Today marks the 71st birthday of legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki. Sometimes referred to as “Japan’s Walt Disney,” Miyazaki is responsible for some of the best animated films of the last 30 years, including (but certainly not limited to) My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, and the brilliant Spirited Away — which remains the only film produced outside the English-speaking world to have won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Growing up, Miyazaki had wanted to be a Manga artist, but reportedly shifted his focus to animation during high school. After working as an animator in other studios in his twenties and thirties, Miyazaki came into his own with 1984′s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the first feature he both wrote and directed. The next year saw the founding of Studio Ghibli with fellow director Isao Takahata, and the animation studio quickly gained a reputation as one of the best in the world.
Beginning with Princess Mononoke in 1999, Disney has released most of Miyazaki’s films in the United States with dubs done by prominent actors and actresses. While that film did poorly at the box office, likely mostly due to lack of marketing, later releases such as Spirited Away and Ponyo have done quite well. Next month Disney will release a similarly-dubbed version Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty, the first Ghibli film distributed by Disney that was not directed by Miyazaki, but rather by his protégé Hiromasa Yonebayashi.
So please join all of us at GeekDad in wishing Hayao Miyazaki a very happy 71st birthday, and many more to come!