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How Spirited Away Prevented Hayao Miyazaki from Retiring

by Lidia Lucovic

Hayao Miyazaki, the renowned writer and director of some of the most celebrated animated films of all time and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, had announced his retirement from filmmaking before the production of Spirited Away, which became his masterpiece. The movie follows the story of Chihiro, a young girl transported to the spirit world who has to find a way to escape and save her parents. Spirited Away was a commercial and critical hit and won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Despite announcing his retirement from filmmaking before Spirited Away, Miyazaki has teased leaving the industry a few times over the years but has never completely stepped away. He seemed to go into permanent retirement after The Wind Rises in 2013 but returned to work on the 2023 feature How Do You Live? Nevertheless, his return to directing for Spirited Away was a significant moment in his career and led to a renaissance of his work.

Miyazaki has a track record of creating strong female characters in his films, and Spirited Away is no exception. His interest in creating a new kind of female character for Studio Ghibli inspired him to cancel his retirement and make the film. He decided to go ahead with the project after meeting the 10-year-old daughter of his friend and associate producer Seiji Okuda, who would often come to visit Miyazaki for the summer. The more he got to know the girl, the more Miyazaki realized that young female characters in films did not reflect real life at all.

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