Isao Takahata, co-founder of Japan’s Studio Ghibli, and acclaimed animation director, died on Thursday in a Tokyo hospital. He was 82.
According to local media, Takahata had been in declining health since last summer. A Studio Ghibli statement said he died of lung cancer.
Takahata joined Toei Animation after college and made his feature directing debut with the 1968 “Horus: Prince of the Sun.” In 1971 Takahata, together with Hayao Miyazaki and Yoichi Kotabe, left Toei for Shin-Ei Animation studio. His best-remembered TV work was “Heidi, Girl of the Alps,” that he directed for Nippon Animation.
In 1985, together with Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki, Takahata launched Studio Ghibli. His “Grave of the Fireflies,” was released together with Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” in 1988. The two films did modest business, but later grew in esteem as classics of the animated form.
Takahata enjoyed greater success with “Pom Poko,” a 1994 fantasy-adventure that was chosen as Japan’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
After the flop of 1999’s “My Neighbors the Yamadas,” he took a long hiatus from directing. He returned with the 2013 “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.” Based on the classic folktale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” the film was animated with a water-color-like beauty and fluidity seldom seen in commercial animation.
Though Takahata was not an animator, he was an innovator, constantly seeking fresh storytelling methods and artistic approaches, while aiming for realism of emotion and setting.