The iconic animator worked on 13 productions including My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli artist Michiyo Yasuda has died at age 77.

Yasuda was involved in a number of iconic Studio Ghibli films including Spirted Away, Princess Monoke, My Neighbor Toroto, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo.

Yasuda’s work on Spirited Away heavily contributed to the film winning an Oscar in 2003, making it the highest-grossing film in Japanese history.

The animator won an Animation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from the Japan Movie Critics Awards.

Among her most notable characters are Chihiro (Spirited Away), Kiki (Kiki’s Delivery Service) and Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro). Totoro became even more iconic after Studio Ghibli adopted him as their logo. The character even made a cameo appearance in Disney’s Toy Story 3.


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Yasuda worked closely with Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki for 40 years and even returned to work on their last film three years ago, The Wind Rises, despite retiring in 2008.

“What I like best is when I am building up the colours in my head,” Yasuda said to the LA Times in 2009,“thinking of how to get the tone worked out. Colour has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood. Colours and pictures can enhance what the situation is on screen.”


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Miyazaki has previously discussed Yasuda’s relentless drive whilst working on Heidi (1974) “she was working on a project that used six to seven thousand cels each week, which meant that she had to make color designations for that many pages. She was the only one doing color design and clean-up supervising. On the last day of the final check she telephones here and there to call in many women to work on clean-up animation.”

“That was the kind of work she was doing each day. Whenever I entered the room in the morning she would jump up from the couch where she had been sleeping. She would only sleep for two hours a day.”

“Thinking this was outrageous, I approached the studio head but his response was “There’s no one else that I can trust do this work.””

“She stayed at the company, eating box lunches, instant noodles, and sweets delivered to the office. The only time she went home to her apartment was to do her laundry and come back with a change of clothes…Even while thinking that we should let her have more free time, I found myself asking her to do more and more work because she was someone I could utterly depend on.”

“[Yasuda] eventually did collapse and was taken to the hospital by ambulance…since being released from the hospital she has continued her work as a finish inspector.”

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