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Biography #2

Hayao Miyazaki has forged his own unique style that transcends the limits of both ordinary animation and live-action with dramatic, action-packed narratives; viscerally naturalistic details, characters who evoke poignant emotions and a lyrical beauty that recalls the world of watercolor paintings and dreams. Long considered a national treasure of Japan, and an influence on many leading American animations, Miyazaki's work is finally being recognized by the rest of the world.

Born in Tokyo in 1941, Hayao Miyazaki first became interested in feature animation as a teenager. At Gakushuin University, a private college with close ties to Japan's imperial family, Miyazaki majored in political science and economics, but was also a member of a children's literature study circle, where he nursed his ambition to become an animator.

After graduating in 1963, Miya.zaki joined Toei Animation, then as today, the largest animation studio in Asia. This was an unusual choice of occupation for a Gakushuin graduate, but Miyazaki was a diligent and talented animator who soon attracted the attention of his seniors. One was Isao Takahata, who first worked together with Miyazaki as a director on the 1964 series Wolf Boy Ken (Okammi Shonen Ken).

In 1965, Miyazaki joined Takahata and animation director Yasuo Otsuka in making a full- length feature titled "The Little Norse Prince Valiant (Taiyo no Oji Horus no Daiboken)". Eager to make a film able to compete with the TV cartoons that were killing off the market for animated features, Takahata and Otsuka opened their creative brainstorming sessions to all members of their team, regardless of company rank or experience. Miyazaki jumped at the chance. Bombarding his superiors with ideas, he played a key role in developing the film's style and story line. In 1971, Miyazaki and Takahata left Toei and joined a new animation production company. A-Pro. In 1972, together they made The Adventure of Panda and Friends (Panda Kopanda). In 1973, Miyazaki and Takahata left A-Pro to join Zuiyo Pictures, where they made Heidi (Alps no Shojo Haiji). a Japanese TV cartoon series.

Miyazaki made his feature film debut as director with "The Castle of Cagliostoro (Lupin Ill Cagliostoro no Shiro)," a 1979 feature about a debonair but wacky thief that became a box office success. The film that first brought Miyazaki to international attention was the 1984 "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa)," an eco-fable about a young girl's struggle to survive in a poisoned world inhabited by warring tribes and giant mutant insects. Miyazaki scripted and directed the film based on his own comic book series and Takahata served as producer.

With Nausicaa, Miyazaki created an intricately imagined near-future, while commenting on the topical issue of ecological disaster caused by commercial greed. Representing a bold advance over the simplistic space operas that were then the sci-fi animation mainstream. Nausicaa won a slew of awards and accolades, including the Grand Prize at the Second Japanese Anime Festival and a commendation from the World Wildlife Fund.

Mivazaki's follow-up to Nausicaa was the 1986 Laputa: Castle In the Sky (Tenku no Shiro Laputa), a fantastic adventure tale inspired by Gulliver's Travels about a search for the lost flying island of Laputa. In order to produce Laputa, Miyazaki and Takahata launched their new animation studio, Studio Ghibli, in 1985.

In the 1988 My' Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro), Miyazaki wrote and directed an original, leisurely' paced, loosely plotted fantasy about the encounter of two young sisters with magical forest spirits. Totoro also acquired the status of an animation classic, continuing to be popular with adults and children alike in Japan.

The 1989 Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyubin) launched Studio Ghibli on an unbroken string of box office hits. The story of a young witch on a quest to complete her apprenticeship in witchcraft, Kiki offered stunningly realized flying scenes that stirred audiences. Kiki's Delivery Service became the biggest domestic box office hit of 1989.

Ghibli's follow-up film, the 1991 Only Yesterday (Omoide Poroporo), was executive produced by Miyazaki but scripted and directed by Takahata. The studio scored an even bigger success with the 1992 Porco Rosso (Kurenai no Buta). Scripted and directed by Miyazaki, the film had all the Miyazaki trademarks, including breathtaking flying sequences and a feisty young heroine who works as an aircraft designer. Porco Rosso became the Japanese animation industry's biggest hit (remaining so until the release of PRINCESS MONONOKE) and topped the year's box office chart. In 1995, Studio Ghibli released Whisper of the Heart (Mimi wo Sumaseba), scripted by Miyazaki. While working on that film he was already involved in the production of PRINCESS MONONOKE.

Miyazaki is currently contemplating his next project, which may well become Ghibli's first of the twenty-first century.

updated 24-Aug-2002