Only those who genuinely appreciate beauty and art will be familiar with Studio Ghibli, the renowned Japanese animation studio, and its brilliant director and co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki. It takes great talent, an exceptional mind, and an upper level of creativity to make films as fascinating as Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpieces. This man’s outstanding work has raised the fans’ curiosity about him and his studio’s history.
Who is Hayao Miyazaki? And Why is He Famous?
On January 5, 1941, the Miyazaki family welcomed their baby Hayao, who had a splendid future ahead of him despite the struggles. His father was a businessman, making the essential parts that kept fighter planes soaring through the skies during the epic showdown of World War II. This experience really took Miyazaki for a wild ride, sparking a lifelong passion for aviation and a serious distaste for war.
Miyazaki was a nature lover from a young age. He spent hours exploring the woods near his home, developing a deep appreciation for the natural world. These early escapades would later serve as the muse for his films, where he skillfully weaves together the threads of environmentalism and peace.
How Did Hayao Miyazaki Get Into the Anime Industry?
After finishing high school, Miyazaki went on to study economics and politics at Gakushuin University. However, he soon discovered that his true passion lies in the captivating world of animation. He made the bold decision to leave college and pursue his passion at Toei Animation, where he quickly found success as both an animator and director.
Miyazaki’s early work at Toei Animation was filled with valuable learning experiences and challenges. He frequently had creative disagreements with his superiors, who may not have fully understood or embraced his unique artistic vision. However, he persevered, and his talent eventually won him well-deserved recognition.
In 1979, he had the amazing opportunity to direct his very first feature film, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. The film was not only a critical and commercial success, but it also played a pivotal role in launching Miyazaki’s career as a major force in animation.
Miyazaki’s Dazzling Studio Ghibli
Driven by his passion for sharing stories that held great significance to him, Miyazaki was determined to create films that would break free from the commercial constraints of the anime industry and have more creative control over his work. That was the key reason he co-founded the remarkable Studio Ghibli with Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki in 1985.
Although some people might have a hard time trying to pronounce its name, Studio Ghibli is among the top anime studios not only in Japan but in the whole world. The studio’s first production was Castle in the Sky (1986), an award-winning film promoting the importance of protecting Mother Nature and spreading peace.
For a solid three decades, Studio Ghibli was like a magical genie granting our cinematic wishes with a string of mind-blowing films that critics couldn’t help but shower with praise. In the vast treasure trove of cinematic brilliance, we find the adored My Neighbour Totoro (1988), the mythical Princess Mononoke (1997), and the enchanting Spirited Away (2001). These films have been translated into so many tongues that they may now entertain moviegoers all throughout the world.
If you are looking for a good family movie with valuable messages, Ghibli films should be your go-to. Audiences of all ages absolutely love them, and they have received great reviews for their universal themes of love, friendship, and their key point of protecting the environment.
How Many Movies Has Miyazaki Created?
As you can see so far, Miyazaki’s work history can majorly be divided into two main categories: Toei Animation Studio and Ghibli Studio. He also collaborated with a number of the big animation studios in Japan, such as TMS Entertainment, Gainax Co, and Nippon Animation. From 1963 through 1985, Hayao Miyazaki spent 22 years at Toei Animation Studio. He contributed to several anime films and TV shows throughout that time, including:
- The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun (1968)
- The Wonderful World of Puss ‘n Boots (1969)
- Animal Treasure Island (1971)
- Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Miyazaki’s Most Iconic Films
Even though Hayao Miyazaki has plenty of great films from different animation studios, his fame skyrocketed thanks to his Studio Ghibli films. Miyazaki’s influence on the anime community has endured for over 30 years, thanks to his 23 feature films.
My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
My Neighbour Totoro is a heartening tale that follows the incredible journey of two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, as they embark on a new chapter of their lives in a charming countryside home alongside their loving father. They quickly form a deep bond with a magnificent forest spirit called Totoro, who becomes their trusted companion, guiding them through enchanting adventures and providing solace during their mother’s challenging illness.
The film’s stunning animation seamlessly blends reality and fantasy, creating a truly captivating visual experience. The characters are expressive and charming, and the backgrounds are lush and detailed. It’s a nice movie to watch if you want to add some positive energy to your day, which you most likely need.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Kiki is without question the most adorable witch you will ever lay your eyes on—no traditional black hats involved. Accompanied by her loyal feline friend, Jiji, Kiki sets off on a thrilling adventure brimming with opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth. In this captivating tale, she must delve deeper into her superpowers and navigate the intricacies of forging her own path in a new city.
The film’s title is a reference to the Japanese word “kiki”, which means “to fly”. The story is as heartwarming as a cosy fireplace on a winter’s night, and the characters are charming and relatable.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
The film follows Ashitaka, a young prince of the Emishi tribe who is cursed by a demon boar. He ventures West in search of treatment, where he meets San, a young lady raised by wolves and now engaged in a battle to defend the wilderness from human incursion. On his journey, Ashitaka is confronted with the destructive character of human progress and must make a choice between nature and the industrial revolution.
Princess Mononoke is a real eye-opener that delves into deep waters, tackling heavy subjects like environmentalism, violence, and the intricate relationship between humanity and Mother Nature. The film really knocked the socks off both critics and audiences with its high-octane intensity and heart-wrenching emotional punch.
Spirited Away (2001)
Speaking of groundbreaking works, Spirited Away stands apart from other blockbuster fantasy films, given that it was the first and only hand-drawn and non-English-language animated film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film at the 75th Academy Awards.
The film spins the tale of Chihiro Ogino, a sullen ten-year-old girl who, while uprooting to a new neighbourhood, stumbles upon the spirit world by going through a mysterious tunnel. In that situation, she’s caught between a rock and a hard place, having to toil away in a bathhouse under the thumb of the wicked witch Yubaba. Her only way out is to break free and save her parents, who’ve been transformed into pigs.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Spirited Away is how it brings Japanese mythology to the table, adding a whole new layer of depth and intrigue. The film is replete with captivating allusions to Japanese folklore, delving into the magical realm of the spirit world in a manner that effortlessly bridges the gap between the familiar and the unfamiliar for Western audiences.
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Howl fell for Sophie, and everybody else fell for their heartwarming story. The film is an adaptation of the highly-rated 1986 novel written by the renowned Diana Wynne Jones. This masterpiece made its grand debut at the prestigious 61st Venice Film Festival in 2004, captivating audiences with its mesmerising storyline and exceptional animation. As soon as you start watching the film, you will immediately recognise Hayao Miyazaki’s unique style.
Soon after, it took the Japanese cinema scene by storm, enthralling moviegoers with its release on 20 November 2004. The film achieved an impressive milestone by generating a staggering $14.5 million in its very first week of release in Japan.
Howl’s Moving Castle beautifully portrays the captivating journey of Sophie Hatter, a sweet young woman who finds herself entangled in a curse cast upon her by the wicked Witch of the Waste, transforming her into an old lady. She eagerly seeks the invaluable assistance of the wizard Howl, renowned for his extraordinary powers, residing in a bizarre moving castle.
While the Little Mermaid is eager to trade her fins for legs to be with the love of her life, Ponyo, the goldfish, is determined to take the plunge and become human in order to restore the natural balance with her best friend, Sosuke.
Miyazaki soaked up the atmosphere of Tomonoura, a tranquil port town nestled near Hiroshima, for a good few moons, seeking to capture the essence of this film. The film is a feast for the eyes and a tale that warms the cockles of the heart, showcasing the power of friendship and the significance of protecting our planet. For Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli fans, this is an absolute must-watch.
Hayao Miyazaki’s Last Anime Film
After a decade-long hiatus, Miyazaki returns to the silver screen with The Boy and the Heron, or How Do You Live, his last film before retiring, and yes, it goes by two titles. If you try searching for an official trailer or any sort of promo for the film, you’ll come up empty-handed. Hayao Miyazaki’s name and Studio Ghibli’s reputation were like a magnet, drawing fans from every nook and cranny of the globe to feast their eyes on the film.
The film follows a little kid named Mahito as he makes his way through the turbulent times of World War II. After his mother kicked the bucket, Mahito moves to the countryside with his father and his new stepmother. There, he meets a talking heron who leads him to a magical underworld.
The eye-catching animation, heartstring-tugging plot, and deep dive into serious topics like sorrow, grief, and the power of optimism are all reasons for the great reviews from the audiences and the critics. Fans in Japan have already had a blast watching the film in the theatres since it hit the screens on July 14, 2023; however, it’s not clear yet when the movie is coming to the international theatres.
The New York Film Festival has rolled out the red carpet for How Do You Live by including it in their highly acclaimed lineup as one of their Official Selections in the Spotlight category. The film also hit the big leagues at the Toronto International Film Festival this summer, and now it’s gearing up to make a splash at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain.
Miyazaki’s retirement from animation marks the beginning of a new chapter, where his incredible legacy will continue to ignite inspiration among artists and captivate audiences worldwide. His films beautifully showcase the limitless power of imagination and highlight the crucial significance of environmentalism. They are also a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of hope.
January 5, 1941 in Bunkyo City, Tokyo, Japan