(For Miyazaki’s first eight films, check out The Castle of Cagliostro & Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle In the Sky & My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service & Porco Rosso, and Princess Mononoke & Spirited Away)
Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese film animator, producer, screenwriter, and director. He made his feature directorial debut in 1979 with The Castle of Cagliostro. After a few years, he was finally able to direct a second film, 1984′s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. With the success of that film, Miyazaki was able to help secure funding for a new animation studio called Studio Ghibli. Once established, Miyazaki started work on Castle In the Sky and My Neighbor Totoro, and continued with Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away (which won him an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature). For this first installment of Animation Corner 2.0, I’ll be honoring Miyazaki (who was recently the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award) by looking back at his final three directorial efforts: the Oscar-nominated Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and the Oscar-nominated The Wind Rises.
Written and directed by Miyazaki, 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle centers on an unconfident young woman who is cursed by a witch and turned into a 90 year-old woman. Her only chance of returning to her original form lies with an insecure, young wizard who has a moving castle. Featuring the voices of Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, Josh Hutcherson, Blythe Danner, Jena Malone, and Crispin Freeman (in the English language dub produced by Disney), this critically acclaimed film grossed $190 million in Japan on a budget of $24 million (it added $45 million outside of Japan for a worldwide total of $235 million). In the U.S., the film only grossed $4.7 million due to a very limited release by Disney. Miyazaki’s screenplay was based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones. The film is computer-animated, but the backgrounds and characters were hand-drawn before being scanned into the computer. Inspiration for the architecture and surroundings in the film came from the towns of Colmar and Riquewihr in Alsace, France, along with the future technology concepts of Albert Robida. The film also features a terrific score by long-time Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi. Among the film’s accolades are three Annie Award nods, one Mainichi Film Concours Award win, a Saturn Award, Broadcast Film Critics Association, Online Film Critics Society, and Academy Award nods for Best Animated Feature, and North Texas Film Critics Association, San Diego Film Critics Society, and NY Film Critics Circle Award wins for Best Animated Feature.
Written and directed by Miyazaki, 2008’s Ponyo centers on a young goldfish who befriends a young human boy and yearns to become a human girl. Featuring the voices of Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Lily Tomlin, Cloris Leachman, and Betty White (in the Disney-produced English language dub), this critically acclaimed film grossed over $164 million in Japan on a $34 million budget (it made another $37 million outside of Japan for a worldwide total of over $201 million). The film was promoted by Disney much more than previous Miyazaki films, resulting in a $15 million gross in its U.S. release. Miyazaki drew inspiration for the film from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid as well as the Richard Wagner opera Die Walküre. The animation on the film was achieved via traditional hand-drawn animation (something that Miyazaki himself insisted on). Joe Hisaishi delivers yet another terrific score for a Miyazaki film. Among the film’s accolades are two Annie Award nods, Best Animated Feature nods from the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, St. Louis Film Critics Association, and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, as well as two Japanese Academy Award wins (for Best Composer and Best Animated Film).
Written and directed by Miyazaki, 2013’s The Wind Rises is a fictionalized look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane that was later used by Japan in World War II to devastating effect. Featuring the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Werner Herzog, William H. Macy, Mae Whitman, Mandy Patinkin, Jennifer Grey, Stanley Tucci, Elijah Wood, and Ronan Farrow (in the Disney-produced English language dub), this critically acclaimed film grossed over $120 million in Japan on a (supposedly) $30 million budget (it made another $16 million outside of Japan for a worldwide total of over $136 million). The film was distributed by Touchstone, a Disney subsidiary, due to the film’s subject matter (it managed to gross $5 million in the U.S. The film was inspired by the manga Miyazaki had made about Horikoshi, as well as Tatsuo Hori’s novel The Wind Has Risen and Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain. Joe Hisaishi delivers an Italian-flavored score for Miyazaki’s film. Among the film’s accolades are three Annie Award nods, Best Animated Feature nods from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Denver Film Critics Society, Georgia Film Critics Association, Houston Film Critics Society, the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards, as well as two Japanese Academy Award wins, and Best Animated Feature wins from the Boston Online Film Critics Association, Boston Society of Film Critics, Central Ohio Film Critics Association, NY Film Critics Circle, Online Film Critics Society, and the San Diego Film Critics Society.