Hayao Miyazaki Biography

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Birth Name: Hayao Miyazaki
Born: 01/05/1941
Birth Place: Japan

Born in Tokyo in January 1941, Hayao Miyazaki spent his formative years in the capital city. His father's family owned an airplane parts factory and that small matter had a great impact on the future filmmaker in developing his particularly unique animation style. A Miyazaki feature often contains aerial shots that swoop and soar which in turn are contrasted by segments of quietude and intimacy which serve to heighten the fantastical elements of the tales. During his childhood, his mother was confined to bed with spinal tuberculosis and Miyazaki later paid her homage in "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988), which focused on two sisters whose mother has been hospitalized.

From his earliest childhood, Miyazaki was fascinated by drawing, particularly models of airplanes but when it came to sketching people, he was less than successful. Rather than pursue his hobby, he enrolled as a political science and economics major at Gakushuin University. But his desire to draw finally won out and following his matriculation, Miyazaki landed work at Toei Animation, where he served an apprenticeship before being assigned to work as an in-betweener on the 1963 feature "Wan Wan Chushingura/Watchdog Bow Wow" and the TV series "Okami Shonen Ken/Wolf Boy Ken" (19630-65). The latter marked his first collaboration with Isao Takahata with whom he would later collaborate before forming Studio GHIBLI together in 1985. The pair worked together as animator (Miyazaki) and director (Takahata) on such varied projects as the TV series "Hassuru Panchi/Hustle Punch" (1965-66) and the feature "Taiyo no Ouji--Horus no Diboken/Prince of the Sun--The Great Adventure of Horus/Little Norse Prince Valiant" (1968).

In the 70s, Miyazaki left Toei and joined Takahata at A-Pro and then moved to Zuiyo Pictures, all the while dividing his attentions between features and TV. As the decade waned, he moved into the director's chair for 16 episodes of the series "Mirai Shonen Konan/Conan, The Boy in Future" (1978), also assisting in character design and development. In 1980, Miyazaki joined Telecom as an animation instructor and used the company's name as a pseudonym when he helmed two episodes of the series "Rupan Sansei--Cagliostro no Shiro/Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro". While he was originally set to make his feature directorial debut with "Ritoru Nimo/Little Nemo" in 1982, he left the project during pre-production. That year, he created his initial manga entry "Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa/Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind", which became the basis for his first film in 1984.

"Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" contains the archetypes of all of the animator's future work: a smart heroine, swooping sequences that recreate the experience of flying, ecological themes, and dilemma and characters that are neither all villainous or all heroic. This film's story, set in a post-apocalyptic future, concerns a princess attempting to protect her subjects from two larger warring powers, in the process aiding in diffusing an potential ecological disaster. A critical and commercial success in Japan, "Nausicaa" gave Miyazaki the resources to co-found his own animation studio (Studio GHIBLI) under whose auspices his second film "Tenkuu no Shiro Rapyuta/Laputa: The Castle in the Sky" (1986) was produced. Again working as screenwriter and director, Miyazaki crafted a fanciful tale of a mysterious girl who literally falls from the sky into a bleak industrial town. Notable for its delicate, almost watercolor-like backgrounds and its spectacular flying sequences, the film proved popular in his native land.

Miyazaki moved away from the timeless to the 1950s of his childhood for his next feature "Tonari no Totoro/My Neighbor Totoro" (1988), In what many see as a tribute to his mother, he tells the tale of two young girls (whose own mother has been hospitalized) who discover a magical world in an abandoned house. Episodic and leisurely paced, "My Neighbor Totoro" again featured the animator's trademarked attention to detail, with gorgeous renderings of the Japanese countryside. (A dubbed-in-English version opened briefly in 1993 but US viewers, still primed on viewing Disney-style cartoons, were less than embracing.) The similarly conceived "Majo no Takkyubin/Kiki's Delivery Service" (1989), about a young witch who opens a flying delivery service in a seaside town, also suffered from a lack of a strong story. Nevertheless, the elaborate flying sequences as well as the detailed depiction of the backgrounds, replete with crowds, served as compensation. ("Kiki's Delivery Service" was also dubbed into English and released direct-to-video in the USA in 1998). Airborne sequences also played important roles in the story of "Kurenai no Buta/Porco Rosso" (1992), which followed a WWI Italian flying ace (who happened to be a talking pig!) who abandons the military during the rise of Fascism in favor of becoming a bounty hunter. Capitalizing on Miyazaki's long-held interest in aviation and mixing in some of his political views, it perhaps ranks as one of his most personal films.

Before tackling his anime masterpiece, "Mononoke Hime/Princess Mononoke", Miyazaki crafted TV advertisements and produced and wrote "Mimi wo Sumaseba/Whisper of the Heart" (1995), adapted from a manga by Aoi Hiragi and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. By the time "Princess Mononoke" became the second highest-grossing film in Japan (behind "Titanic"), the tide had shifted in the USA. Aficionados of anime had grown beyond a cult, fueled in part by bootlegs and dubbed versions of "Akira" (1989) and "Ghost in the Shell" (1995) as well as a revival of interest in the 60s animated series "Astro Boy" and "Speed Racer" had primed audiences. In addition, Disney faced challenges on the animation front from Warner Bros. (e.g., "The Iron Giant" 1999) and DreamWorks ("The Prince of Egypt" 1998), among others. A certain sophistication had become the norm creating a more hospitable atmosphere for Miyazaki's work.

Because of his painstaking attention to detail, the animator has suffered eyestrain over the years, and there had been rumors floated that "Princess Mononoke" would be his last film. (He later announced plans to make another film, although he would play a less active role in the more detail-heavy aspects of the work.) Perhaps stemming from the fact that it took some 20 years from initial inspiration (originally as more of a "Beauty and the Beast"-like story) to its final incarnation which tells of "the conflict between the ancient land of primeval forests and animistic gods and the then-emerging modern industrial civilization, which was a product of Japan's contact with the outside world." Without being preachy, Miyazaki posits a delicate balance between nature and industrial progress and show the effects if that balance tips too far in favor of one over the other. While his message may not to be for everyone, there was no denying the power of his images.