Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese film animator, producer, screenwriter, and director. He joined Toei Animation in 1963, working as an in-between artist on various animation projects. He served as a chief animator, concept artist, and scene designer for 1968’s The Little Norse Prince. After working on several other feature films, he left Toei to work for several companies, including Mushi Production, A Pro, Nippon Animation, and TMS Entertainment. He worked on some more TV projects and shorts before finally making his feature directorial debut in 1979. In this installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be taking a look at Miyazaki’s first two films, The Castle of Cagliostro and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Co-written and directed by Miyazaki, 1979’s The Castle of Cagliostro centers on a gentleman thief named Arsène Lupin III who, after discovering the loot he stole from a Monaco casino was filled with distinctly high quality counterfeit bills, decides to seek out the source of those counterfeit bills and heads off to the rumored source, the Grand Duchy of Cagliostro. Featuring the voices of David Hayter, Bridget Hoffman, John Snyder, Dorothy Elias-Fahn, Richard Epcar, Dougary Grant, and Kirk Thornton (from the English language dub created by Manga Entertainment in 2000), this critically acclaimed film was based on the manga series Lupin III by Monkey Punch, whose character Lupin III was the grandson to French author Maurice Leblanc’s master thief Arsène Lupin. The film was initially a flop in Japan (some fans disliked that Lupin III was portrayed as a more heroic character in this film than in the manga) but developed a cult following over the years through re-releases and re-runs. It would receive a U.S. release in 1991 by MGM. Among its accolades are a Saturn Award nomination for Best International Film and winning the Ofuji Noburo Award from the Mainichi Film Concours.
Written and directed by Miyazaki, 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind centers on a young princess of the Valley of the Wind who must stop the Tolmekian kingdom from using an ancient weapon to eradicate an entire jungle of giant mutant insects. Featuring the voices of Alison Lohman, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Chris Sarandon, Edward James Olmos, Mark Hamill, Frank Welker, and Jodi Benson (from the English language dub created by Disney in 2005), this critically acclaimed film (based on Miyazaki’s own 1982 manga) was presented by the World Wide Fund for Nature and was a box office hit in Japan. This film also marked the first collaboration between Miyazaki and composer Joe Hisaishi. The success of the film led to the founding of Studio Ghibli. Unfortunately, the film was heavily re-edited by New World Pictures for its English language North American debut in 1985. The New World version was made to be more children-oriented, the film’s themes were diluted, its meaning partly lost, characters were renamed, and the film itself was re-titled Warriors of the Wind. It was because of this that Miyazaki adopted a no-edit clause for all future foreign releases of Studio Ghibli films. Among the film’s accolades are the Ofuji Noburo Award from the Mainichi Film Concours and the Anime Grand Prix Award from Animage Magazine.