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Will Hayao Miyazaki Reject the Academy’s Invitation Again?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the stodgy group of film industry workers who hand out the Oscars, has revealed a list of the 271 people it has invited to become members of its organization this year. Among that group are 27 people in the short film and feature animation branch, and 19 artists in the visual effects branch. The new members were chosen from applications submitted by existing members, who can each sponsor one new candidate per year.

The most notable animation-related invitation of this year is Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki. He was invited on at least one prior occasion—in 2006—to become a member. To his great credit, Miyazaki rejected the invitation.

Miyazaki’s stance makes sense when you think about it. He is indisputably the most revered animation filmmaker of the modern era. He’s achieved that distinction by retaining a singular sense of self and rejecting the groupthink attitudes of industry filmmaking. At this point in his career, what would he have to gain by joining an old boys’ network of commercial filmmakers whose general membership doesn’t give a shit about feature animation and whose animation branch remains woefully clueless about new developments in contemporary short-form animation?

We’ll have to wait until September to find out whether Miyazaki will join the organization that snubbed his final feature film, The Wind Rises, in favor of Frozen. Below is a list of all the invitees in the animation and visual effects branches:

Didier Brunner – Ernest & Celestine, The Triplets of Belleville
Scott Clark – Monsters University, Up
Pierre Coffin – Despicable Me 2, Despicable Me
Esteban Crespo – Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Lala
Peter Del Vecho – Frozen, The Princess and the Frog
Kirk DeMicco – The Croods, Space Chimps
Doug Frankel – Brave, WALL-E
Mark Gill – The Voorman Problem, Full Time
David A. S. James – Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Megamind
Fabrice Joubert – Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, French Roast
Jean-Claude Kalache – Up, Cars
Jason Katz – Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo
Jennifer Lee – Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph
Baldwin Li – The Voorman Problem, Full Time
Nathan Loofbourrow – Puss in Boots, How to Train Your Dragon
Lauren MacMullan – Get a Horse!, Wreck-It Ralph
Tom McGrath – Megamind, Madagascar
Dorothy McKim – Get a Horse!, Meet the Robinsons
Hayao Miyazaki – The Wind Rises, Spirited Away
Ricky Nierva – Monsters University, Up
Chris Renaud – Despicable Me 2, Despicable Me
Benjamin Renner – Ernest & Celestine, A Mouse’s Tale (La Queue de la Souris)
Michael Rose – Chico & Rita, The Gruffalo
Toshio Suzuki – The Wind Rises, Howl’s Moving Castle
Selma Vilhunen – Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitta? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), The Crossroads
Anders Walter – Helium, 9 Meter
Laurent Witz – Mr. Hublot, Renart the Fox

Gary Brozenich – The Lone Ranger, Wrath of the Titans
Everett Burrell – Grudge Match, Pan’s Labyrinth
Marc Chu – Noah, Marvel’s The Avengers
David Fletcher – Sabotage, Prisoners
Swen Gillberg – Ender’s Game, Jack the Giant Slayer
Paul Graff – The Wolf of Wall Street, Identity Thief
Alex Henning – Star Trek Into Darkness, Hugo
Evan Jacobs – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Olympus Has Fallen
Chris Lawrence – Edge of Tomorrow, Gravity
Eric Leven – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
Steven Messing – Godzilla, Oz The Great and Powerful
Ben Matthew Morris – Lincoln, The Golden Compass
Jake Morrison – Thor: The Dark World, Marvel’s The Avengers
Eric Reynolds – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
David Shirk – Gravity, Elysium
Patrick Tubach – Star Trek Into Darkness, Marvel’s The Avengers
Bruno Van Zeebroeck – Lone Survivor, Public Enemies
Tim Webber – Gravity, The Dark Knight
Harold Weed – G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Star Trek

  • Sara

    Wait…so Miyazaki rejecting his invitation is “to his great credit,” but then you proceed to criticize the Academy’s general membership and animation branch about being clueless, apathetic, etc. Couldn’t the Academy benefit from a luminary such as Miyazaki? Wouldn’t he be a welcome addition to a group of people you generalize as “not giving a ***”? You complain about the lacking membership, but then praise the invitees for not joining. There is no winning with you—you criticize, but never offer solutions.

    Also, the “old boys network of commercial filmmakers” as you disparagingly call them, are individuals who have worked hard and contributed their talents to some stellar films, commercial as they may be. It is an honor to be invited, and their achievements shouldn’t be diminished. Congratulations to the invitees, and I hope they work to improve the prestige of animation at the Academy. Don’t expect any positive words from Cartoon Brew, apparently…

    • AmidAmidi

      The solution was offered: don’t join groups, think and create for yourself.

      • Caitlin Cadieux

        Thinking and creating for yourself BY yourself is a heck of a way to get no one else to care or be educated about animation. By no means is Miyazaki obligated to join the Academy and I don’t blame him, but I’m not sure posts like these are doing animation any favors.

        I would love to see a definitive example of a group that came around to be better informed on a certain subject because someone made enough snide remarks about them on their personal blog.

        • Why does it matter if anyone is educated about animation? If you’re a creator, your purpose is to create. When all of us decided to go into animation, none of us decided, nor was it our purpose, to come in and fix a broken industry. We came into it because we wanted to, because we love it, and because it’s fun. What others think of you for what you create does not matter, and there is no one animator or artist who will be the savior of the industry. Trust me, it’s a job no one actually wants. Miyazaki has spent his life answering to no one and yet he is one of the most revered of all animation filmmakers. Maybe the fact that he ventured out and decided what he wanted on his own speaks enough about his personal success, and more animators out there should follow his example. And you know, all these guys like John Lassiter, Brad Bird, Miyazaki are probably tired of everyone putting expectations on them to fix everything that’s gone wrong with the industry. Maybe….they want more people to actually BE LIKE THEM, and DO WHAT THEY DID so more artists/animators could open up the creator within and share that creative genius that’s within all of us.

          • Caitlin Cadieux

            I’m not sure what your bottom line is with this post, but I find it questionable that you pair ‘venturing out and deciding what you want on your own’ with ‘maybe they want more people to be like them and do what they did’. These are two opposing ideas.

            At the end of the day, this is a post taking a petty potshot at the Academy for being mean and picking on animation and not having enough respect, dang it, and using Miyazaki as an indisputable legend to pin that on. My argument is that Miyazaki is in a class of his own and is definitely a rare personality, so his dismissal of the Academy is likely not an exact mirror of Amid’s particular beef with Hollywood. Additionally, my argument is also that if you are as upset as Amid appears to continually be about the lack of respect given to animation by the Academy, biting your thumb at them and going ‘neener neener neener’ on your blog is exactly the way to shoot yourself in the foot. It’s probably very satisfying to point at Miyazaki and say “look how awesome this guy is, and look at how dumb the Academy is! Haha!” but it’s not helping anything, and the perpetual condescension in these posts is likely not doing much to attract anyone to the medium.

            It’s not necessarily that I personally think it ‘matters’ that people are educated in animation; it’s that my comments address what the original blog post was about, which is that particular issue.

          • “I find it questionable that you pair ‘venturing out and deciding what you want on your own’ with ‘maybe they want more people to be like them and do what they did’. These are two opposing ideas.”

            Not so. Both Brad Bird and John Lassiter ventured out independently before they found their places in the industry. Bird actually got out of animation for awhile shortly after Cal Arts and went into live action early in his career to learn how to be a writer, which later became a major influence in how he saw and wrote for animated features. John Lassiter ventured out and saw the potential in CG before it became the dominant art form in animation. He paved the way for it. And Miyazaki…well, I’m not that familiar with his backstory, but somehow he found a way to write and direct his own films with his own vision. These men are born creators, who made their own path because they had a vision, saw what they wanted and went for it because it excited them.

            I know we’ve never met, but if you’re an artist and a creator like me, and you want to go out and make your own stuff, then don’t be swayed by all the BS going on in the industry or with the Academy or what Amid writes about this or that. It’s one big distraction from your own potential. That’s why I said that people who think other people need to be educated about animation so the industry can prosper is a big waste of time. The industry could collapse tomorrow, but if you’re off independently doing your own thing, following your own vision…then what does it matter if it falls apart? When you follow your vision, you attract like minded people and a like minded audience, who you won’t have to educate about animation because they will have already fallen in love with your work to begin with.

          • Caitlin Cadieux

            I do agree with a lot of what you’re saying, if not all of it actually; I spend a significant amount of time working towards my own goals as an artist and animator. That being said, I think community involvement is also massively important, and negative attitudes about industry this-or-that is something that actively hinders community and creativity. I don’t think it’s about educating people about animation so much as this particular issue is getting nasty at the Academy for not having enough respect for animation, when it’s much more productive to actually get out there and do things that would benefit that. I think posts like this one actively hinder the medium by appearing childish. I also think going OUT of your way to avoid organizations and clubs in the name of ‘thinking and working for yourself’ isn’t always helpful.

            After all, in many ways these things are true, but Lasseter worked with other people at Pixar’s beginning, and Disney never made a feature-length film just working by himself. I would bet that Bird’s venturing into live action benefitted him greatly because of his interactions with, and learning from, the new people he worked with, and Lasseter’s paving the way for CG may have been individually driven but obviously led to widespread community support. I think at the end of the day it all comes around to giving back and using your self-motivation and your own visions to elevate the medium, which belongs to so many people.

            That all being said it’s a bit of a muddy topic and I think your points stand regardless; thanks for engaging with me on this!

      • Sara

        Hardly a solution. And what about “organizations and clubs” like ASIFA, Women in Animation, SAS, etc.? These organizations do a lot for the animation community at large. Even the Academy, which has a lot room for improvement, puts on some good animation events throughout the year. Discouraging participation and glibly suggesting to “think and create for yourself” doesn’t help anyone, and is very half-baked advice for any artist. If you want people to take animation seriously, maybe you shouldn’t be sneering at the organizations that are trying to make it happen.

    • Trenton Thompson

      The Academy would benefit if it had Miyazaki on board, but that’s not the point. The Academy has had tons of chances to get a clue about the animation industry – all they need to do is pay attention aka Google search for, and then proceed to actually watching the latest animated shorts and features. Let’s not hold the Academy on too high a horse. Yeah they’re talented at filmmaking, but they could do better with having more respect for the medium of animation.

      And this is Amid Amidi’s blog – so he can write whatever the heck he wants. Lay off. There’s no point in criticizing someone for criticizing others. It’s cool that he even busts his butt to make a blog that serves the animation community like this.

      • Fried

        CartoonBrew is Amid’s blog?

        Funny, I thought they were other writers here and had been many others prior to him too.

        I guess Jerry Beck was just my imagination.

        • AmidAmidi

          Getting off topic. Academy and Miyazaki is the subject.

        • Trenton Thompson

          Amid Amidi and co-workers’ blog. How’s that, my irrationally PC friend?

    • Jack Rabbit

      I don’t expect the invitees to do anything more than already what has been done. It would be a statement by an invitee to bypass the joining of the organization, and in the case of Miyazaki, it is one that would be heard due to his rank as an animation filmmaker. Outside of that immediate circle, it wouldn’t register as a blip in the live action world, which is the way I interpreted the post.

    • Mike

      “Don’t expect any positive words from Cartoon Brew”

      Buddy, that’s just a rule of thumb. ;)

  • Corwin Haught

    More to the point is that Miyazaki is barely involved with the animation industry in the United States.

    • Ant G

      But incredibly influential to the industry in the US.

      • Fried

        “Incredibly” may be a bit of an exaggeration.

  • luciano2084

    Miyazaki is a great filmmaker, but he has said that he is not much of an enthusiast of watching movies. He has said that several times. If he rejects the offer will not be because he doesn’t believe in the Academy, but because he is more interested in other things. So, I do not ink he is snobing the Academy, he is just not the type of person who watches a lot of movies and will be willing to partake in the process.

  • Kevin

    This may have changed recently, but the requirement for voting in the Animation and Short Film branch has been that members physically attend screenings of all nominated films. Those screenings happen in major US cities. Miyazaki has visited the US so infrequently in recent years in large part because he is a chain smoker who could not tolerate the non-smoking transpacific flights. That’s why it was a huge deal for Miyazaki to come to the US for the promotion of Ponyo a few years ago. He’s also a workaholic who is known to avoid commitments that interfere with his filmmaking.

    Perhaps he has declined the honor of joining the Academy because he would be a member in name only, and would be unable to attend that branch’s meetings and screenings. Amid seems eager to ascribe his own feelings to Miyazaki, but the truth may be less lofty. At the end of the day, no matter how much one may look at Miyazaki as a singular artist, he is a commercial filmmaker like the rest of the Academy members, and declining this membership may not be an artistic statement at all.

  • Greg Manwaring

    Wow, to say that the members of the Animation branch are out of touch is a little naive I would have to say. And at the end of the day, each of us votes for films that touch us individually. It’s never been a popularity contest for me.

  • Caitlin Cadieux

    If the issue is that animation isn’t respected by Hollywood and its representatives (for example, the Academy) I don’t see how that’s been solved by Hertzfeldt (as amazing as he is).

    Being an independent filmmaker is also not mutually exclusive to participating in animation communities or filmmaking communities, of which it would appear Hertzfeldt has done plenty (film festivals, airing on animation TV networks, etc.).

    • May1979

      Your argument would make sense but for the fact that animation has been part and parcel of the Hollywood entertainment industry since the beginning! And yet despite this fact, our industry continues to be taken for granted. We have given the industry classic after classic and that has gotten us nowhere. So, I’m with Amid, Hayo should ditch the “honor” of voting on yet another Disney-Pixar-DreamWorks Oscar winner.

      • Caitlin Cadieux

        Oh I completely agree with this, and don’t think particularly much of the Academy. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I just think it’s a bit much to write up a vitriolic article about how nasty they are and assume Miyazaki rejects involvement out of spiteful pettiness, rather than that he probably has much better things to do.

  • DangerMaus

    I cannot see him accepting this invitation. Miyazaki seems to have made it pretty clear that he likes making films, not evaluating them. I think it is to his credit that he turns down these invitations if he truly has no interest in evaluating other peoples films. It certainly is a better stance than accepting a position on the Academy and then saying stupid things such as, “I didn’t vote because I never watched any of them. That ended when I was six……”.

    Miyazaki has also made it clear that he doesn’t care what people outside of Japan think of his films. In that respect it’s too bad, since he has many fans of his films outside of Japan…..OR……..maybe that is all the recognition he needs…..that many people outside of Japan enjoy his films even though he focused only on making satisfying films for Japanese audiences.

  • Caitlin Cadieux

    I sort of agree to this, except that many great films, from Disney to Pixar, were made with input from their teams, not individuals. Disney at the helm didn’t always mean Disney came up with every great idea in a film. The leadership is incredibly important but being a lone wolf also results in disastrous output like The Cobbler and the Thief. I would say not enough credit goes to the teams in a lot of cases. I’d also say Miyazaki fits the auteur bill but is a very unique talent.

    Of course no one can praise Miyazaki highly enough, in my opinion, and I agree with the basic premise that the Academy, at this point, isn’t worth paying a whole lot of attention to (and that doesn’t just go for the animation category). My comment also has a lot less to do with the Academy itself, which I think is a pretty good example of Hollywood caving in on itself and is a problem that should be fixed, and a lot more to do with the idea that Miyazaki is making some majestic stand against ‘groupthink’ and denouncing involvement with organizations because of that. Does that mean self-respecting animators should avoid things like Annecy? Sundance? Should any aspiring animator refuse to integrate into any aspect of the filmmaking community?

    If you want animation to be respected (as I definitely do), it’s probably best not to just seal yourself behind closed doors and fume about how unfair Hollywood is to the medium.

    In that vein, it’s easy to pout and snarkily write off all of Hollywood as being a hopelessly unappreciative plebeian groupthink machine, but it strikes me as unproductive when you have a blog with a large viewership and could likely make overtures outside the animation sphere in an attempt to fix that problem.

  • Fried

    Are you sure it’s not Disney? There are also many, many other animation studios and animation products in the US and probably less than 20% are affected/influenced by Miyazaki.

    People would miss his work, but the industry will not get affected by it. Versus if Disney suddenly goes under, there will be cause for panic.

  • Cyrus Veber

    Can’t blame him – Oscars are a joke. Everything is bought

  • Bob Harper

    Do you have less respect for Bill Plymtpon for being a member of the Academy?

    The invitations to Miyazaki and previously to Chomet make me feel like the Academy is trying to reach out to those not in the big Hollywood system. But let’s be honest, there aren’t a ton of non-Hollywood animated features being made and there usually is some good diversity in nominations.

    The Oscars help some films get recognition, and give a spotlight to short filmmakers. So if you hate the Oscars, then do you really care if Miyazaki is a member or not?

  • Jay

    Wait…is the Miyazaki in the picture flpping us off?

  • Ravlic

    Korra and Cartoon Saloon are also influenced by Miyazaki. I don’t see how anyone could say his movies haven’t had a huge influence on animation, American and European.

    • Fried

      Influence on individuals and influence on the industry are two completely different things.

      Miyazaki inspired people. Certain shows/stories would not be the same without his influence.

      Walt Disney paved the way for theatrical animation and was able to convince people it could be a bit more serious and not just cartoony. The industry might have taken decades longer to take off if he were not around.

      Don Bluth inspired people too but he didn’t change the industry in the slightest.

  • nevilleross

    If they really do that, perhaps they’ll try to make more adult fare like Miyazaki does/did and deal with other themes besides talking rats and talking toys.

  • Henry Cohn

    I don’t mean to sound racist here, but one reason a European (or in this case Japanese) filmmaker wouldn’t want to be part of the Academy is because you have to take a 10 hour flight over there to a place that you might not want to be anyway because you might think it’s a bit too glitzy and fake, only to be surrounded by idiots who don’t understand or perhaps even know of your films.

  • Lithia

    “Snubbed” in favor of Frozen? Ugh.