There’s sad news for Studio Ghibli fans today, as the studio’s co-founder Isao Takahata has passed away at the age of 82. Takahata’s career as a producer and director of animation spanned more than half a century, and his best-known works include the haunting war film Grave of the Fireflies, and Oscar-nominated fantasy The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.
Takahata was born in 1935, in Mie Prefecture in central Japan, and graduated from the University of Tokyo. After beginning his career at Toei Animation in 1959, Takahata went on to co-found Studio Ghibli, one of the most acclaimed animation studios in the world, with his longtime collaborator Hayao Miyazaki in 1985. During his career he produced around 20 films, including Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and he was also the music director for several films, including Kiki’s Delivery Service. His extensive TV credits included the 1970s series Heidi, Girl of the Alps, based on the novel by Swiss author Johanna Spyri.
Takahata had been suffering from heart problems for some time, and his condition had worsened last summer. A studio statement (via AP) says that Takahata died of lung cancer in a Tokyo hospital on Thursday. Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki said that he and Miyazaki had been discussing a farewell ceremony for Takahata at the studio, which was being planned for May 15th. “There was so much more he wanted to do,” Suzuki said. “It must be heartbreaking.”
Though they had their differences over the years, both Takahata and Miyazaki had a penchant for telling stories about strong-willed girls and women. Prior to falling ill, Takahata had been planning to make a film about exploited girls working as nannies, with infants strapped to their backs. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, his final film, received rapturous praise from critics upon its release in 2014, and was notable for being hand-drawn, rather than created using digital animation – a rarity among modern animated feature films.
Speaking about The Tale of The Princess Kaguya in an Associated Press interview in 2015, Takahata said that the message he hoped to convey with it, and with all of his films, is that everyone should live their life to the fullest:
“This earth is a good place, not because there is eternity. All must come to an end in death. But in a cycle, repeated over and over, there will always be those who come after us,”
R.I.P. Isao Takahata: October 29, 1935 – April 5, 2018