Today is the 70th birthday of renowned Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki, known to some as “Japan’s Walt Disney,” known to all as the creator of some of the most successful animated features in recent memory. His 2001 release, Spirited Away, was the first Japanese movie to win an American Academy Award and was produced after a short retirement following his previous effort, Princess Mononoke in 1997. In other words, we probably haven’t heard the last of him.
Miyazaki has been a major figure in manga and anime since he was in his twenties. Unsatisfied with his training and work as an economist, he gave it up to work in an animation studio and never turned back. After producing his first two films, he co-founded Studio Ghibli, reviving the animation industry in Japan before expanding his audience to America with Princess Mononoke.
One of the most unique and inspiring things about Miyazaki’s process is the way he constructs his stories. Namely, he doesn’t. Production of his animated films begins before his storyboards are complete. In a 2001 interview, he says:
I don’t have the story finished and ready when we start work on a film. I usually don’t have the time. So the story develops when I start drawing storyboards. The production starts very soon thereafter, while the storyboards are still developing. We never know where the story will go but we just keeping working on the film as it develops. It’s a dangerous way to make an animation film and I would like it to be different, but unfortunately, that’s the way I work and everyone else is kind of forced to subject themselves to it.
In 2005, when he was named among Time Magazine‘s Most Influential People, Stan Lee wrote that “[i]n the field of theatrical animation, where talent abounds and everyone has his or her own style, the art and creativity of Hayao Miyazaki are unrivaled.”
So, we wish Mr. Miyazaki a very happy birthday and look forward to what he has in store for the future, signing off with a look at his previous gifts to us: