Studio Ghibli Holds Farewell Ceremony for Late Director Isao Takahata
posted on by Rafael Antonio Pineda
Studio Ghibli held a farewell ceremony for the studio's late director Isao Takahata at the Ghibli Museum on Tuesday. At the gathering, Ghibli co-founder and longtime friend Hayao Miyazaki offered a eulogy for Takahata.
In his eulogy, Miyazaki referred to Takahata by his nickname "Paku-san," and told the story of the name. "[Takahata] was not a morning person. Even at Toei [Douga], he would come to work in the morning at a rush, and forget to punch in his time card before eating and gulping down water from the tap, sounding like 'paku, paku' the entire time."
Miyazaki recalled meeting Takahata for the first time in 1963, when Takahata was 27 and Miyazaki was 22. "Even now, I remember the first time we talked. It was while I was waiting at a bus stop, after the rain had just let up, leaving puddles in the street... He seemed like a calm and wise young man... I remember how Paku-san looked at the time very clearly."
"I thought he'd live until 95," Miyazaki said. "Nine years ago we received a call from his doctor asking us, as his friends, to tell him to stop smoking. He sounded serious, so [Ghibli co-founder Toshio] Suzuki and I sat down with him... I expected him to fight us on it, but he thanked us and said he'd quit. And he really did. I would smoke around him on purpose but he put on a great act that he wasn't tempted."
Miyazaki looked back on his time working with Takahata, as well as with animators Yôichi Kotabe and Yasuo Otsuka, on the much-delayed Horus: Prince of the Sun anime film (1968), saying that Takahata had to write countless apology letters for missed deadlines on the film, but that he saw it through to the end. The staff had a reunion in 2000, and the higher-ups commented that the time making the film was some of their most interesting days.
"Paku-san, we were truly alive at that time," Miyazaki concluded. "Thank you, Paku-san, for talking to me at that bus stop 55 years ago. I'll never forget it."
Joe Hisaishi, a composer who collaborated often with Miyazaki and Takahata, also offered his own eulogy. "It's thanks to Takahata that I am who I am now. We spent days together working out the melody for a piece in Castle in the Sky. The song would not have been possible without Miyazaki, me, and Takahata. Thank you for these long years together. I am very grateful for the chance to work on The Tale of Princess Kaguya."
Mobile Suit Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino and Otoko wa Tsurai yo creator Yōji Yamada were both in attendance, in addition to actors and actresses Nobuko Miyamoto, Tōru Masaoka, Makoto Nonomura, Youko Honna, Keiko Takeshita, and Miori Takimoto, all of whom acted in films by Studio Ghibli.
Yasuo Otsuka, Yôichi Kotabe, Hisaishi, and Michael Dudok de Wit (The Red Turtle) all offered parting words.
After the private portion of the ceremony, the museum opened its doors for three hours in the afternoon so the general public could pay their respects. (The museum is normally closed on Tuesdays.) Attendees watched a 10-minute video celebrating Takahata's life, before walking through the museum to lay down a traditional flower offering before a giant portrait of Takahata on a staircase inside.
The museum staff then led attendees past an array of books dedicated to Takahata, as well as written and drawn tributes from around world in French, Russian, and other languages. The gathering concluded in the museum's outdoor atrium, where the staff posted two walls of photographs from Takahata's tapestried life. The staff also brought out a portion of the museum's 2005 exhibition about Heidi - A Girl of the Alps, one of the first anime collaborations between Takahata and Miyazaki.
Takahata was born on October 29, 1935. He joined Toei Douga (now Toei Animation) in 1959 after graduating from the University of Tokyo in French literature. His directorial debut was on an episode of the Ōkami Shōnen Ken television anime, and he directed his first feature film, Horus - Prince of the Sun, in 1968.
Takahata had a long career directing such classics as Little Norse Prince Valiant (Taiyō no Ōji - Hols no Daibōken), Alps no Shōjo Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, and Panda! Go, Panda! before he co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki. Takahata went on to create the feature films Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, and My Neighbors the Yamadas. He also served as a producer on Miyazaki and Ghibli's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and was the artistic producer on Wild Bunch and Ghibli's The Red Turtle.
Among the honors he received were the Medal with Purple Ribbon from the Japanese government in 1998, the Honorific Leopard award at the 62nd Locarno International Film Festival in 2009, the Anime Award of Merit in 2010, an honorary degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2012, the Anime d'or prize at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival in 2014, the Honorary Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 2014, the Officier decoration in France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) in 2015, and the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement at the 43rd Annie Awards in 2016.
Takahata's final film as director was The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which debuted in 2013. Takahata told entertainment news website Variety in 2016, "I have several projects that I still have in mind that I am currently working on to get closer to realizing. Whether those will be finalized as films is something that no one, myself included, can know."
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