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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