Spirited Away. Princess Mononoke. Porco Rosso. My Neighbor Totoro. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Howl’s Moving Castle. Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Hayao Miyazaki’s contributions to the world of film are indisputable. Known often as "the Japanese Walt Disney", Miyazaki’s films incorporate common themes and feature strong characters.
Miyazaki’s animation stands out not just because of its incredible depth and detail, but because of its keenness to feature characters that are subject to change and that refuse to operate within the normal good-evil dichotomies. In an age in which animation for children is often pedestrian and naive, Miyazaki’s animation journeys outside of the norm and provides more gripping adventures for all ages.
Hayao Miyazaki was born in the town of Akebono-cho, part of Tokyo's Bunkyō-ku. Bunkyō-ku is one of the 23 special wards or municipalities of Tokyo. Miyazaki’s father was the director of Miyazaki Airplane, which made rudders for fighter planes during World War II. During this period, young Miyazaki drew airplanes and developed a fascination for flying.
His mother was an ardent reader who often questioned the social norms of the day. This influenced Hayao deeply and would provide many a backdrop for his films. Miyazaki’s mother underwent treatment for spinal tuberculosis from 1947 until 1955, which meant that the family moved often. While in high school, Hayao saw Hakujaden, which was one of the first-ever full length colour animation films. He was immediately spellbound and wanted to become an animator.
After finishing high school, Miyazaki attended Gakushuin University in Tokyo. He graduated in 1963 with degrees in economics and political science. In April of that year, Hayao got a job with Toei Animation and quickly rose through the ranks. He was a leader in a labour dispute and was chief secretary in Toei’s labour union by 1964.
While at Toei, Miyazaki developed somewhat of a reputation for rejecting and fiddling with ideas. He would often find problems with the endings of films, such as that of 1965’s Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon, and would pitch his own ideas which would often be selected instead. In 1968, Miyazaki began collaborating with director Isao Takahata, with whom he would later found Studio Ghibli in 1985.