Fans of animation will be saddened to know that anime legend Hayao Miyazaki is stepping off the stage and retiring from filmmaking. Sunday at the Venice Film Festival, the Oscar winning director told the world of his decision, although he gave no specifics regarding why he is choosing to retire at this particular time.
Koji Hoshino, the current head of Studio Ghibli said, “Next week Miyazaki will have a press conference held in Tokyo to announce his withdrawal from active working.” He added that Hayao Miyazaki “wants to say goodbye to all of you from the bottom of his heart.”
Hayao Miyazaki has long been the top animator in the Japanese film industry and has gained an international following that few animation creators have ever gained. Other than the legendary Walt Disney, no other master of animated fare has ever maintained such an amazingly consistent level of excellence for so many decades. In fact, Miyazaki has been called “the Walt Disney of Japan”, although he has never liked that nickname. He’s won multiple awards worldwide, including the Academy Award for Best Animated Film in 2001 for Spirited Away.
Miyazaki started out in the 1960s as an animator in light, forgettable works such as Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon, and further paid his dues as a writer for television anime shows such as Lupin the 3rd and Future Boy Conan. He occasionally directed episodes of those shows. Over the next 20 years, Hayao Miyazaki worked his way up to become the most popular animator in Japanese cinema history.
His first major film as a writer and director was an adaptation of the popular Lupin series, called Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979). The excellent film was critically and financially successful, pleasing both established and newer fans of the Lupin series. Still, as entertaining as it was, the Lupin film was not a true representation of Miyazaki’s vision, which would materialize in future projects. Miyazaki as an institution really began with his following film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which first established the Miyazaki formula. The themes that define Miyazaki’s work didn’t crystallize until after the Lupin film. The three major recurring themes in the Miyazaki oeuvre are pacifism; feminism and environmentalism.
Miyazaki’s recently completed movie The Wind Rises, which is already a hit in Japan and will soon open in the United States, will be his final film. Although he has written and produced many films, he has actually directed only 11, being very selective in his choices and taking several years to make a movie. The list of films he directed are …Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979); Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984); Laputa: The Castle in the Sky (1986); My Neighbor Totoro (1988); Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989); Porco Rosso (1992); Princess Mononoke (1997); Spirited Away (2002); Howl’s Moving Castle (2004); Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (2008); and his newest, The Wind Rises.
It’s the end of an era but the man has certainly earned a rest. He’s left us with a legacy of masterpieces that will not be forgotten.