At 83, Miyazaki earns historic Oscar for ‘The Boy and the Heron’

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Animator Hayao Miyazaki was honored last November by the Academy and was mentioned at the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 22. Kyodo News photo

By RIO YAMAT
Associated Press

Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary Japanese filmmaker whose anime classics have enchanted fans around the world for decades, has won his second career Oscar.

At 83, Miyazaki won for helming the best animated film, “The Boy and the Heron,” the long-awaited fantasy from the director of “Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” He is the oldest director ever nominated for the category and the oldest winner by more than two decades — adding to a big year in Hollywood for older filmmakers.

Hailed as one of the best films of 2023, “The Boy and The Heron” beat its top rival in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” as well as “Elemental,” “Nimona,” and “Robot Dreams.”

It’s only the second hand-drawn animation winner in this category. The first, 21 years ago, was Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” — his first-ever Oscar.

The March 10 win for Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki caps off a solid awards season run for the film, which won the top honor for an animated feature at the Golden Globes and the BAFTA Film Awards.

They were not present at the awards, but Studio Ghibli’s Kiyofumi Nakajima read a statement backstage from Suzuki. “Both Hayao Miyazaki and I have aged considerably,” he said through a translator. “I am grateful to receive such an honor at my age, and taking this as a message to continue our work, I will devote myself to work harder in the future.”

It was Miyazaki’s fourth Oscar nomination for best animated feature — tying with Pixar’s Pete Docter for the most nods in that category. Miyazaki began work on “The Boy and the Heron” not long after announcing in 2013 that he intended to retire from film — again.

The resulting film earned him not only his second Oscar win on the night of March 10, but his first No. 1 feature at the North American box office.

“The Boy and the Heron” follows a boy named Mahito Maki who moves to the countryside after his mother’s death. There, he is lured by a mysterious heron into a secluded tower, a portal that transports him to a fantastical realm amid his grief.

The film was a decade in the making. In the age of CGI and artificial intelligence, Miyazaki has stuck to the lengthy process of hand-drawing his animations.

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