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Studio Ghibli co-founder and animation legend Isao Takahata dies at 82

His films include the masterpieces ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ and ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’.

Acclaimed Japanese animation director Isao Takahata, who co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki, died in Tokyo on Thursday at the age of 82. Takahata was reportedly suffering from lung cancer.

Takahata’s credits include Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Only Yesterday (1991), and Pom Poko (1994). His last production, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film at the 87th Academy Awards.

Pom Poko (1994).

Born in Mie prefecture in central Japan, Takahata survived a major air raid on Okayama when he was nine years old. He was first intrigued by animation when he saw the French animated cartoon feature Le Roi et l’Oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird). Takahata graduated from University of Tokyo in French literature in 1959 and joined Toei Animation on the recommendation of a friend.

Takahata made his debut as a director of anime in 1968 with Toei Animation’s Horus: Prince of the Sun. When he was demoted due to the commercial failure of his first feature, he left the studio with Yoichi Kotabe and Miyazaki to join an animation studio called A Production, which is now known as Shin-Ei Animation.

Takahata went on to work with Miyazaki on many projects, including the television series Lupin III (1971) and Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974). A huge success the world over, Heidi was dubbed into approximately 20 languages, including Telugu and Tamil.

Isao Takahata in conversation.

In 1985, Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli with Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki, and went on to direct several films for the studio, beginning with the wrenching World War II drama Grave of the Fireflies (1988). Inspired by the director’s own experiences, the film’s emotional heft lies in its unblinking assessment of the ravages of war.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988).

Miyazaki also served as a producer on early Miyazaki works such as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) and Castle in the Sky (1986). His cordial but conflicted relationship with Miyazaki is detailed the documentary In The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which also describes Takahata’s unusual, and often frustrating, approach to work.

Takahata took a long break from animation after the commercial failure of My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999). He returned with his fifth and final film for Studio Ghibli in 2013 with the visually gorgeous and thematically rich The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Based on the classic folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and made on a budget of $ 49.3 million, it is reportedly the most expensive Japanese film till date.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013).

Takahata was last associated as an artistic producer with Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit’s dialogue-less feature The Red Turtle (2016).

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