Born January 5, 1941 (Tokyo, Japan)
Japanese author, illustrator, filmmaker
"I believe that children's souls are the inheritors of historical memory from previous generations."
Hayao Miyazaki has enjoyed fame in Japan as an animator and a manga creator, but in the United States only true fans of anime (Japanese animated films) knew who he was until 2002, when his anime Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In Japan, he is among the most popular and celebrated animators, and his animated films have become popular in library anime showings. His manga Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind brought him extraordinary popularity and was later made into an animated film; both works have been released in several editions in the United States. Miyazaki's artistic style uses none of the stereo-typical "big eyes, small mouth" look of most manga and anime, and he also avoids the sexual innuendo that many Westerners equate with Japanese animation and comics. His work appeals to all ages, from young children to mature adults. Since 2002, Miyazaki's work has been published in graphic novel form in English translation.
Miyazaki's work is distinguished by its appeal to all ages. He told Steve Horn for IGN Filmforce, "A real dedicated children's film is something that adults will also find rewarding whereas films made for adults which consist simply of a kind of adornment and decoration will leave children deeply dissatisfied. I oppose simplifying the world for children. The fact of the matter is that children know, somehow they intuit and deeply understand the complexity of the world we live in. So, I would suggest that you not underestimate children." Indeed, Miyazaki did not and formed a solid fan base among young and old alike.
Hayao Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941, in Tokyo, Japan, the second of four sons born to Katsuji Miyazaki and his wife. Katsuji was a director of the family-owned firm Miyazaki Airplane, which made parts for the famed Zero fighter planes. The influence of his parents would later resonate in Miyazaki's work. His fascination with and realistic depictions of flying trace back to his father's career. His mother was especially influential to Miyazaki. Bedridden for eight years with spinal tuberculosis, she proved a strong and resilient woman. Miyazaki infused parts of his mother's personality in characters in Castle in the Sky and My Neighbor Totoro, among other works.
Graphic Novels (in English translation)
Spirited Away 5 vols. (2002).
Castle in the Sky 4 vols. (2003).
My Neighbor Totoro 4 vols. (2004).
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind 2nd ed. 7 vols. (2004).
Howl's Moving Castle 4 vols. (2005).
Miyazaki was three years old when his family was evacuated to safer districts during World War II (1939–45), and he started school as an evacuee in 1947. His family was not able to move back to their home town until 1950. The wartime bombings and fires in Tokyo left Hayao with few pleasant childhood memories. "I've forgotten much," he told Charles Whipple in his essay, ThePower of Positive Inking. "I made up my mind to forget. There were too many things I don't want to remember. For the longest time, they were like thorns in my consciousness. I kept asking myself what it all meant."
While Miyazaki was in high school, manga was growing in popularity throughout Japan, and it was during this time that Miyazaki decided he wanted to become a comic artist. Osamu Tezuka (1928–1989) had published his manga New Treasure Island in 1947, and it caught the imagination of many readers. More and more manga were published and read throughout the 1950s. Animation was also making a comeback in the postwar years, and in 1958, Miyazaki saw Taiji Yabushita's (1903–1986) Legend of the White Serpent, the first Japanese color animated feature, and he fell in love with film. After graduating from Toyotama High School in 1959, he entered Gakushuin University to study political science and economics. While at the university, Miyazaki joined a children's literature research society, and through this group studied many European children's books and comics; he read books by such authors as Rosemary Sutcliff, Phillipa Pearce, Eleanor Farjeon, and Antoine du Saint-Exupery. He graduated with a degree in political science and economics in 1963. Instead of entering the world of finance or politics upon graduation, he immediately went to work at Toei Cine, the animation studio of the Toei Company.
Begins work in animation
Miyazaki worked as an entry-level in-betweener on two features, Watchdog Woof-Woof and Wolf Boy Ken for Toei. An in-betweener takes the most important first and final frames of an action movement drawn by an animator and creates the series of drawings in between the two frames to complete the movement. From this position, Miyazaki quickly navigated his way to more and more responsibility within the animation industry. His talent as an artist and his unending stream of story ideas propelled him. Miyazaki became active in the Toei labor union, rising in the union ranks as his career flourished. He became a key animator on the television series Wind Ninja Boy Fujimaru that ran from 1964 to 1965. He also formed lasting friendships with other animators. He befriended Isao Takahata (1935–), another animator with whom he continued to work into the 2000s, and dated another, Akemi Ota. He married Akemi in October 1965, and they had two sons.
In 1965, Takahata and Yasuo Otsuka (1931–) started work on a new animated feature, The Great Adventure of Hols, Prince of theSun, for Toei. When the lead producers broke with tradition and decided to open planning sessions for the film to the whole team (instead of just the producers), Miyazaki became one of the most active participants in its production. Released in 1968, the film is considered the introduction of Miyazaki's anime style, which relies on realistic images rather than the distorted, otherworldly scenes of other Japanese animation.
Over the next twenty years, Miyazaki would continue to rise in stature in the Japanese animation industry, working in both film and television. He directed his first television series, Future Boy Conan, in 1978, and his first animated film, The Castle of Cagliostro, in 1979. The Castle of Cagliostro, featuring the popular character Monkey Punch, Lupin III, remains a cult classic with what has been described as the best car chase on film.
Turns energy toward manga creation
A workaholic, Miyazaki was drawing incessantly during this period. When he was unable to get animation work, he turned to creating manga, or Japanese comic books. Miyazaki published his first manga in 1969 (under the pseudonym Saburo Akitsu). Titled Sabaku no Tami (People of the Desert), the story was published in the children's weekly paper Shonen Shojo Shinbun (Boys and Girls Newspaper). It appeared as a twenty-six-episode serial, from September 1969 to March 1970. Set in the eleventh century Central Asian steppes (grass-covered plains), the story depicts a war between two nomadic tribes and the effects of the war on the people. Themes include the devastation of war, betrayal, and human nature's essential ugliness in desperate situations. Some Miyazaki fans see this as a prototype of his seminal work, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. No information is available that explains why Miyazaki used a pseudonym for this work.
Besides his original manga, in 1969 and 1971 Miyazaki wrote manga adaptations for two Toei Animation Studio feature films for which he worked as a key animator. Nagagutsu wo Haita Neko (Puss in Boots) was based on Charles Perrault's book; in the film and manga, Pero the cat helps a boy defeat an ogre and win the heart of a princess. The story was serialized in the Chuunichi Shimbun Nichiyo Ban (Chunichi Newspaper Sunday Version) in 1969, credited to Toei. Doubutsu Takarajima (Animal Treasure Island) was serialized in the Chuunichi Shimbun Nichiyo Ban in 1971 and also credited to Toei; this manga adapted the slapstick comedy adventure film based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
Enduring Themes in Miyazaki's Works
Miyazaki's manga and films often depict common people struggling for justice and show a deep concern for the environment. Sabaku no Tami, one of Miyazaki's earliest manga, included some of his ideas on humankind's essential tendency to do evil in war, a pretty heavy theme for a children's manga. It also included two young protagonists, a boy and a girl; many of Miyazaki's later films featured young characters: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro. Nausicaa focuses on the environment, as young Nausicaa learns more about her world and humanity's place in it. Shuna no Tabi features another young protagonist, Prince Shuna, who undertakes a difficult journey to find the seeds that will save his people from starvation. Politics doesn't play a large role in most of Miyazaki's films, but Howl's Moving Castle does make a strong political statement about war. The story takes place against a background of impending war, and the royal wizard tries to force wizard Howl into using his magic as a weapon. Miyazaki started this movie around the time that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. 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.… In fact, I had just started to make Howl's Moving Castle, so the film is profoundly affected by the war in Iraq."
Miyazaki's films also feature characters who defy stereotypes of good and evil, as he refuses to make them fixed symbols. Some characters start out seemingly evil only to be helpful to the main protagonists; Ma Dola from Castle in the Sky is one such character, as is the Witch of the Wastes from Howl's Moving Castle. Conversely, sometimes a seemingly benevolent character may turn out to be troublesome, as happens with No-Face in Spirited Away, who begins timid and helpful but blooms into an all-consuming carnivore who nearly destroys the bathhouse as he eats everything in sight, including people. Lady Eboshi in Princess Mononoke seems to be the villain of the movie, with her determination to conquer the forest with the technology in her enclave, but she cares deeply about the people who work for her and feels compassion for those who are castoffs from society.
In 1982, Miyazaki began an ambitious manga project: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Published in installments in Animage magazine, the manga was completed until March 1994; the work took so long because Miyazaki went on hiatus several times during the years to make films. Many fans consider Nausicaa Miyazaki's masterpiece. It is set in a distant future world that had suffered almost total devastation a thousand years before. In the story, humans live in small pockets of inhabitable lands surrounded by the vast Sea of Corruption. Young Princess Nausicaa, who is able to speak with plants and animals, ventures into the Sea of Corruption in order to figure out how to help the ecosystem thrive once again. Miyazaki's inspiration for the series came in part from the real-life ecological disaster in Japan's Lake Minamata, where in 1956 mercury contamination was discovered to be causing debilitating disease among those who ate the poisoned fish from the lake. As Princess Nausicaa tries to solve the mystery of the Sea of Corruption, she also seeks peace with the hostile neighboring tribes and is even forced to command her people in war. Despite being written in spurts over thirteen years, Nausicaa is distinguished among epic manga for the coherence of its complicated story and the realism of the Miyazaki-created world.
Most manga have a characteristic look. The characters are often drawn with large, glossy eyes while the backgrounds are simple, but realistic. Miyazaki eschewed most manga artistic conventions by drawing his human characters to look more realistic. He also filled his manga pages with lots of panels that are jammed with highly detailed art. Instead of dividing his pages among several panels, Miyazaki crammed up to a dozen complex panels on each page.
After writing sixteen episodes of his manga, Miyazaki was persuaded to create an animated version in 1984. The resulting film enjoyed great success. The English translation of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was published in the United States by Viz Media beginning in 1988, two years after the first English version of the movie was released, in thick comic book-like issues. The company published the complete story in four trade paperback volumes from 1995 through 1997. In 2004, Viz released a second edition published in seven volumes that reverted back to the original page size and used the original right-to-left page order.
Nausicaa success leads to Studio Ghibli
The financial and critical success of Nausicaa established Miyazaki as a formidable force in Japan. In order to gain more control over his work, Miyazaki formed a partnership with Takahata in 1984, and in 1985 they founded Studio Ghibli (though the Italian original word meaning hot desert wind is pronounced GIB-lee, Miyazaki and his fans pronounce it GEE-bu-ree). The studio would grow to become to the Japanese what Walt Disney Studios is to Americans. The studio's first production was Castle in the Sky, which opened in 1986. That same year, a heavily edited English language version of Nausicaa, called Warriors of the Wind, was released in the United States. New World Pictures thought the movie was too slow-moving for children and cut at least twenty minutes of "slow stuff" from the film; the studio also changed Nausicaa's name to Princess Zanda, and the voice actors for the dub never knew what the story was about. The cuts so badly butchered the film that for the following ten years Miyazaki and Takahata refused to consider Western releases of their movies.
Nevertheless, Studio Ghibli continued to churn out new work in Japan. In 1988, Takahata directed Grave of the Fireflies and Miyazaki directed My Neighbor Totoro. Studio Ghibli's next venture was Kiki's Delivery Service, based on a novel by Eiko Kadono. With the production of this animated feature, which opened in 1989, Miyazaki wanted a new studio. Tokuma Corporation helped finance new facilities, and construction finished about the time Miyazaki's Porco Rosso premiered in 1992. This movie was based on Miyazaki's manga Hikoutei Jidai (Age of the Flying Boat), which appeared as a three-part serial from March to May 1989 in Model Graphix, a Japanese modeling hobby magazine. It is a full-color story set in the 1920s on the shore of the Adriatic Sea. Air pirates in floatplanes plague shipping in the Sea, but they are hunted by valiant Porco Rosso, an expert floatplane pilot who happens to be a pig. The English translation, Crimson Pig: The Age of the Flying Boat, was serialized in the magazine Animerica from July to September 1993.
By the 1990s, Miyazaki's focus on animation made him one of the most popular storytellers in Japan. Along with adaptations of a few others' works, "the biggest-grossing original features by Hayao Miyazaki, often accounts for over half of the [Japanese] film business's annual revenues," according to Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki's original story based on Alice in Wonderland, was an especially huge hit. In 1997, it became the highest grossing Japanese film in the country's history.
After Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki had planned to retire; his heir apparent, Yoshifumi Kondo (1950–1998), however, died of an aneurysm on January 21, 1998. Miyazaki returned to the studio and made Spirited Away, which premiered in 2001. The gross profits of Spirited Away surpassed the record set by Princess Mononoke, and the film won the 2001 Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture, the 2002 Golden Bear (first prize) at the Berlin Film Festival, and the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
For his most recent film at this writing, Miyazaki decided to adapt the young adult novel Howl's Moving Castle by British writer Diana Wynne Jones. He premiered the film at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Osella Award for animation technology. In Japan, the film premiered on November 20, 2004, and grossed 1.4 billion yen (approximately $12 million) in the first two days.
Seemingly possessed by his work ethic, Miyazaki showed no signs of retiring in 2005. He told New Yorker interviewer Margaret Talbot that "his idea of a vacation was a nap." Throughout his career, sleep seemed to be the main reason Miyazaki would pause from his work. Talbot related in the New Yorker that Miyazaki's coworker had noted that in the early years of Studio Ghibli "Miyazaki would work from 9 a.m. to 4:30 a.m." However, a glimmer of Miyazaki's aging began to show when the colleague added that "in recent years he has mellowed somewhat and goes home at midnight." With only this slight dent in his workload, it seems that anime and manga fans can anticipate many more delights from the fertile mind of Hayao Miyazaki.
For More Information
Gravett, Paul. Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. London: Laurence King, 2004.
McCarthy, Helen. Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation: Films, Themes, Artistry. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 1999.
Gordon, Devin. "A 'Positive Pessimist': Japan's Animation Titan Hayao Miyazaki Returns with Another Marvel, Howl's Moving Castle. This Time He's Ready to Talk." Newsweek (June 20, 2005).
Wright, Lucy, and Jerry Clode. "The Animated Worlds of Hayao Miyazaki: Filmic Representations of Shinto." Metro Magazine no. 143 (2004): pp. 46–51.
Brooks, Xan. "A God Among Animators." The Guardian.http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,1569689,00.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Horn, Steven. "Interview with Hayao Miyazaki" (September 20, 2002). IGN Filmforce.http://filmforce.ign.com/articles/371/371579p1.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Mes, Tom. "Midnight Eye Interview: Hayao Miyazaki" (July 1, 2002). Midnight Eye. http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/hayao_miyazaki.shtml (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Nausicaa.http://www.nausicaa.net (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Talbot, Margaret. "The Animated Life." New Yorker Online.http://www.newyorker.com/online/content/articles/050117on_onlineonly01 (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Whipple, Charles T. "The Power of Positive Inking." Charles T. Whipple.http://www.charlest.whipple.net/mangamiyazaki.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).
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.
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Animator, director, and screenwriter
Born January 5, 1941, in Tokyo, Japan; son of Katsuji Miyazaki (an aeronautical engineer); married Akemi Ota (an animator); children: two sons. Education: Gakushuin University, degree in political science and economics, 1963.
Addresses: Office —Studio Ghibli, 1-4-25 Kajino-cho, Koganei-shi 184, Japan.
In-betweener, Toei-Cine, 1963-71; animator, A-Pro studio, 1971-73; Zuiyo Pictures, 1973-84; co-founder, Studio Ghibli, 1984—. Director and animator of films, including: The Castle of Cagliostro, 1979; Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, 1984; Sherlock Hound, the Detective, 1984; Castle in the Sky, 1986; My Neighbor Totoro, 1988; Kiki's Delivery Service, 1989; Crimson Pig, 1992; On Your Mark, 1995; Princess Mononoke, 1997; Spirited Away, 2001; Howl's Moving Castle, 2004. Writer of screenplays, including: Panda! Go Panda!, 1973; Panda and Child: Rainy Day Circus, 1973; Future Boy Conan (also director), 1978; The Castle of Cagliostro, 1979; Warriors of the Wind, 1984; Castle in the Sky, 1986; My Neighbor Totoro, 1988; Kiki's Delivery Service, 1989; Crimson Pig, 1992; On Your Mark, 1995; Whisper of the Heart, 1995; Princess Mononoke, 1997; Spirited Away, 2001; Howl's Moving Castle, 2004.
Awards: Mainichi Film Concours, Ofuji Noburo Award, 1980, for The Castle of Cagliostro ; Academy Award for best animated feature, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for Spirited Away, 2002; Mainichi Film Concours, best animated film, for Spirited Away, 2002; Blue Ribbon award for best film, for Spirited Away, 2002; best narrative feature, San Francisco International Film Festival, for Spirited Away, 2002; Annie Award for outstanding directing in an animated feature production, for Spirited Away, 2002; Annie Award for outstanding writing in an animated feature production, for Spirited Away, 2002; Silver Scream Award, Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival, for Spirited Away, 2003; Golden Berlin Bear, Berlin International Film Festival, 2002; Lifetime Achievement Award, Awards of the Japanese Academy, 2002; best feature film, Catalonian International Film Festival, Sitges, Spain, for Howl's Moving Castle, 2004; Career Golden Lion, Venice Film Festival, 2005.
Hayao Miyazaki has become one of the forerunners of Japanese animation. Fellow animator Stan Lee, writing for Time magazine, said of him, "In the field of theatrical animation, where talent abounds and everyone has his or her own style, the art and creativity of Hayao Miyazaki are unrivaled. For decades, he has arguably been Japan's leading cult figure to fans of manga (comic books) and anime (animated films)—in a nation where those art forms are held in the highest regard." Miyazaki first became famous in his own country, but his animated films are such works of art that they cross all international barriers, and he has become a sensation around the world. He is known primarily for his films Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and most recently Howl's Moving Castle. David Ansen of Newsweek said of the animator, "Hayao Miyazaki seems to be one of those artists (and there aren't many) who just can't fail to make magic."
Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941, in Tokyo, Japan to Katsuji Miyazaki, an aeronautical engineer and his wife. His father's career became an interest of Miyazaki's when he was young and continued into his adulthood. In fact, his later animated films showed this love of aeronautics with his carefully designed and drawn aircrafts zipping through the wilderness. Miyazaki's father worked at the family business, the Miyazaki Airplane, and since young Miyazaki was born during World War II, the war had quite an effect on him, especially since his family's company built fighter airplanes. His family was evacuated from Tokyo in 1944 and were unable to return until 1947. It was shortly after that that Miyazaki's mother discovered she had spinal tuberculosis, something that kept her in bed for eight years. During those years she had a strong influence over Miyazaki, as did his school, which was a copy of American schools and hence lent a Western influence to his upbringing. By the time he reached high school, Miyazaki—who had shown an early aptitude for art—was determined to become an artist of some sort. He was especially interested in Manga, the Japanese comic book art, which was forming at the time. Anime, the Japanese animated film style, was arising at the same time.
Although he was interested in drawing, he was also practical, so when he entered Gakushuin University, Miyazaki studied political science and economics, with a plan to help Japan reestablish its economy and recover from the war. His interest in children's stories flourished in college too, as he became part of a children's literature research society that exposed him to fables and tales from around the world. He graduated in 1963, but instead of going into politics or academics, he joined an animation studio, Toei-Cine, taking on the role of in-betweener, a position that is responsible for adding in the drawings that go between the main ones to make the action scenes complete. He fell in love with the work and never once considered turning back to go into industry or politics.
Instead, in 1971, he moved to another studio, A-Pro studio, following fellow animator and friend Isao Takahata whom he had met at Toei-Cine. Two years later the pair moved to Zuiyo Pictures where Miyazaki's talents, cleaned up and perfected over the years, were soon widely recognized. The first film he worked on as both writer and animator was the short Panda! Go Panda!. He followed it the next year with Panda and Child: Rainy Day Circus. He directed his first series in 1978, Future Boy Conan. Miyazaki's big break came, however, in 1979 when Tokyo Movie Shinsha hired him to direct a movie adaptation of the popular comic book Lupin III, which became 1979's The Castle of Cagliostro.
This film left Miyazaki with a desire to do different movies, ones that would express not what animation had become, but rather what he could make it. So, in 1984 Miyazaki, longing for a greater freedom in animation, started his own business, Studio Ghibli, with his longtime friend Takahata. The studio was a place where the two enjoyed creating their own pieces, often controversial and pushing the boundaries of traditional animation. Their first movies, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki's Delivery Service were all successes, as have all his films since. It was having his own company that gave Miyazaki the ability to do the animation that was outside the norm and that eventually led to his being recognized as a master of the art. Miyazaki is not just unusual for the content of his films, but also for the way he goes about making them. According to Time 's Lee, Miyazaki often begins "constructing a film without a full script," letting the drawings lead the story. Miyazaki usually has no idea who the main characters are when he starts or what they will eventually end up doing. He has said, according to Lee, that working in this way ensures that he keeps his interest in the project as it progresses and helps give the end product a feeling of spontaneity.
In 1984 Miyazaki released Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, his first major foray into changing the status quo of animation filmmaking. In the film he did away with the trendy metallic look that was prevalent in Japanese anime at the time for a more naturalistic approach, including forests dripping with fungus. The story is about a special teenage princess who lives in a small valley in a futuristically dark and empty post-apocalyptic Earth. A Poisonous forest threatens to kill off the remaining inhabitants of earth and she decides to participate in a war between neighboring kingdoms for the survival of her people. However, she soon finds that she is a pacifist and is much more interested in exploring the forest than in fighting, and from there the adventures really begin. Steve Raiteri in the LibraryJournal said of the film, "Highly recommended for teens and adults alike, this tremendous series belongs in every library."
It was Miyazaki's 1997 animated film Princess Mononoke that brought the director to the eyes of mainstream audiences across the globe. Before the release of this film Miyazaki was known outside his country only in niche markets of people who had a great interest in Japanese anime. Princess Mononoke was released in the United States by Disney, although it was done through their more artistic branch, Miramax. Princess Mononoke is about a medieval prince and his quest through a mythical forest. It is while he is on his quest that he meets the girl for which the film is named. People 's Tom Gliatto said of the film, "The convoluted, violent story, which begins when the prince slays the demon and incurs a curse that can be lifted (if at all) only by journeying to the monster's homeland, makes this unsuitable fare for kids. But the animation—from elaborate (the supernatural creatures) to simple (a rain shower)—is superb." Entertainment Weekly 's Ty Burr wrote, "A windswept pinnacle of its art, Princess Mononoke has the effect of making the average Disney film look like just another toy story." Leonard Klady in Variety magazine called it "a rich cartoon fable of bygone gods locking horns with man and with industry." It became the highest-grossing film in Japan ever.
Then Miyazaki made 2001's Spirited Away, which took over Princess Mononoke 's record as Japan's largest money-making film of all time. It is about a young girl, Chihiro, who when driving home with her parents one day is swept into a parallel world when her parents take a wrong turn. The new world is inhabited by a whole slew of gods, ghouls, and goblins, and Chihiro, a rather spoiled brat at the beginning of the story, is forced to deal with situations that most adults would not be able to handle. In fact Chihiro's parents are soon turned into pigs for turning their noses up at food offered them, and Chihiro alone is put to work serving the gods. The world is morally ambiguous and there is no straightforward battle between good and evil. In the end Chihiro manages to save her parents and escape, but the evil is not changed as much as she is. She changes from a spoiled brat into a brave, self-reliant girl who turns her back on a world of materialism and semi-evil. Steve Vineburg in the Christian Century said of the film, "The world Hayao Miyazaki conjures up in the Japanese animated feature Spirited Away is so exotic and in a state of such constant metamorphosis that you may have the impression, as you stagger out of the theater, that you've watched the entire movie with your mouth open. Spirited Away runs close to two hours, and there isn't a banal image in it."
In 2003, Castle in the Sky: Volumes 1-4, an adaptation of his 1986 film, was published. The storyline follows Princess Sheeta, who is in exile, and her friend, Pazu, an orphan who is an inventing genius. They go on an adventure to save a magic levitation stone and in the process are chased by a whole litany of soldiers and pirates. Publishers Weekly said of this book version of the film, which included stills directly from the movie, "Miyazaki's production design is gorgeous, and the full-color reproduction is nicely authentic—anime buffs will drool over the floating city, cleverly retro-looking airships, half-rusted giant robot soldiers, lush landscapes and sensitively handled lighting in every scene."
Then in 2004 Miyazaki made Howl's Moving Castle. Rather than his usual way of making films, Miyazaki based this one on the book by British author Diana Wynne Jones. He had read the book and was really taken with the storyline and underlining moral message and decided it would make a great film. It was not as popular as some of his others for the simple reason that some people did not understand the film. In an interview with Devin Gordon for Newsweek magazine, Miyazaki said, "A lot of people say they don't understand the film, and what that means is just that they have a set definition of how a story is supposed to be told. When the story betrays their anticipations, then they complain." The film is about a young girl, Sophie, who is rescued by the wizard Howl one day when she is being hit on by some soldiers. The evil Witch of the Waste hears of the event and jealous, turns Sophie into an old woman. Sophie runs from her village and manages to find a hiding place in Howl's famous moving castle—a castle that actually moves around on bird feet. Furious at the evil witch's spell, Sophie discovers a strength inside herself she would never have discovered otherwise and soon has taken control of things, including helping Howl go into battle for the King. Howl himself does not recognize Sophie, although she falls more and more in love with him as she gets to know the wizard. The whole story, Miyazaki felt, was an interesting look at age and how humans do or do not let it affect them. Richard Corliss of Time magazine said, "Howl's Moving Castle…is the perfect e-ticket for a flight of fancy into a world far more gorgeous than our own. The film doesn't halve itself to appeal to two generations. At its best, it turns all moviegoers into innocent kids, slack-jawed with wonder."
Miyazaki is married to Akemi Ota, a fellow animator. They have two sons. As of 2005 Miyazaki was busy at work animating his next film.
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, vol. 37, Gale Group, 2000.
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, vol. 35, Gale Group, 2001.
American Prospect, October 21, 2002, p. 32.
Christian Century, October 9, 2002, p. 64; August 23, 2005, p. 36.
Economist, February 23, 2002. Entertainment Weekly, November 5, 1999, p. 50; September 27, 2002, p. 57; October 4, 2002, p. 128; April 18, 2003, p. 53; March 11, 2005, p. 110; June 24, 2005, p. 142.
Library Journal, July 2004, p. 62.
Newsweek, June 20, 2005, p. 62.
People, November 8, 1999, p. 41; June 27, 2005, p. 32; July 18, 2005, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2003, p. 46; September 8, 2003, p. 58.
School Library Journal, December 2003, p. 89; May 2005, p. 163.
Time, September 30, 2002, p. 88; April 18, 2005, p. 123; June 13, 2005, p. 53.
U.S. News … World Report, October 25, 1999, p. 70.
Variety, August 4, 1997, p. 9; February 2, 1998, p. 28; November 1, 1999, p. 88; February 25, 2002, p. 72; April 15, 2002, p. 4; September 13, 2004, p. 46; December 20, 2004, p. 21; February 21, 2005, p. 2; March 7, 2005, p. 52; August 29, 2005, p. 21.
Miyazaki, Hayao 1941–
Chief executive officer, Studio Ghibli
Education: Gakushuin University, BA, 1963.
Family: Son of Katsuji Miyazaki (aircraft-parts manufacturer); married Akemi Ota (animator); children: two.
Career: Toei Animation, 1963–1971, animator; A Pro, 1971–1973, animator and director; Zuiyo Pictures, 1973–1978, animator and director; Tokyo Movie Shinsha, 1979–1982, director; Tokuma, 1982–1998, director; Studio Ghibli, 1985–1998, director and producer; 1999–, CEO.
Address: Studio Ghibli, 1-4-25, Kajino-cho, Koganei-shi, 184, Japan; http://www.ntv.co.jp/ghibli.
■ 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 Ghibli—which 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 flying—featuring an airborne castle—and 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 powers—but 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.
THE DISNEY DEAL
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 worldwide—save in Southeast Asia—for 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 Museum—insisting that the museum should be full of children being noisy—and 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," Nausicaa.net, June 6, 1994, http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/miyazaki/miyazaki_biography.txt.
Momoe, Mizukubo, "It's Child's Play for Studio Ghibli," Look Japan, June 2002, pp. 34–36.
—Kirk H. Beetz