You may not know his name, but you surely you know his films. Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿) is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, one of the most successful anime film companies in the world. Originally founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli has 8 films in the top 15 highest-grossing anime films ever! So, it is unlikely you’ve never seen at least one scene created at this studio.
Not only are the Studio Ghibli films incredibly popular, they are also award winning. Four of their films have been nominated for Academy Awards, and two have won! Their films have also won four Japan Academy Prizes. In fact, Spirited Away was the first ever anime film to win an Academy Award. Some of their most famous films are My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Movin Castle and the newer Ponyo and The Wind Rises.
During his career at Studio Ghibli Miyazaki has been involved with 27 films! Before Studio Ghibli was founded, Miyazaki had been working in the film animation business from 1963. He initially worked for Toei Animation and was one of the artists of Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon. Miyazaki’s directing debut came with Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro in 1973. His next film was Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, released in 1984. The film shot to popularity, and prompted Miyazaki to found Studio Ghibli. Most of Miyazaki’s films have a recurring theme: the environment. Miyazaki is a staunch supporter of the protection of nature, and is publicly against capitalism and the destruction of our planet. His films also often star a female lead and are empowering for women. This very much goes against the gender roles which are usually portrayed in Japanese films. Many of Miyazaki’s films are produced in the old style; relying on watercolors rather than computer animation. Although in his more recent films computer animation is used. The cells of many of the scenes in these films are lovingly painted by hand, before being animated.
It may seem a bit overwhelming to start your journey into Ghibli films, so I would like to recommend you some of my favorites:
- My Neighbour Totoro: for a mystical childlike journey
- Howl’s Moving Castle: an unlikely story of heroism and love
- Pom Poko: a view into the natural world of the Tanuki (Japanese raccoon)
- Spirited Away: a truly beautiful animation
- The Castle of Cagliostro: and oldie but still magnificent
- Grave of the Fireflies: a shockingly beautiful portrayal of post-war Japan
Please do enjoy the work of Miyazaki, even though he has retired now his films will live on.