Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki announced he was retiring from making feature-length movies yesterday, saying he had "reached his limit" and would pursue other projects in lieu of directing and animating feature films.
One of animation's most admired and successful directors, Miyazaki is well-known both in Japan and abroad for films such as My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away, for which he won an Oscar in 2003.
The 72-year-old said the reasons for his retirement had nothing to do with criticism his latest work, The Wind Rises, had drawn from radical right-wing Japanese who lashed out at the film for carrying a subtle anti-war message. Instead, he explained that his failing eyesight and a desire to "do other things" had led to this decision.
"When you reach my age there are many moments when you just can't stand [it] any more. When that happens I put my pencil down and I just go home ... I've reached my limit and can't go further," he said.
Miyazaki explained his "days of making feature films were done", and said if he were to direct another feature-length animated film it would likely take six to seven years, which was simply too long for his liking. The Wind Rises had taken his company, Studio Ghibli, five years to create, he revealed.
"[In the past,] we could make films in four and five months," Miyazaki said. "But during that time, my staff and I were younger and we often said that creating these movies was a 'once in a lifetime' event. Now, you can't demand your staff work at this pace forever, because people get older and they have to choose between work and family."
Miyazaki, who added that he would now be "free to do something else that's not animation", did not say whether the decision to retire had been motivated by his family. The animator's son, Goro Miyazaki, also works for Studio Ghibli and has directed two films, 2006's Tales from Earthsea and 2011's From Up On Poppy Hill.
Miyazaki has retired before, most notably after finishing his three-hour epic Princess Mononoke in 1997. But this time, he said his decision was final, and pointed out that he can no longer work 12- to 14-hour days - about seven hours is his limit, and delegating the work to others is just not his style.
Among other things, he planned to work on his Ghibli Museum, where he says the exhibits need refreshing.
"I might even become an exhibit myself," he joked.
Miyazaki said he had nothing all that "cool" to say to his younger audiences. But he did say that of all his works, he especially treasured Howl's Moving Castle, in which he "wanted to convey the message to children that this life is worth living."
Miyazaki's retirement, which was first revealed by Studio Ghibli on Sunday, brings to a close a career spanning over 40 years and more than 30 feature films, short movies and animated series. Usually serving as writer, director or producer on his projects, Miyazaki won a host of fans across the globe, and last year, he became the first director of animation to be awarded Japan's prestigious "Person of Cultural Merit" honour.
Miyazaki's success has helped keep Japan one of the world's biggest markets for animation. His sale of worldwide rights for Studio Ghibli's works to Walt Disney Studios in 1996 helped win him a global audience.
"There's an end to everything," said Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli producer and chairman. "It's best not to wait to retire when one is already in a decline."
Additional reporting by Associated Press