Having produced classic after classic after classic over the course of his nearly five-decade career in animation, Hayao Miyazaki, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and the man frequently referred to as the “Walt Disney of Japan” will be honored with a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Oscar at this year’s Governors Awards, according to CBS News.
Miyazaki, who announced his retirement in 2013, previously won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003 for his gorgeous, hand-drawn masterpiece “Spirited Away.”
According to Rocket News, the legendary filmmaker responded to the news of the Academy’s decision with typical humility, saying, “Honestly, I don't think there's any need to give awards to people who have retired, but nonetheless, it is an honor.”
Miyazaki will be the first Japanese filmmaker to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award since the Academy presented one to Akira Kurosawa in 1990.
Miyazaki’s work also left an indelible mark on some of the most important names in American filmmaking, including Pixar president John Lasseter, who was largely responsible for getting Miyazaki’s films distributed in the U.S. through Disney.
On a laserdisc edition of some of Miyazaki’s films released in Japan in the 1990s, Lasseter even said, “At Pixar, when we have a problem and we can't seem to solve it, we often take a laserdisc of one of Mr. Miyazaki's films and look at a scene in our screening room for a shot of inspiration. And it always works! We come away amazed and inspired. ‘Toy Story’ owes a huge debt of gratitude to the films of Mr. Miyazaki.”
Even for many Americans, Miyazaki’s contributions to the world of animation throughout his career have made him a household name, showing the range and depth achievable with animation in films.
Unfortunately for his fans, the announcement of the Lifetime Achievement Oscar came shortly after news that Studio Ghibli, the animation company he co-founded in 1985 with fellow animator Isao Takahata (“Grave of the Fireflies”), was shutting down production of feature films for a time — possibly indefinitely — while it restructures and considers how to proceed in the wake of Miyazaki's retirement, reported Anime News Network.
If Studio Ghibli were to shut down entirely as a production company, it would be an incalculable loss to the world of animation. As the vast majority of animation studios have transitioned to 3-D animation, Studio Ghibli has been the last major company still producing traditional, hand-drawn films.
More importantly, Studio Ghibli has, over the last three decades, developed a style as distinctive as the classic era of Disney films.
In a 2002 interview with the late Roger Ebert, Miyazaki described part of what made that style so unique, saying, “What my friends and I have been trying to do since the 1970s is to try and quiet things down a little bit; don’t just bombard them with noise and distraction. And to follow the path of children’s emotions and feelings as we make a film. If you stay true to joy and astonishment and empathy you don’t have to have violence and you don’t have to have action. They’ll follow you. This is our principle.”
As what could be the final two Studio Ghibli releases make their way to American theaters — “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” last month and “When Marnie Was There” hopefully sometime next year — that goal of quieting things down a little bit might seem more appealing than ever.
Along with Miyazaki, the Governors Awards, which will be held on Nov. 8, will also honor actress Maureen O’Hara, actor Harry Belafonte and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere.
Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website FilmInquiry.com.