This past Monday, October 29, 2012, marked the 76th birthday of animator, director, and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata.
Born on October 29, 1935 in Ujiyamada, Mie prefecture, Japan, Takahata became interested in animation at a young age after seeing the French animated feature Le Roi et l'oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird). After joining Toei Animation almost by chance, he made his directorial debut with 1968's Hols: Prince of the Sun (Taiyō no Ōji: Horusu no Daibōken). After the film failed commercially, Takahata attempted to make an animated feature based on Pippi Longstocking, a character created by children's book author Astrid Lindgren. When the project didn't pan out, he moved into television animation, directing several episodes of popular anime series including Lupin III (Rupan Sansei), Heidi, Girl of the Alps (Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji), 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (Haha o Tazunete Sanzenri), and Anne of Green Gables (Akage no An).
After the success of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no Tani no Naushika), Hayao Miyazaki invited Takahata to join the newly-founded Studio Ghibli. There Takahata would go on to direct films including Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka), Only Yesterday (Omohide Poro Poro), Pom Poko (Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko), and, most recently, My Neighbors the Yamadas (Hōhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun) in 1999.
Takahata is currently in production on a new feature, a film rumored to be based on a 10th century Japanese folktale known as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Taketori Monogatari), which is due out next year in Japan. Grave of the Fireflies, the first film directed by Takahata after joining Studio Ghibli, is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com for $16.99 and is scheduled for release on Blu-ray for the first time in North America on November 20, 2012.