Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿 Miyazaki Hayao, born January 5, 1941 in Tokyo, Japan) is a manga artist and prominent film director and animator of many popular anime feature films. Through a career that has spanned nearly fifty years, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of animated feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli, an animation studio and production company. The success of Miyazaki's films has invited comparisons with American animator Walt Disney, British animator Nick Park and Robert Zemeckis; he has also been named one of the most influential people by Time magazine.
Miyazaki's films usually have common themes among them, including the typical struggle between good and evil, evironmentalism, and politics. The protagonists are usually strong, independent girls or young women and the villains are typically uncertain in nature with redeeming qualities.
Miyazaki is the creator of many popular anime feature films, as well as some manga. Although largely unknown in the West outside of animation circles until Miramax released his film Princess Mononoke in 1999, his films have enjoyed huge box-office and critical success in Japan and East Asia for many years. Miyazaki's Spirited Away is the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan; Princess Mononoke held the same title for a short period until the release of Titanic later in the same year.
Miyazaki's films are distinguished by recurring themes, such as humanity's relationship to nature and technology, and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his movies are often strong, independent girls or young women; the "villains" often turn out to be ambiguous characters with redeeming qualities.
Miyazaki's films have generally been financial successes. His success has invited comparisons with American animator Walt Disney. However, Miyazaki does not see himself as a person building an animation empire, but as an animator lucky enough to have been allowed to make films with his own personal touch. With that statement, one might compare him to Yuriy Norshteyn, Frédéric Back, or Chuck Jones as an animator's animator. A few individuals may also consider him the Walt Disney of Japan.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Miyazaki, the second of four brothers, was born in the town of Akebono-cho, part of Tokyo's Bunkyō-ku. During World War II, Miyazaki's father Katsuji Miyazaki was director of Miyazaki Airplane, owned by the elder Miyazaki's brother, which made rudders for the Zero fighter plane. Hayao Miyazaki inherited a lifelong fascination with aviation.
Miyazaki's mother was a voracious reader and an intelligent woman, who often questioned socially accepted norms. Miyazaki later said that he inherited his questioning and skeptical mind from her.
Miyazaki moved frequently throughout his childhood, in part because his mother was undergoing treatment for spinal tuberculosis from 1947 until 1955. Miyazaki's film My Neighbor Totoro features a family whose mother is similarly afflicted.
Around 1956 – the date is apparently uncertain – Miyazaki entered Toyotama High School. In his third year there, he saw the film Hakuja Den, described as "the first-ever Japanese feature-length color anime",  and began to take an interest in animation. In order to become an animator, he had to learn to draw people, because his artwork up until that point had been limited to drawing airplanes and battleships.
After high school, Miyazaki attended Gakushuin University, graduating in 1963 with degrees in political science and economics. He was a member of the "children's literature research club," said to be "the closest thing to a comics club in those days". 
In April 1963, Miyazaki got a job at Toei Animation, working as an in-between artist on the anime Wanwan Chushingura (Watchdog Bow Wow). He was a leader in a labor dispute soon after his arrival, and he became chief secretary of Toei's labor union in 1964.
In October 1965, he married fellow animator Akemi Ota, who later left work to raise their two sons, Gorō and Keisuke. Goro is now an anime filmmaker himself, directing Tales from Earthsea at Studio Ghibli. Keisuke is a wood artist who has done work for the Ghibli Museum and who made the wood engraving shown in Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart.
Films[edit | edit source]
Miyazaki first gained recognition while working as an in-betweener on the Toei production of Garibā no Uchuu Ryokou (1965) (U.S. title: Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon). He felt that the original ending in the script was lacking, and pitched his own idea, which became the ending used in the final film.
A few years later Miyazaki played an important role as chief animator and concept artist on Hols: Prince of the Sun (1968), a landmark animated film directed by Isao Takahata, with whom he would continue to collaborate for the next three decades. In Kimio Yabuki's Puss in Boots (1969), Miyazaki again provided key animation, storyboards, designs, and story ideas for key scenes in the movie such as the final chase in Lucifer's castle. Shortly afterward Miyazaki proposed scenes in the screenplay for The Flying Ghost Ship in which military tanks would march into downtown Tokyo and cause massive havoc and animated those scenes. Later in 1971 Miyazaki played a decisive role creating story and character ideas for Animal Treasure Island and Alibaba and the 40 Thieves, earning the credits idea construction and organization for the two films respectively, as well as animating pivotal scenes in both.
Miyazaki left Toei in 1971 for A Pro, where he co-directed episodes #7-8, 10-11, and 13-23 of the first Lupin III series with Isao Takahata. He conceived, wrote, designed, and animated the two [Panda! Go Panda!]] shorts again directed by Isao Takahata. Miyazaki's first film as a director was The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), a light-hearted adventure film based on Lupin III, an extensive Japanese TV series and movie franchise.
The director's next film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) (Kaze no Tani no Naushika), was an epic adventure featuring many distinctive themes that reappear in later films: a concern with ecological issues, a fascination with aircraft, and the absence of a traditional villain. He adapted it from the manga of the same name, which he had himself created two years prior (this was the first film which he had written as well as directed). Following the success of Nausicaä, Miyazaki co-founded, with Isao Takahata, the animation film company Studio Ghibli, and has produced most (if not all) of his subsequent work through it.
Miyazaki continued to gain recognition with his first three films made through Ghibli. Castle in the Sky (1986) recounts the adventure of two orphans seeking a magical floating island. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) (Tonari no Totoro) tells of the adventure of two girls and a magical creature called a "totoro". Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) is the story of a small-town teenage witch who strikes out on her own in a big city.
Porco Rosso (1992) was something of a departure for Miyazaki, in that the main character was an adult male, an anti-fascist aviator transformed into an anthropomorphic pig. The film is a light-hearted adventure set in a fictional world based on 1920s Italy where bounty hunters, aviators, and air pirates battle in the skies. The movie explores the tension between selfishness and duty. Many also see the film as being an abstract self-portrait of the director himself, something of a fictionalised autobiography.
Miyazaki's next film, Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime), released in 1997, is what many consider to be his finest, it returns to the ecological and political themes of Nausicaä. The main plot is an epic struggle between the animal gods who rule the forest and the humans who are trying to exploit it for industry. The film was a huge commercial success in Japan where it became the highest grossing film of all time, until the later success of Titanic, and it ultimately won Best Picture at the Japanese Academy Awards. Miyazaki retired after making Princess Mononoke, intending it to be his last film as a director.
He came out of retirement after spending a holiday with the daughters of a friend, one of whom became the inspiration for Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, "Sen & Chihiro's spiriting away"), the story of a girl who is forced to survive in a strange alternate spirit world, enlisted to work in a bathhouse for spirits and gods after her parents are turned into pigs. The film, released in Japan in July 2001, broke the attendance and box office records previously set by Titanic with ¥30.4 billion (almost $300,000,000) in total gross earnings from over 23 million viewings. It has received numerous film awards, including Best Picture at the 2001 Japanese Academy Awards, Golden Bear (First Prize) at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, and the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the first Oscar awarded to an anime production. In 2005, Miyazaki was awarded for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival.
In July 2004, Miyazaki finished production on Howl's Moving Castle, a film adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones' fantasy novel of the same name, for which he was required to come out of retirement again following the sudden departure of original director Mamoru Hosoda. The film premiered at the 2004 Venice International Film Festival and won the Golden Osella award for animation technology. On November 20, 2004, Howl's Moving Castle opened to general audiences in Japan and earned ¥1.4 billion in its first two days, continuing the record-setting trend of Miyazaki films at the box office. The English dubbed version was released in the U.S. through Disney on June 11, 2005. Also in 2005, news was spread that Miyazaki's next (and, as the reports said, last) project would be I Lost My Little Boy, based on a Chinese children's book. There was considerable controversy about what was actually going on regarding the alleged project, and as of 2006 nothing more has been heard of it.
Mr. Miyazaki's son, Goro Miyazaki, recently finished his first film, Tales from Earthsea, based on some of the stories by Ursula K. Le Guin. Throughout the film's production, he and his father were not on speaking terms because of a dispute over whether or not Goro was ready to direct. On June 28, 2006, Hayao previewed his son's completed film and apparently reversed his opinions on Goro's ability. Perhaps their previous rift is healing. 
Nausicaa.net has recently reported that the elder Miyazaki has plans to direct his next film and that he has made up his mind about the "mood" of the film. No specific details have been released yet.
Themes and devices[edit | edit source]
Distinctive themes[edit | edit source]
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
One of the most distinctive traits of Miyazaki's later films that sets them apart from certain Western animation is the lack of stereotypically "good" or "bad" characters. His characters have complex motivations, and while some can be better or worse than others, they are often capable of growth and change. For example, Lady Eboshi from Princess Mononoke stands in opposition to the other main characters, and her ironworks blatantly exploit the nearby forests for raw materials. However, her character doesn't fit into the standard role of villain: the viewer sees how she provides a productive home for lepers and former prostitutes in her city. Lady Eboshi and Princess Mononoke also exemplify the environmental ethic apparent in much of Miyazaki's work, although even this commitment is never presented in "black and white": Mononoke is resolved when Lady Eboshi's industrial city reconciles itself with its "primitive" neighbors.
Some of Miyazaki's early films, however, featured undeniably evil villains (Count Cagliostro in Castle of Cagliostro or Muska in Castle in the Sky), while others are remarkable for having no villain at all (Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro).
Many of Miyazaki's work are styled as bildungsroman, i.e. they depict the path of personal growth and change of the main character. In the beginning, the protagonist (almost always a girl) is described as naive, dependent on others, or selfish. As the story precipitates into a crisis, the character is confronted with challenges, failure and hardships, which she learns to overcome by relying on her own will and inner strength. In the end she's able to make her own decision and strike out of her own. This change is also achieved through exposure to life's major realities, love (life), and old age (death). Most of Miyazaki's movies feature a boy co-protagonist, who will later become the first romantic relationship of the character, and an old woman, who starts out as an antagonist, but later reveals her good side and motherly nature, providing essential help. The "grandmother figure" may mean that, as a person achieves maturity, their attitude toward old age changes from opposition to acceptance.
For example, in Laputa, at the start, Sheeta is so naive that she literally "falls from the clouds". By learning to trust the brash Pazu, and with the help of the not-so-ferocious pirate Dola, she finally saves her own world from destruction. In Spirited Away, the selfish Chihiro risks her life to save the beloved Haku and her parents.
Miyazaki's Marxist background is apparent in some of his films (such as Porco Rosso), while Miyazaki's pro-feminist views are exemplified by the strong-willed female protagonists in nearly all his films.
Spoilers end here.
Visual devices[edit | edit source]
Specific visual elements recur in many of Miyazaki's films. Particularly in his later work, he occasionally dedicates a few seconds of film to explore a quiet moment in the animated environment. The image of wind moving in long waves across a field of grass or grain has been used in many of his films, as is a closeup shot of a stone or boulder darkening with raindrops. These brief sequences, usually no longer than five or six seconds, are often instrumental in establishing the larger "reality" of his animated world.
Another visual element common to Miyazaki's films is the use of character designs that, at the most basic level, are quite similar. This is often humorously considered an artistic perception that such characters are actors and actresses, reappearing in different films of his.
Flight by the characters is a very common occurrence in Miyazaki's films, lauded for their ability to often look very natural and not "forced". Examples include Nausicaä piloting Mehve, Kiki riding her broomstick, Totoro carrying Satsuki and Mei across the night sky, Howl and Sophie floating majestically above the town of Market Chipping, or Chihiro being borne by Haku in dragon-form back towards the bathhouse of the spirits to find her parents.
Influences[edit | edit source]
A number of English and French authors have influenced Miyazaki's artwork, such as Lewis Carroll, Moebius, Diana Wynne Jones, and J.R.R. Tolkien. As in Miyazaki's films, these authors have created self-contained worlds where allegory is avoided, characters have complex or ambiguous motivations, and the audience is not explicitly lectured to. In a 1994 BBC interview, Miyazaki cited the British authors Eleanor Farjeon, Rosemary Sutcliff, and Philippa Pearce as influences. He has also cited TV work based on Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. The filmmaker is also fond of Roald Dahl's stories about planes and pilots: for example, the image from Porco Rosso of a cloud of dead pilots was inspired by Dahl's "They Shall Not Grow Old". Other Miyazaki works—such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away—specifically incorporate elements of Japanese history and mythology.
Miyazaki was also influenced by his political background in the ANPO Hantai (opponents of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty) and labor movements of the 1960s. These political roots had an impact on the themes of his films.
TV series[edit | edit source]
Miyazaki's work in TV series is less well known than his films. In the 1970s he worked as an animator on the World Masterpiece Theater TV animation series under Isao Takahata. His first directorial credit is for the TV version of Lupin III in 1971; he was a co-director (with Takahata) of the second half of the first TV series, and director of two episodes of the second. He later based his first feature film, Castle of Cagliostro, on the same character.
Perhaps his most famous TV work was directing Future Boy Conan, a 1978 adaptation of the children's novel The Incredible Tide by Alexander Key. The main antagonist is the leader of the city-state of Industria who is attempting to revive some lost technology. The series also elaborates on the characters and events in the book, but nonetheless is an early example of certain character types which would recur throughout Miyazaki's later work: for example, a girl who is in touch with nature, a warrior woman who is not her antagonist, and a boy who seems destined for the girl. The series also featured lots of unusual aircraft.
Manga[edit | edit source]
Miyazaki has drawn several manga, starting in 1969 with Nagakutsu wo Haita Neko (Puss in Boots). His major work in this printed format is the manga version of the epic tale Nausicaä, on which he worked from 1982 to 1994 and which has sold more than 10 million copies in Japan. He originally didn't want to do Nausicaä as a manga but was forced to after Toshio Suzuki couldn't get funding for a film not based on a manga. Other works include Sabaku no Tami (砂漠の民 People of the Desert), Shuna no Tabi (シュナの旅 The Journey of Shuna), Zassou nōto (雑想ノート The Notebook of Various Images), and Hikoutei Jidai (飛行艇時代 The Age of the Flying Boat, the basis of his animated film Porco Rosso).
Filmography[edit | edit source]
Director and Screenwriter[edit | edit source]
- Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro - (ルパン三世カリオストロの城 Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro), 1979
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - (風の谷のナウシカ Kaze no Tani no Naushika), 1984
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ Tenkuu no Shiro Rapyuta), 1986
- My Neighbor Totoro - (となりのトトロ Tonari no Totoro), 1988
- Kiki's Delivery Service - (魔女の宅急便 Majo no Takkyuubin), 1989
- Porco Rosso - (紅の豚 Kurenai no Buta), 1992
- Princess Mononoke - (もののけ姫 Mononoke Hime), 1997
- Spirited Away - (千と千尋の神隠し Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi), 2001 (Best Animated Feature, winner 2002)
- Howl's Moving Castle - (ハウルの動く城 Hauru no Ugoku Shiro), 2004 (Best Animated Feature, nominee 2005)
Screenwriter[edit | edit source]
- Animal Treasure Island - (どうぶつ宝島; Doubutsu Takarajima), 1971 (Credited with story adaptation)
- Panda! Go Panda!! - (パンダコパンダ; Panda Kopanda), 1972
- Panda! Go Panda! & the Rainy-Day Circus (パンダコパンダ 雨降りサーカスの巻; Panda Kopanda: Amefuri Saakasu no Maki), 1973
- Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば; Mimi o Sumaseba), 1995
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Hayao Miyazaki is an apparent smoker. In the Bonus track of Spirited Away DVD, Miyazaki is seen seated with a lit cigarette on his left hand whilst sketching on paper with his other.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Cavallaro, Dani (2006), The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki, Mcfarland. (ISBN 0786423692)
- McCarthy, Helen (1999), Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation: Films, Themes, Artistry, Stone Bridge. (ISBN 1880656418)
[edit | edit source]
- Miyazaki Information at Nausicaa.net
- The Official Studio Ghibli Site (Japanese)
- GhibliWorld.com: The Ultimate Ghibli Collection Site (English Ghibli source with news updates straight from Japan and info about Studio Ghibli goods)
- Profile at Japan Zone
- Profile at IMDB
- Discussion about Miyazaki in The New Yorker
- Interview in The Guardian
- Criticism of Miyazaki by Mamoru Oshii
- Profile at Anime.com
Hols: Prince of the Sun (1968) • Puss 'n Boots (anime) (1969) • Flying Ghost Ship (1969) • Animal Treasure Island (1971) • Ali-Baba and the 40 Thieves (anime) (1971) • Yuki no Taiyo (1972) • Panda Go Panda (1972–1973) • The Castle of Cagliostro (1977) • Chie the Brat (1981) • Gauche the Cellist (1982) • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) • Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986) • The Story of Yanagawa's Canals (1987) • Grave of the Fireflies (1988) • My Neighbor Totoro (1988) • Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) • Only Yesterday (1991) • Porco Rosso (1992) • Ocean Waves (1993) • Pom Poko (1994) • Whisper of the Heart (1995) • Princess Mononoke (1997) • My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999) • Spirited Away (2001) • The Cat Returns (2002) • Howl's Moving Castle (2004) • Tales from Earthsea (2006)• Ponyo (2008) • The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) From Up On Poppy Hill (2011) • The Wind Rises (2013) • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) • When Marnie Was There (2014) •
The Sky-Colored Seed (1992) • Nandarou (1992) • On Your Mark (1995) • Ghiblies (2000) • Ghiblies Episode II (2002) • Mei and the Kittenbus (2003) • Koro's Big Day Out (2003) • The Whale Hunt (2003) • The Invention of Destruction in the Imaginary Machines (2004) • Imaginary Flying Machines (2004) • The Ornithopter Story: Fly to the Sky Hiyodiro Tengu! (2004) • The Day I Harvested a Star (2006) • House-hunting (2006) • Monmon the Water Spider (2006) • The Night of Taneyamagahara (2006)
Masashi Andō • Hideaki Anno • Mamoru Hosoda • Megumi Kagawa • Kazuo Komatsubara • Katsuya Kondō • Yoshifumi Kondō • Yoichi Kotabe • Gorō Miyazaki • Hayao Miyazaki • Yoshiyuki Momose • Tomomi Mochizuki • Yasuji Mori • Hiroyuki Morita • Mamoru Oshii • Shinji Otsuka • Yasuo Ōtsuka • Toshio Suzuki]] • Isao Takahata • Kazuo Oga • Tsukasa Tannai