Hayao Miyazaki is a famous Japanese director who is known for creating captivating animated movies. These films have earned international recognition among both critics and the audience. Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941, in Tokyo, Japan.
Before Studio Ghibli
The famous director’s unique style of animation first showed when he became a beginner animator at Toei Animation in 1963. Toei Animation was Asia’s largest producer of cartoons! But before taking a job at Toei and starting his career in animated films, Miyazaki completed an economics degree at Gakushuin University. At Toei Animation, he met his wife Ôta Akemi, and his best friend and business partner at Studio Ghibli, Takahata Isao. At the company, Miyazaki moved through the ranks. Eventually, he became a big part of projects like Little Norse Prince (1968, Takahata Isao’s debut) and Wolf Boy Ken.
The future producer of terrific movies like Princess Mononoke would leave Toei Animation with Takahata in 1971. The friends worked with several animation studios for a while, producing movies like “Panda! Go Panda”, a series of short films. Miyazaki also created monthly mangas (Japanese comics) for local journals. One of them was called Naushika (Nausicaa of the Valley Of the Wind). The story followed a young warrior and princess into a dystopian reality. In this universe, humans have obliterated the environment. This mange strip became so popular with the readers that it has motivated Miyazaki and Takahata to create a movie! The 1985 anime had the same name and characters. To the duo’s surprise, the film did so well that it has prompted the men to group their efforts. The new partners formed an animation company with the name Studio Ghibli.
Inspiration for the name of the Studio
The name of the studio came from Miyazaki’s love for airplanes. To be precise, the name came from one of Gianni Caproni’s war aircraft, the full form of which is: “Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli”. The word ghibli itself comes from the Italian noun ghibli and means “hot desert winds.” It isn’t a very well-known fact, but the director’s dad, Katsuji Miyazaki, was an aeronautical engineer. He helped Jiro Horikoshi build the Zero planes. I guess you could say that Hayao took inspiration for “The Wind Rises,” both the manga and the movie, from his own family!
Studio Ghibli’s successes
Although Naushika was a success in Japan, in the home market, the low quality of sound and translation made the film unbearable to watch in the West. This prompted Miyazaki to throw away the idea of releasing another movie to the Western audience for a long time.
Studio Ghibli released several other extremely successful movies. Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbour Totoro, Porco Rosso, and Princess Mononoke are great examples. Princess Mononoke was a hit in Japan in 1997! The film discusses some of the themes that were already introduced in other Ghibli movies. These critical topics include humans against the environment, Japan’s cultural heritage, and the existence of the spiritual world alongside our ordinary world. Princess Mononoke is about humans and nature, fighting and trying to find a necessary balance.
Studio Ghibli’s first international breakthrough came with their 2002 movie called “Spirited Away.” It has won many Academy Awards domestically and internationally, broke the box office records in Japan, and was a phenomenal success overall. The story follows an ordinary 10-year-old girl Chihiro Ogino into the realm of magic, gods, and spirits. In this world, she must use her wit to escape and save her parents!
Following the massive success of Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki created Howl’s Moving Castle in 2004. A witch cursed the main character Sofi with an old body. Sofi must find the cure for it, which leads her to Howl’s magical castle! The anime earned Studio Ghibli an Academy Award in 2006.
Is Miyazaki done?
The last film Miyazaki has made was The Wind Rises (2013). It is unknown whether the prominent Japanese producer will return to work. Many people know that Miyazaki doesn’t want his son Goro to follow his footsteps. And to be honest, Goro hasn’t expressed much interest in taking over the studio either! But other fans and I will be waiting.