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‘The Boy and the Heron’ wins best animated feature film Oscar

By Danielle Broadway

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Hayao Miyazaki won his second Oscar on Sunday for his semi-autobiographical Japanese animated feature film "The Boy and the Heron," a fantasy tale about a boy grieving his dead mother.

"Both Hayao Miyazaki and I have aged a considerable amount. I am grateful to receive such an honor at my age, and taking this as a message to continue our work, I will devote myself to work harder in the future," film producer Toshio Suzuki said in an interview backstage at the ceremony by public relations company 42West.

The Japanese anime film emerged as a major awards contender after winning a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.

“The Boy and the Heron” was No. 1 at the North American box office when it premiered in 2023, earning $13 million.

The film follows 12-year-old Mahito Maki, whose mother dies in a fire at a Tokyo hospital during World War Two. Maki starts a new life after his father, a warplane factory owner, marries his mother’s sister and they join her at her rural estate.

There the young boy encounters a supernatural grey heron that leads him to a sealed tower where he discovers a host of fantastical beings that help him process the weight of loss in numerous ways.

The news was celebrated in Japan, with many expressing pride in their compatriots' achievement.

"Director Miyazaki is the pride of Japan," said Hiroko Furuta, a Japanese-language teacher in Tokyo.

"Many people were nominated and I think it's great news that his movie won the award. There hasn't been much positive news in Japan lately, so I think it's great."

Miyazaki, 83, is regarded as one of the most renowned animation directors in the world with countless films produced by Studio Ghibli, which he co-founded with Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki in 1985.

While Miyazaki came out of retirement to make "The Boy and the Heron," Studio Ghibli was sold to Nippon TV in 2023 after he couldn’t find a successor for the studio.

Miyazaki’s film "Spirited Away" won the Oscar for best animated feature in 2003.

(Reporting by Danielle Broadway, additional reporting by Chris Gallagher in TOKYO; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)