At 83, Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki Earns Historic Oscar for ‘The Boy and the Heron’

AP file photo
In this Nov. 8, 2014, file photo, Hayao Miyazaki arrives at the 6th annual Governors Awards in Los Angeles. Miyazaki’s “The Boy and Heron,” is nominated for best animated feature.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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. He was not present at the awards.

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.”

Sunday’s 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.

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 won his first Oscar in 2003 for “Spirited Away.”

Miyazaki began work on “The Boy and the Heron” not long after announcing in 2013 that he intended to retire from film — again.

In journal excerpts from around that time released in the film’s press notes, Miyazaki writes: “There’s nothing more pathetic than telling the world you’ll retire because of your age, then making yet another comeback.

“Doesn’t an elderly person deluding themself that they’re still capable, despite their geriatric forgetfulness, prove that they’re past their best?” he adds. “You bet it does.”

Miyazaki worked through those concerns, and the resulting film earned him not only his second Oscar win on Sunday night, 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.

When he received an honorary Oscar in 2014 celebrating his artistry and storytelling, he expressed gratitude for the art of drawing.

“My wife tells me that I’m a very lucky man,” Miyazaki said in his acceptance speech through a translator. “And I think I’ve been lucky because I’ve been able to participate in the last era when we can make films with paper, pencil and film.”