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April 27, 2004 |

I just finished producing a special one-time event on Japanese animation with Nancy Lutkehaus at the Center for Visual Anthrpology at USC. The event centered around a visit to LA of celebrated director Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli, and Steve Alpert, Senior Vice President of Studio Ghibli. We screened four of Takahata’s films, and he gave a keynote address. Anne Allison also came out to give a talk and we had a panel discussion on “Teaching Japanese Culture though Animation.” Panelists included Ellen Seiter, Gordon Berger, Stan Rosen, Steve Alpert, Anne Allison, and myself.

It was a real pleasure and honor to spend some time with Takahata and the Ghibli team, and to experience the wonderful talk that they put together on 12th century emaki as an exemplar of Japanese visual culture.

Here is a press release that John Zolliger at the Annenberg Center put together for us.


Grave of the Fireflies director to visit LA

LOS ANGELES — Isao Takahata, director of Grave of the Fireflies and one of the founding figures of contemporary Japanese animation, will appear at a screening of his work at Los Angeles’ historic Pacific Theater on Friday, April 23, the University of Southern California announced today.

Takahata, who founded Studio Ghibli, the most celebrated animation studio in Japan, with Academy Award-winning animator/director Hayao Miyazaki, will take questions from the audience after the showing of his films Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbors the Yamadas, and Pom Poko.

“Mr. Takahata’s visit provides an unprecedented opportunity to engage with a body of work central to the definition of animation as an art form in Japan, but which has not yet been widely viewed in the US,” says Mizuko Ito (USC Department of Anthropology and the Annenberg Center for Communication) who is organizing the event with Nancy Lutkehaus (USC Department of Anthropology and the Center for Visual Anthropology). Lutkehaus and Ito are also organizing an academic symposium on “Animation and the Contemporary Japanese Imagination” on April 24, where Takahata will be the keynote speaker.

Takahata has produced and directed some of the most memorable Japanese television and film animations for over 40 years. He has received the prestigious National Purple Ribbon Medal for Cultural Achievement (Shiju-ho-sho), and has won many film awards such as the Ministry of Education Arts Award (Geijutsu Sensyo Monbu Daijin Shou), and the Mainichi Cultural Film Award (Mainichi Eiga Konkuuru Bunka Kiroku Eiga Shou), the most renowned of Japanese film awards. Along with the three films to be screened at Pacific Theater and Only Yesterday which he directed, he also served as producer for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Laputa Castle in the Sky, and as music director for Kiki’s Delivery Service. All of these films have been acclaimed as the “best films of the year” at the times of their release.

The films will be screened at 2pm (Grave of the Fireflies), 4pm (My Neighbors the Yamadas) and 6:30pm (Pom Poko) in the Pacific Theater, 6433 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood. Admission to the Friday screenings is free and open to the public. For more information see: or email

The Takahata screening and academic symposium are sponsored by several USC organizations, including: The Provost’s Distinguished Visitors Program, the Center for Visual Anthropology, the Center for Feminist Research, the Annenberg Center for Communication, the East Asian Studies Center, the School of Cinema-Television, the ETC Digital Cinema Laboratory located at the Pacific Theater, and the Institute for Multimedia Literacy. Additional support comes from Studio Ghibli, the Association for Asian Studies Northeast Asia Council, the Walt Disney Company, and Central Park Media.