“The Boy and the Heron,” Studio Ghibli’s most recent animated film, took the top spot at American box offices this past weekend with an estimated $12.8 million.

The Japanese film, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, follows a young boy named Mahito as he takes an unexpected journey to find the meaning of life. The film is based on one of Miyazaki’s favorite books, a Japanese novel called “How do you Live?” by Genzaburo Yoshino.

Hayao Miyazaiki is the man behind the magic of Studio Ghibli.

Hayao Miyazaki is the man behind the magic of Studio Ghibli. Photo credit: Creative Commons

Miyazaki was born on Jan. 5, 1941, and began animating films in 1963 at Tōei Animation. His father was an airplane manufacturer and his love for planes and flying became apparent in many of Miyazaki’s films.

Miyazaki worked for various studios through the 70s when he created his first full feature film “Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro.”

His unique animation style began to show itself in one of his manga strips called “Nausicaä: The Valley of the Wind,” which then became Studio Ghibli’s first film. He has since directed 10 films for the studio.

All the movies that Hayao Miyazaki directed through the years.

The films that Hayao Miyazaki directed through the years. Photo credit: Kenzie Fox

Miyazaki announced his retirement back in 2013 after the release of his film “The Wind Rises.” A few years later, he announced in an interview with the New York Times that he would be returning for a final film with the studio.

Miyazaki had previously announced his retirement in 1997 after his film “Princess Mononoke” broke Japanese box office records, but he returned to the studio soon after with an idea that would later become his film “Spirited Away.”

“Spirited Away” went on to win the top feature at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2002, best picture at the Japanese Academy Awards in 2002 — replacing “Titanic” as the top grossing film in Japanese history — best animated feature at the United States Academy Awards in 2003 and best Asian film at the Hong Kong Film Awards.