic depictions of nature, and ecological themes, the film set a standard for his career and for animation in general. Miyazaki did away with the common association between anime and a metalllic, high-tech look, offering fungus-covered forest trees instead. In the 1980s, a heavily cut version of Nausicaä was released in dubbed English on video under the name Warriors of the Wind. The Disney studio later re-released a more thorough English-language version with a new voice cast, including Patrick Stewart and Uma Thurman.

After nearly two decades of working together, Miyazaki and Takahata decided to start their own production company within the parent company of Tokuma Shoten. They named it Studio Ghibli, after the nickname for a kind of Italian airplane. Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 as a completely inhouse animation studio, just when other companies began to outsource work to cheaper animators overseas. Miyazaki was thus able to maintain his dedication to high-quality work. As Melanie Goodfellow wrote in Variety, “Miyazaki is an oldfashioned craftsman who insists that all his characters and backgrounds are drawn by hand.”

Studio Ghibli's first feature, Castle in the Sky, followed a boy who fights a destructive power active on a beautiful ancient floating city. Miyazaki based this film on events he observed during a trip to Wales in Great Britain, where he witnessed a miners' strike. Miyazaki told Xan Brooks of the London Guardian, “I admired the way they battled to save their way of life, just as the coal miners in Japan did. Many people of my generation see the miners as a symbol, a dying breed of fighting men.” In this film, Miyazaki was able to showcase his love of aircraft by creating meticulously detailed flying machines. The film also expanded on the ecological themes of nature in relation to technology, made poignant in a particular scene featuring a giant robot soldier (later reproduced in a statue placed in the rooftop garden of Studio Ghibli's museum) gently caring for his garden.

In 1988 Studio Ghibli released a double bill of two starkly different films: the joyously amusing My NeighborTotoro (directed by Miyazaki) and the downbeat Grave of the Fireflies (directed by Takahata). Neither did well at the box office, so the studio decided to release stuffed Totoro toys as a marketing strategy. The cute creatures became Studio Ghibli trademark icons, and remain popular toys. My Neighbor Totoro was a gentle story of two sisters who move to the country with their father while their mother is in the hospital. They discover Totoro, a giant magical creature who rules the forest.

My Neighbor Totoro again embodied the spirit of environmentalism, but this time with an innocent sense of wonder and amazement. While remaining a beloved family film, Totoro resists the sugary sweetness of typical American animation aimed at kids. An essay in Authors and Artists for Young Adults commented that “Miyazaki does not simply replicate the cutesy cartoon antics of critters as in the golden age of cartooning. Instead, he ponders timeless themes from Asian folklore and mythology, [and] delves into the psyche of his characters.” An English-language version was released in the United States on home video. Disney's 2005 English re-release featured the voices of Dakota and Elle Fanning as the sisters.

Directed Features with European Settings

In 1989 Miyazaki directed Kiki's Delivery Service, based on a fiction series by Eiko Kadono. The lighthearted story follows a young witch seeking independence and selfreliance: Kiki leaves home and settles in a seaside town where she starts a delivery service by flying around on her broomstick with her black cat, Jiji. With a warm-hearted storyline and a European-style setting, the film was a commercial success in Japan and marked a new stage in the growth of Miyazaki's popularity with international audiences. Disney's 1998 English version featured the voices of Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, and Janeane Garofalo.

Miyazaki also employed a European setting for his next feature, Porco Rosso (1992), which he based on a manga of his own, titled The Age of the Flying Boat. Set in Italy between the two world wars, the story follows an anti-Fascist fighter pilot who happens to be a pig. The English-language Disney release featured the voices of Michael Keaton and Cary Elwes. Craig Butler wrote in the All Movie Guide that “Porco is nothing short of splendid, featuring a vibrant palette that never turns garish, beautiful backgrounds and settings, delicate but forceful line work, and forceful character design.” Taking a break from writing and directing, Miyazaki took on producer duties for the ecological adventure Pom Poko and wrote the screenplay and storyboard for the romantic drama Whisper of the Heart (1995).

Although he had achieved mainstream success in Japan, Miyazaki was relatively unknown in the United States outside of anime fan circles. That changed with the release of Princess Mononoke (1997), an epic adventure set in feudal Japan at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The story concerns a traveler who finds himself interposed between two powerful women: Lady Eboshi, the ruler of Iron Town, who is determined to kill the forest spirit, and the wild wolf-girl San, a proud member of the wolf tribe and protector of the forest. Princess Mononoke broke Japanese box-office records and received a North American theatrical release by Disney's Miramax division. It was also the first Miyazaki film to contain computer animation, although Miyazaki personally hand-drew many of the animation cells. When asked about the fate of hand-drawn animation, Miyazaki told Brooks, “If it is a dying craft we can't do anything about it. Civilization moves on.”

Nearly 60 years old and losing his eyesight, Miyazaki was considering retiring after the wide international success of Princess Mononoke. But he re-emerged in 2001 with Spirited Away, a story inspired by a a friend's ten-year-old daughter, on whom he based the main character, Chihiro. The story follows Chihiro as she learns self-reliance in a magical world by working in a bathhouse for the spirits. Highly anticipated, Spirited Away became Japan's largestgrossing film up to that time. The film received a wide international release, festival acclaim, and a 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Miyazaki was not entirely ready to receive the Oscar. As he told Devin Gordon of Newsweek, “Actually, your country had just started the war against Iraq, and I had a great deal of rage about that. So I felt some hesitation about the award.”

Miyazaki continued making animated shorts exclusively for the visitors of the Studio Ghibli Museum, such as Koro's Big Day Out and Mei and the Kitten Bus. He also served as producer for The Cat Returns, a sequel to Whisper of the Heart. In 2004 he issued a new film, Howl's Moving Castle, adapted from a science fiction adventure by Welsh author Diana Wynne Jones. The story follows Sophie, a young girl who is put under a spell by the Witch of the Waste. She then joins the young wizard Howl on a strange journey in order to break the spell. Disney released an English version featuring the voice talents of Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, and Lauren Bacall.

Though it received a wide international release, the film had a complicated storyline that was misunderstood by many audiences. Miyazaki told Steve Daly of Entertainment Weekly, “I don't provide unnecessary explanations. If you want that, you're not going to like my movie. That's just the way it is.” Indeed many of Miyazaki's films, although made for and enjoyed by children, have matched narrative complexity with intricate visual detail. Howl's Moving Castle was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but lost the Oscar to Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Somewhat inappropriately nicknamed the Walt Disney of Japan, Miyazaki has proven himself to be more of an animation virtuoso than a business entrepreneur. As Tim Morrison wrote in Time, “Miyazaki is Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, and Orson Welles combined, with a dash of Claude Monet in his sumptuous landscapes and more than a smidgen of Roald Dahl in his sly, sophisticated understanding of children.” In 2005 Miyazaki was honored with a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement from the Venice Film Festival. Miyazaki's son Goro has released his first animated feature, Tales From Earthsea, based on the works of author Ursula K. LeGuin. With no plans for retirement as of 2007, Hayao Miyazaki continued to work as CEO of Studio Ghibli and was at work a new feature, Ponyo on a Cliff.


Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 37, Gale Group, 2000.

Cavallaro, Dani, The Animé Art of Hayao Miyazaki, McFarland, 2006.

International Directory of Business Biographies, 4 vols., St. James Press, 2005.

Newsmakers, Issue 2, Thomson Gale, 2006.


Chicago Sun-Times, December 23, 2001.

Entertainment Weekly, June 24, 2005.

Guardian (London, England), September 14, 2005.

Newsweek, June 20, 2005.

Variety, August 29, 2005.


“Hayao Miyazaki,” All Movie Guide, (November 25, 2007).

“Hayao Miyazaki,” Time,,9171,1554962,00.html (November 25, 2007).

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Miyazaki, Hayao 1941–

Hayao Miyazaki

Chief executive officer, Studio Ghibli

Nationality: Japanese.

Born: January 5, 1941, in Tokyo, Japan.

Education: Gakushuin University, BA, 1963.

Family: Son of Katsuji Miyazaki (aircraft-parts manufacturer); married Akemi Ota (animator); children: two.

Career: Toei Animation, 19631971, animator; A Pro, 19711973, animator and director; Zuiyo Pictures, 19731978, animator and director; Tokyo Movie Shinsha, 19791982, director; Tokuma, 19821998, director; Studio Ghibli, 19851998, director and producer; 1999, CEO.

Address: Studio Ghibli, 1-4-25, Kajino-cho, Koganei-shi, 184, Japan;

The director, producer, animator, and storyteller Hayao Miyazaki was the leader of one of the most successful animated motion picture studios in the world, Studio Ghibli. The studio arose out of his success with the motion picture Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and its continued success was wholly dependent on the motion pictures that he wrote and directed. In the 1990s he created the most successful films in the history of Japan, setting numerous box-office records. While his films were already popular among anime enthusiasts worldwide, a distribution deal with Disney Studios in 1996 brought several of Miyazaki's works to broader audiences; he had established himself as an innovator and artist at least equal in stature to Walt Disney himself. As a leader Miyazaki attracted to his productions some of Japan's finest writers, artists, directors, and producers, as well as the outstanding composer Joe Hisaishi, whose scores for Miyazaki's films became classics themselves.


Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941, in Tokyo. He was one of four sons of Katsuji Miyazaki, who worked in the family business Miyazaki Airplanes, which manufactured parts for warplanes. Miyazaki indicated later in life that he felt guilty that his family had profited from Japan's efforts in World War II. His dislike of militarism would be reflected in such films as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Porco Rosso. Partly to escape the American bombing of Tokyo and partly to be closer to the Miyazaki Airplanes factory in Kanuma City, Katsuji Miyazaki moved his family to Utsunomiya City, where they lived from 1944 to 1946. During this period the young Hayao may have become familiar with the forest that would figure prominently in My Neighbor Totoro. His mother was sick with spinal tuberculosis from 1947 to 1955, staying in a hospital for three of those years; this state of affairs prefigured the family situation presented in My Neighbor Totoro.

In 1958 Miyazaki became interested in animated movies, his imagination having been stirred by Hakujaden (Legend of the White Snake), a motion picture that was produced by Toei Animation and was Japan's first color feature-length anime. At that time, however, Miyazaki wanted to be not an animator but a comic-book artist. He majored in economics and political science at Gakushuin University, graduating in 1963, but his heart was in the arts, especially as they appealed to children; he pursued his interest in comic books as a member of the university's children's literature club.

In April 1963 Miyazaki became an animator for Toei Animation, which produced both theatrical motion pictures and television series. He was taught the basics of animation and began at the bottom of the artistic hierarchy, laboriously filling in the cel-by-cel movements of characters and objects; he found the work enjoyable and therein probably learned to accurately draw characters. He impressed many of his coworkers with his fertile imagination and proposed numerous story ideas to the studio; he quickly became a leader in the animators' union. In 1964 he met the animator Akemi Ota, who would become his wife in 1968. That year the first motion picture in which he played a major role was released: Prince of the Sun, a collaboration with the chief animator Yasuo Otsuka and the director Isao Takahata. Takahata would later serve as the producer for some of Miyazaki's own movies.


In 1971 Miyazaki joined Takahata at A Pro, where he became involved in a failed effort to make an animated feature of Pippi Longstockings. In June 1973 he moved to Zuiyo Pictures, where he designed the scenes for Heidi: Girl of the Alps. By then he had established himself as an outstanding background-scene artist for both motion pictures and television animation. During the 1970s in addition to motion pictures he worked on manga, or graphic novels. The year 1979 saw the release of the first important picture directed by Miyazaki, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. In the early 1980s he began one of his most popular manga series, based on the character Nausicaä, a princess living in a future where humanity is in peril of extinction.

In 1982 the Tokuma production company asked Miyazaki, who was by then an instructor for beginning animators and a very experienced director of television cartoons, to make the Nausicaä stories into an animated feature. Miyazaki brought in Takahata to produce the film, while he wrote the screenplay, created the story board, and painted the scenes and the characters that would be used by his animation team. Work began in 1983; Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in 1984. The film was not a smash hit, but it proved profitable at the box office, and out of its success Tokuma created Studio Ghibliwhich Miyazaki pronounced "jee-blee," after the Italian word for a dry Saharan wind as well as the name for a World War I aircraft. Nausicaä later proved to be a landmark achievement, as it had set a precedent for much of the Japanese anime that would follow, introducing realistically drawn characters and grim themes.


While Studio Ghibli produced motion pictures by people other than Miyazaki, for the most part the studio's reputation rested on what he accomplished. He directed Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which was released in 1986. (When later released by Disney, the word Laputa was dropped because of offensive connotations for Spanish speakers.) The film exhibited Miyazaki's love of all things flyingfeaturing an airborne castleand included two of his recurring preoccupations: an interest in caring for nature and a mistrust of military organizations. The year 1988 saw the release of one of the greatest children's motion pictures ever made, My Neighbor Totoro, which ironically almost brought about the death of Studio Ghibli. The picture was released as a cofeature with Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies, a story of misery, hopelessness, and prolonged, agonizing deaths. The pairing was a terrible mismatch, and Japanese audiences stayed away from both films. Miyazaki saved My Neighbor Totoro with a canny marketing campaign for stuffed toys based on figures in the movie; the figures caught on and were popular well into the 2000s. With its depiction of the real forest near where Miyazaki had lived while a boy, the film inspired an environmentalist movement in Japan. Characters from the movie became part of Studio Ghibli's logo as well as symbols of the studio's motion pictures.

Next came 1989's Witch's Delivery Service (renamed Kiki's Delivery Service in America), which gained an international following. Miyazaki remarked that he set the picture in a world where World War II never happened; the seaside city where Kiki settles down appears to be French, but it is populated by a variety of ethnic groups. The motion picture was a box-office hit, setting records in Japan. In 1992 Porco Rosso (sometimes called The Crimson Pig ) was released, wherein Miyazaki indulged his passion for aircraft by depicting strange and wonderful airplanes based on actual planes from the 1920s. In his drawings Miyazaki sometimes depicted himself as a large pig; Porco Rosso featured a World War I ace who was turned into a pig. Whispers of the Heart of 1995 was a charmer that appealed more to teenage girls than to boys; the film introduced the Baron, a cat that would reappear in 2002.

Miyazaki then wrote the screenplay, drew the complete story board (as he usually did), and directed Princess Mononoke. He was criticized in the Japanese press for under-taking something that presumably no animated motion picture could accomplish: the telling of a grand epic on a massive scale. When released in Japan in 1997, Princess Mononoke was a smash hit, surpassing the success of E.T. and setting a record in grossing over $150 million. The film was a major achievement by an artist and leader at the height of his powersbut in the making of the film Miyazaki may have already been losing his eyesight; he used computer animation extensively in the movie's production, even though he very much preferred each cel to be hand-drawn. Princess Mononoke was the first of Miyazaki's movies to attract a large American audience. In 2001 Miyazaki topped that film with Spirited Away, perhaps the greatest animated motion picture ever made and widely deemed one of the best motion pictures of any kind. Therein Miyazaki united brilliant painted backgrounds with cogent characterization, all while making a fantasy world seem more real than the real world. The movie featured Miyazaki's love for children as well as his environmentalist concerns but above all his wonderful storytelling. Spirited Away broke all Japanese box-office records and was a popular success around the globe.


In the mid-1990s, Studio Ghibli's parent company, Tokuma, hit hard times. Fortunately the big box-office success in Japan of Kiki's Delivery Service had attracted the attention of Disney; Disney offered a deal that would relieve Tokuma of its financial burdens in exchange for the distribution rights worldwidesave in Southeast Asiafor motion pictures produced by Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki's approval was required to complete the deal; he gave it, explaining that he already had more money than he could possibly spend in one lifetime and that Tokuma had helped him out when he had needed it. The deal was formalized in 1996 and underwent revisions thereafter, such as the later addition of DVD distribution rights for Disney.

The motion pictures distributed by Disney would be released under the Buena Vista and Miramax labels. Although Disney had declared that it wanted to bring Miyazaki's genius to the world without tampering with the movies, it did not keep its promise. The ending of Spirited Away was slightly altered, and Kiki's Delivery Service dropped a background appearance of Miyazaki himself while adding dialogue not in the Japanese original. Meanwhile for some reason the Disney Store refused to sell Studio Ghibli movies in its shops.


On January 14, 1998, Miyazaki had announced that he would be leaving Studio Ghibli. His eyesight was failing, and he believed that he could not guarantee as high a quality of art in his motion pictures as he wished. He intended to make small films for the Studio Ghibli Museuminsisting that the museum should be full of children being noisyand to train young animators. Yet on January 16, 1999, he returned as the shocho, or leader, of Studio Ghibli, taking a strong role in asserting organizational discipline and focusing employees on their tasks. Using computer animation to help maintain artistic control of his creations, he directed the fine The Cat Returns (2002), which featured the Baron from Whispers of the Heart, and Lord Howl's Castle (2004), based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

sources for further information

Feldman, Steven, "Hayao Miyazaki Biography, Revision 2,", June 6, 1994,

Momoe, Mizukubo, "It's Child's Play for Studio Ghibli," Look Japan, June 2002, pp. 3436.

Kirk H. Beetz

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Miyazaki, Hayao

Hayao Miyazaki (mēyä´zä´kē), 1941–, Japanese animator. Japan's preeminent maker of animated films (anime), Miyazaki is thought by many to be the world's finest living animator. He draws, writes, and directs magical motion pictures, lush, painterly, and filled with a wide array of human characters, witches and wizards, amazing animals, and fantastical creatures interacting in plots that blend fantasy and reality into universally appealing fables. Miyazaki graduated from Gakushuin Univ., Tokyo, in 1963, the year he began drawing cels at Tokyo's Toei animation studio. During the 1970s he worked at various studios, collaborating on films and television series, made shorts, and released his first full-length animated film, Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (1979).

In 1982 Miyazaki began writing a manga (a comic strip–text combination) called Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, the saga of a princess struggling to live in an evil and environmentally toxic world, and in 1984 he released a film of the same name and theme—his first great success. The following year he, fellow animator Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki founded Studio Ghibli, which produced a string of Miyazaki's films, e.g., My Neighbor Tortoro (1988) and Porco Rosso (1992). Miyazaki achieved broad critical acclaim and commercial success with Princess Mononoke (1997), the first of his films to use some computer-generated imagery, and he also won nearly universal praise for Spirited Away (2001, Academy Award) and Howl's Moving Castle (2004). The Wind Rises (2013) examines the life of the designer of Japan's World War II Zero fighter plane. Nuanced and poetic, with a distinctly pacifist message, it stirred considerable controversy in Japan, where Miyazaki has been a public opponent of modifying Japan's pacifist constitution. In recognition of his masterful animated feature films, Miyazaki was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 2014. The Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is devoted to his work.

See H. McCarthy, Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation (1999); The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (documentary, 2013, dir. by M. Sunada).

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