Hayao Miyazaki is leaving Studio Ghibli to retire. The famed Japanese director who is best known for his animated studio Ghibli films like Princess Mononoke and the Academy Award winning Spirited Away, plans to retire after working in the film industry for half a century.
Koji Hoshino, the head of studio Ghibli, and former head of Disney Japan, made the announcement at the Venice Film Festival. He spoke to the festival news conference and revealed that the 72 year-old director would be holding a press conference in Tokyo, Japan next week to formally announce his retirement.
Miyazaki co-founded studio Ghibli in 1985 with fellow director Isao Takahata and Tokuma Shoten chairman Yasuyoshi Tokuma. Tokuma Shoten provided funds to start the animation production company. Hayao’s first film with the newly established studio was the 1986 animated film Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
Hayao Miyazaki started his career by working for Toei Animation. He has made 11 feature films and his last film, The Wind Rises, filmed in English, was a box office hit in Japan when it premiered in July. It will get its American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was screened at the Venice Lido on Sunday. Miyazaki was not there for the viewing.
After Hoshino made the announcement, he said, “I cannot accept any questions on this because there will be an official press conference on this. He wants to say goodbye to all of you from the bottom of his heart.”
Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film is about Japanese aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi. Horikoshi designed the Japanese fighter plane used in World War Two, the Zero. The director came under fire for showing the dangers of nationalism and war in his film. Judging from its popularity in Japan, it seems a fitting end to the studio Ghibli director and animator who is leaving to retire.
The director, animator, manga artist and writer semi retired after he had finished work on the 1997 film Princess Mononoke. The film was met with resounding praise and was successful financially as well as critically. It won the Japan Academy Award for Best Picture. While working on Mononoke, Hayao redrew 80,000 frames of the film himself. He also announced that this would be his last feature.
It was while he was semi-retired that Miyazaki relaxed with a friend’s daughters and one of these girls would inspire him to write his next film. The film, Spirited Away, was about a girl who is forced to live in a spirit world working in a bathhouse when her parents are changed into pigs by the witch who owns it. The film became his highest grossing film and the most popular. It won a Japan Academy Prize and a Golden Bear award as well as the Oscar for Best Animated Feature of 2002.
Many of Miyazaki’s films have an environmental message or a strong female lead. His most famous films are Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howls Moving Castle and The Castle of Cagliostro.
The announcement of Hayao Miyazaki’s departure from studio Ghibli and his planned retirement have saddened many in the industry and will no doubt leave many fans of his work upset as well. This mutli-talented man will leave a huge hole in studio Ghibli that may never be filled.
By Michael Smith