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Anime has become the term for Japanese animation and has emerged as a separate and popular film genre in recent years. Although Japanese animation can be dated back to 1917, most of that country's animation prior to the1950s (excluding wartime propaganda cartoons) consisted of personal short films made by individual animators. 

Japan's first professional postwar animation studio was Toei Animation Co., whose first feature was released in October 1958. Toei's early theatrical features follow the Disney approach of adapting classic fairy tales and legends, but they worked from Asian sources rather than European literature. One of the most popular was imported into America in 1961 as "Alakazam the Great." The latter was based on a comic strip adaptation of the ancient Chinese Monkey King legend, drawn by Osamu Tezuka, Japan's most prolific cartoonist during the 1950s. Tezuka had created dozens of comic strips and books, including the authorized Japanese adaptations of Walt Disney's "Pinocchio" and "Bambi." Hisbest-known creation was "Astro Boy," which was later syndicated to American television. 

When Toei licensed Tezuka's "Alakazam" comic strip for animation, Tezuka got the idea of starting his own production of animation for TV. "Astro Boy" debuted on New Year's Day1963 and was an immediate success. Three new animation studios opened by the end of that year. Hayao Miyazaki's early TV work included cartoon series adaptations of the literary favorites, Heidi and Anne of Green Gables. 

Born in 1941, Miyazaki acknowledges Tezuka as one of his earliest influences. Even as a young artist, he always wanted to develop his own stories and style rather than imitate others. Upon graduating from college in 1963, Miyazaki joined the staff of Toei Animation and was assigned to the new TV cartoon production unit. 

As an in betweener at Toei, Miyazaki met and became close friends with fellow animator Isao Takahata. By the late 1960s, they had both gained enough experience and seniority that Takahata was made director of the Studio's1968 feature, "The Little Norse Prince," with Miyazaki named as Scene Designer and key animator. They were given considerable freedom to emphasize strong characterizations and character interaction and the result was Toei's most popular and critically acclaimed movie at that time. 

Following the success of "The Little Norse Prince," Miyazaki sought more creative control over his projects. This ironically meant an initial step backward as he and Takahata left Toei to work at smaller studios that specialized in TV animation. Miyazaki also started his first story as a comic book creator. 

The feature "The Castle of Cagliostro" (1979) first brought the director to the public's attention. Miyazaki breathed new life into Lupin III, a character created by manga artist Monkey Punch in 1967. Lupin is a master thief, the direct descendent of Arsene Lupin, the hero of a series of French mystery novels by Maurice Leblanc. His off-the-wall escapades spoof the adventures of James Bond and similar heroes. Miyazaki was given carte blanche to write the story, redesign the characters and direct. He personally sketched the storyboards and many of the key animation drawings. The film was a smash success in Japan and at numerous international festivals. 

In 1979, Tokuma Publishing Co., Ltd., one of Japan's largest publishing companies, agreed to publish one of Miyazaki's science fiction stories, "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds," as a manga (comic book serialized novel). The first installments, personally written and drawn by Miyazaki, drew such a positive response that Tokuma quickly became interested in financing a feature based on the material. Miyazaki worked with a small animation staff to produce the film, drawing the storyboards


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