Born in 1941 on the outskirts of Tokyo, Hayao Miyazaki first became interested in art at school, but it was during the US occupation - when American cartoons became widely shown in Japan - that he decided he wanted to become an animator.
Miyazaki's career really kicked off in the early 1960's, when he worked for Toei Doga as an inbetween animator. However, it wasn't long before Toei had moved him on to key animation and it was during this period that he met the man who would become his lifelong friend and collaborator - Isao Takahata. Through the pair's involvement in the trade union movement and work on the same animation projects they became firm
friends and Takahata gave Miyazaki his first creative opportunity by allowing suggestions for the epic fantasy The Little Norse Prince. However, with their reputations growing it was only a matter of time before Miyazaki and Takahata looked for more creative control of their work, and they left Toei in 1971.
Following this move Miyazaki and Takahata worked for several companies, but Miyazaki played second fiddle to the older and more experienced Takahata until he was finally given his break as a writer/director with the 26 episode ecological sci-fi series Future Boy Conan in 1978. Following this things just got better and better, a year later Miyazaki followed up some work he had done on the Lupin III TV series by directing the classic adventure tale Castle of Cagliostro, and shortly after this directed the first six episodes of the fun Sherlock Holmes adaptation Sherlock Hound.
With this under his belt Miyazaki began work on his epic manga Nausicań of the Valley of the Wind for the popular Japanese animation magazine Animage. He continued this manga between other projects until 1994, completing an impressive anime version of it in 1984 which was produced by Takahata and part funded by Animage's parent company Tokuma Shoten.
After the success of the Nausicań anime Miyazaki and Takahata decided they needed to safeguard their artistic vision and control for their next film, and so with Miyazaki's adventure film Laputa, Castle in the Sky on the verge of production they decided to set up their own studio. Gaining financial support once more from Tokuma Shoten, Miyazaki and Takahata launched Studio Ghibli in 1985, and Laputa, Castle in the Sky became the fledgling studio's first release just one year later.
With their own studio and financial support well above and beyond the call of duty from Tokuma, Miyazaki and Takahata continued to demonstrate their skills, and in 1988 the Miyazaki directed My Neighbour Totoro was released on a double bill with Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies. Following these films Miyazaki and Takahata introduced new working practices to improve the lot for their employees, bringing in a wage and training structure and hiring staff permanently rather than on a temporary basis. These improvements were revolutionary in the Japanese animation industry, but Miyazaki and Takahata were of the opinion that quality work needed an experienced and skilled workforce, something their success since has borne out.
Studio Ghibli has become a true powerhouse of Japanese animation, with Miyazaki directing the charming fantasy Kiki's Delivery Service, the action packed Porco Rosso, music video On Your Mark and the acclaimed fantasy drama Princess Mononoke between 1989 and 1997. He also designed, planned and oversaw the building of a new headquarters for the studio in this time and was planning to retire after Princess Mononoke, but sadly his protÚgÚ Yoshifumi Kondo, who had worked closely with both Miyazaki and Takahata for several years, died of an aneurism in 1998. With no-one to take on his mantle Miyazaki has delayed his retirement, and has since begun to achieve the worldwide recognition his talent deserves with the Oscar winning Spirited Away and the hugely successful Howl's Moving Castle. He also designed the Studio Ghibli Museum, which opened in 2001.
Showing no signs of stopping anytime soon (at the time
of writing he is rumoured to have begun work on a new film), Miyazaki
has won a hard earned reputation as possibly the world's greatest living
animator. However, with him successfully demonstrating his skill
as an artist, writer, architect, poet, animator, director, producer,
lyricist, designer, creator, manga author and work practice reformer,
this is probably not a high enough accolade. Hayao Miyazaki is a
visionary and a true genius.
Nausicań of the Valley of the Wind
Future Boy Conan