Born in Bunkyō, Tokyo, Miyazaki began his animation career in 1961, when he joined Toei Animation. From there, Miyazaki worked as an in-between artist for Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon where he pitched his own ideas that eventually became the movie's ending. He continued to work in various roles in the animation industry over the decade until he was able to direct his first feature film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro which was released in 1979. After the success of his next film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, he co-founded Studio Ghibli where he continued to produce many feature films until his temporary retirement in 1997 following Princess Mononoke.
While Miyazaki's films have long enjoyed both commercial and critical success in Japan, he remained largely unknown to the West until Miramax Films released Princess Mononoke. Princess Mononoke was the highest-grossing film in Japan—until it was eclipsed by another 1997 film, Titanic—and the first animated film to win Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards. Miyazaki returned to animation with Spirited Away. The film topped Titanic's sales at the Japanese box office, also won Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards and was the first anime film to win an American Academy Award.
Miyazaki's films often incorporate recurrent themes like humanity's relationship with nature and technology, and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his films are often strong, independent girls or young women. While two of his films, The Castle of Cagliostro and Castle in the Sky, involve traditional villains, his other films like Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke present morally ambiguous antagonists with redeeming qualities. He recently co-wrote the film The Secret World of Arrietty, which was released in July 2010 in Japan and February 2012 in the United States.