Hayao Miyazaki to Receive Honorary Oscar

Director/animator Hayao Miyazaki with his creations. Photo: Ken Ishii / Getty Images; Studio Ghibli

Animation legend Hayao Miyazaki will add one more award to his accomplished career, when this Saturday he will receive an honorary Academy Award at the film academy’s sixth annual Governors Awards.

The 73-year-old Japanese director, animator, and cofounder of the animation studio Studio Ghibli has created some of the most celebrated films in Japanese cinema and animation. Often referred to as the “Walt Disney of Japan,” Miyazaki has directed, written, animated, and produced more than 20 films over the course of his career. These include My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), and Spirited Away (2001).

Spirited Away took in $330 million at the box office and went on to become the highest grossing film in Japan and earned the filmmaker an Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards.

Miyazaki’s films have gathered an increasingly larger following thanks to Disney’s North American distribution network, and, more specifically, the support of John Lasseter. Lasseter is Pixar’s chief creative officer, a two-time Oscar winner, and the man responsible for films like Toy Story (1995), Wall-E (2008), and Cars (2006).

Lasseter recently paid tribute to Miyazaki at the Tokyo International Film Festival, as reported in the Hollywood Reporter. “I was absolutely blown away,” he said, watching Miyazaki’s 1979 film, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. “It had a very strong effect on me because I felt that this was the first animated feature film I had seen that had a vision to entertain for all ages. It made me feel that I was not alone in the world . . . It filled my soul with a drive that said ‘this is what I want to create.’ ”

He added, “Years later, I always said at Pixar that you are what you direct. Your heart and soul goes into everything you make—I learned that from Miyazaki.”

Unlike many contemporary animated films which are digitally animated, Miazaki and his animators at Studio Ghibli still adhere to traditional animation practices, hand drawing each frame for the feature length films.

The announcement of the award coincides with news of the filmmaker’s retirement, making The Wind Rises (2013) his final feature film. Although Miyazaki has announced his retirement several times, he stated, “This time I am quite serious,” as reported by Entertainment Weekly.

The Academy’s Governors Awards announces its recipients each summer and holds its private dinner gala each November, with highlights of the event screened at the Academy Awards show. This year’s honorees also include singer and humanitarian Harry Belafonte, French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, and Irish actress Maureen O’Hara.

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