Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli co-founder and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Isao Takahata passed away in a Tokyo hospital after a long struggle with lung cancer on Thursday.
The Japanese Times reports that Takahata was 82 at the time and died surrounded by friends and loved ones. Takahata had a prolific career directing, producing, and writing a total of twenty-one popular anime films as well as several television shows and specials.
Born in Mie Prefecture on October 29, 1935, Takahata got his start at Toei Animation in 1959 producing several films, including making his directorial debut with "The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun" in 1968.
He is perhaps best known for co-founding Studio Ghibli with fellow animator Hayao Miyazaki, whom he described as a “sometimes friend, sometimes rival.” They collaborated on such films as the first official Ghibli production "Grave Of The Fireflies" and later "Kiki's Delivery Service."
Studio Ghibli has a reputation for making whimsical children films such as "My Neighbor Totoro," young adult steampunk tales like "Castle In The Sky," and dark fantasies like "Princess Mononoke." In 1996, Disney formed a partnership with the company to make English version of the features.
The final film that Takahata directed was "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" in 2013. Despite being an animated film, it was the most expensive movie ever made in Japan, using an old-style sketch version of animation for the artwork. Takahata’s efforts paid off, as the film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015 after achieving international fame.
Takahata told Den of Geek at the time, “I chose this (artistic) style because I didn’t want people to forget this. The lines drawn here are not just the contours of the real things, but rather ways to instantaneously capture the expression of those things.”
He added, “This technique of giving expression to the line and leaving blank spaces so that the entire surface of the painting is not filled, which engages the viewer’s imagination, is one that holds an important place not only in traditional paintings of China and Japan, but also in sketches in Western drawings. What I have done is to attempt to bring this technique to animation.”