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AnimatorsAward Season Focus

Isao Takahata Rejects the Academy’s Invitation To Become A Member

Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata has declined to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that hands out the Oscars.

An associate of Takahata said the reason for the 80-year-old Japanese animation legend’s refusal to join was “being too busy at work,” according to a translated news report from Anime News Network. It’s an odd reason given that it takes very little effort to be an Academy member, especially since members don’t even watch the films they vote on. (Last year, one Academy member publicly dismissed Takahata’s Kaguya as a “Chinese fuckin’ thing.”)

In a year when the Academy is in full meltdown mode after an outcry over the organization’s lack of diversity and representation, Takahata’s rejection of the American film organization can be interpreted in other ways as well. After all, he was invited to join the Academy only last June, after being nominated for The Tale of Princess Kaguya, despite having enjoyed a 45-year career as one of Japan’s preeminent animation directors. This slight is similar to how the Academy has treated other non-white artists in the film industry, such as African-American actress Ruby Dee, who was not invited to join for the first 48 years of her illustrious acting career.

Takahata’s partner in Studio Ghilbi, Hayao Miyazaki, has rejected the Academy’s invitations to join on multiple occasions, though he did accept an honorary Academy Award in 2014.

Last month, in response to criticisms of the organization’s homogeneous membership, the Academy hastily instituted changes to its voting rules, which further alienated its minority and underrepresented members. Veteran animator Nancy Beiman recently wrote an open letter to the Academy, published in the Hollywood Reporter, in which she said, “I am no longer proud to be a member of this organization.”

(Isao Takahata photo © Hubert Niogret)

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  • Elsi Pote

    They should have rephrased the invitation as the academy wants to join Isao Takahata.

    But seriously, after the Academy slapped him in the face with that lousy nomination, would you expect a different outcome?

    For me the Academy is saving face as they are quite aware their talent pool is quite shallow.

    Shallow as empty plastic.

  • Jimby Crinkets

    The anime industry is the antithesis of Hollywood. Don’t be surprised when all the juvenile academy members refuse to acknowledge anything that doesn’t come directly from their loins. Need I remind everyone that the year Who Framed Roger Rabbit got 4 wins 7 noms, Akira got absolutely nothing?

    • Renard N. Bansale

      Akira wasn’t screened in North America until late 1989. The Academy has an eligibility period, after all. You can’t just release a film in one place halfway on the other side of the world and expect some film awards organization on the other side to consider it.

      And while I do really like Akira, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is my favorite film of 1988, full stop.

    • Anonymous

      Back then they didn’t have the best animated picture category. And everyone in town knows Roger Rabbit only got the special achievement oscar because it was never nominated for best picture, which it should have been.

  • ea

    The academy: “Sorry we didn’t like your movie as much as Big Hero 6, but here’s an invitation to join us in awarding the next Disn…ehh.. animated film.”

    • Exilov

      One of the accurate comments in the history of the internet.

  • Pedro Nakama

    He’s a smart man. The Academy has ben sputtering out for years. After this year it’s finally crashed and burned.

    • Nicolás M.

      Amen.

  • Johnny Marques

    The Academy wants/needs him for credibility. He doesn’t need the Academy for absolutely anything and it’s rather insulting that one of the absolute giants in the history of animation is only being considered for membership after turning 80. Imagine if the Academy invited Hitchcock to their club in 1979 after by and large ignoring his life’s work.

  • Exilov

    “Thank you so much for making your obscure freakin’ Chinese film for us to pass over in favor of the latest generic Disney schlock! We’re so confident you’d like to join despite us not seeing animation as a legitimate art form outside of what can best distract my little Suzy with its bright colors and ‘le wickedly awesome’ humor!”

    Smart move from him to pass on it. The Academy is nothing but a political circle-jerk that’s only getting worse as time goes on, and their attitude towards animation is downright insulting.

  • Elliot

    After The Tale of Princess Kaguya lost to the usual generic CGI commercial Hollywood crap, he’s supposed to waste his time with this BS? Good one.