October 29, 1935
April 5, 2018
While Hayao Miyazaki will always be known as the visionary behind the masterpieces of Studio Ghibli, there was one other creative force at Ghibli who somewhat quietly put together a resume just as impressive: studio co-founder Isao Takahata. Born in Japan in 1935, Takahata grew up with an early fascination with animation. But, as he grew older and attended the University of Tokyo, it remained nothing more than an idle thought. As he looked at his job prospects while he completed his literature degree, Takahata eyed a job at Toei Animation. Aspiring to create, he joined Toei. However, he was a part of a large recruitment group and wound up having trouble making his mark as an animation director. It took him years before he could work on his first film. Sadly, that film, "Horus: Prince of the Sun" (1963) was a flop. Following the financial failure, Takahata was demoted, which eventually led to him leaving Toei Animation in 1971. He didn't leave by himself, though, as he departed alongside Miyazaki and future Nintendo artist Yoichi Kotabe. Over the next few years, the trio tried to start up numerous projects as a part of A Production. As a part of the group, Takahata directed several episodes of the first season of "Lupin III" (YTV 1971-72). Along with Miyazaki, he left A Production shortly after to join Zuiyo Eizo. While there, he directed several animated series based on popular novels and works of fiction. Those series included "3000 Leagues in Search of Mother" (TV Tokyo 1976) and "Anne of Green Gables" (Fuji TV 1979). This period of Takahata's career was one of the few that was mostly apart from Miyazaki, as the pair differed on the direction of the different series. However, fate would bring the pair back together at Telecom Animation Film in the early '80s. Takahata came to Telecom to direct the film "Chie the Brat" (1981), which Miyazaki had previously passed on. But that was the only project he would work on Telecom, as he resigned from his position the next year in response to the company's misguided efforts in merging Japanese and American production methods. In the aftermath of Telecom, Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli with Miyazaki and more. While the pair hadn't worked directly together in a few years, Miyazaki deliberately selected Takahata as a producer for the first Ghibli film "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" (1984). The pair always had a high degree of mutual respect, even with their occasional creative differences, and they showed their supreme talent working together over the next 30 years. Takahata wrote and directed the studio's second film "Grave of the Fireflies" (1988), which was critically adored. In addition to helping Miyazaki with his own films, Takahata made "Only Yesterday" (1991), "Pom Poko" (1994), and "My Neighbors the Yamadas" (1999) over the next 10 years. His next 10 years moved out of the animated film landscape, as he worked on several books on topics such as animation and fine art. He returned to directing, though, in 2013 when he made "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" (2013), which was released in the United States in 2014 and nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2015 Academy Awards.