Saturday, October 1, 2022

In Praise Of The Color Designer For Beloved Studio Ghibli Films

Japanese media Mainichi reported today that Michiyo Yasuda, prolific animator and color designer for Studio Ghibli, died on Oct. 5 at the age of 77.

Yasuda started working in the animation industry since before she was 20 years old — breaking into an industry dominated by men, especially in the late 50s — first at Toei Doga in 1958, right out of high school, and eventually in commercials and television series. She met Hayao Miyazaki in 1968, the LA Times reports, years before he co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985.

“Color has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood,” she said in a 2009 interview, after she’d retired following Ponyo. “Colors and pictures can enhance what the situation is on screen.”

Yasuda continued:

I want to show the audience how you see or feel the color in the water. The colors of the water vary from bright to the deep, dark sea. In choosing colors for the sea — under the sea or the water itself — I hoped that the character of Ponyo, her true love, Sosuke, and the viewers would all see and feel the beauty of nature in the film.

She came out of retirement to help work on Miyazaki’s final film, The Wind Rises, released in July 2013, which went on to an Academy Award nomination and critical buzz. A visionary in her own right, Anime News Network reports that Yasuda won an Animation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from the Japan Movie Critics Awards. She’s featured in Yasuko Shibaguchi’s book The Color Artisan of Animation.

Her resume boasts work on Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Spirited Away, as well as Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies. If you haven’t seen that last one yet, prepare yourself with comfort foods and a lot of tissues, first.

Now go queue up all of these classics and pay close attention to the genius of the coloring work. How different these stories might have been without Yasuda’s touch.

Posted By: Samantha Cole

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