The Boy and the Heron: Miyazaki’s Masterpiece Won a 2024 Oscar

The Boy and the Heron: Miyazaki’s Masterpiece Won a 2024 Oscar


Hollywood’s best 2D animation film award went to Hayao Miyazaki this year, 2024. His film, “The Boy and the Heron,” had to compete with solid films like “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” This Miyazaki movie poles apart because it’s deeper and more thought-out than most animated movies.

What’s surprising is that Miyazaki didn’t even try to promote his movie for the awards. Usually, that hurts a movie’s chances of winning.

But on the winning moment, the Academy only cared about how good the movies were. It didn’t matter to them how well-known the director was or how much buzz the movie got. This year, they recognized real filming skills. This award goes to Miyazaki, who is a true master of animation.

In this blog, you will explore the following:


  • What the Film is all about?
  • What themes are used in the film?
  • ‘Who Casts in the Film?
  • The Story Behind The Camera
  • Highlights in Oscar-Winning


What the Film is all about?



“The Boy and the Heron” is partly based on Hayao Miyazaki’s life, drawing from his past and present.

The main character, Mahito, goes on a trip much like Miyazaki’s childhood. Both of them left Tokyo during the last few years of World War II and went to the countryside to find safety. Shigeru Miyazaki’s father was a warplane mechanic like Shoichi Mahito’s father.

Also, the sad death of Mahito’s mother in a hospital fire reminds me of Miyazaki’s close call with tragedy when his mother had cancer when he was young.

Viewers might not notice these similarities right away. Still, they help create a deep connection between the author and his work —a personal link gives the story a deeper emotional resonance. This makes the viewing experience better for everyone.


What themes are used in the film?

The story “The Boy and the Heron” is inspired by the childhood of the director, Miyazaki. The main character, Mahito Maki, reflects Miyazaki’s own experiences. Mahito’s father, like Miyazaki’s, worked in a company making parts for planes during the war. The movie’s beginning, with a hospital fire, reminds Miyazaki of losing his mother. The film tells a coming-of-age story about a child learning to care for others.

When the idea for the film was proposed in 2016, Miyazaki wanted to base it on his personal life and relationships. This was surprising because he usually avoided personal themes.

Sadly, Isao Takahata passed away in 2018. This led Miyazaki to change the focus of the story from his own life to the relationship between a young boy named Mahito and a magical heron.

The movie’s title, “The Boy and the Heron” (original Japanese title translates to “How Do You Live?”), is the same as a 1937 novel by Genzaburō Yoshino. However, Taichiro Yoshino, the author’s grandson, found the movie’s message quite different from the book.

Through this film, Miyazaki wanted to show that young boys are not simple characters. They can have complex emotions and inner struggles. Ultimately, the movie aims to inspire viewers to work towards creating a better world, free from conflict.

The film explores themes like acceptance, redemption, and the power of creation. It reflects on life and death, childhood, and the end of life and makes viewers think about their role in a world full of violence and uncertainty.

One of the primary emotions in the film is the longing for a mother’s presence. Mahito’s father remarries, adding layers to the story. Despite its serious themes, the film includes moments of humor to balance it out.

In simpler terms, the film is about a boy’s journey to save his family, inspired by Miyazaki’s life. It deals with deep themes like growing up, loss, and the power of imagination.

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‘Who Casts in the Film?



The film features an all-star English voice cast, including actors like Luca Padovan, Robert Pattinson, Gemma Chan, Christian Bale, Karen Fukuhara, Florence Pugh, Mark Hamill, Willem Dafoe, and Dave Bautista.

Padovan voices Mahito, the main character, while Pattinson voices the magical heron who guides him. Other cast members play essential roles in Mahito’s journey, such as his aunt (Chan), father (Bale), and various magical characters encountered along the way.

With its enchanting story and talented cast, “The Boy and the Heron” promises to be a captivating cinematic experience for audiences in North America.

The other parakeets are voiced by Tony Revolori, who played Spider-Man, Mamoudou Athie from Archive 81, and Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey.


What music is used in ‘Boy and the Heron’?

The music in “The Boy and the Heron” sets the mood and enhances the storytelling.

The genre “Spinning Globe by Kenshi Yonezu” is a beautiful and sad ballad that leans towards the J-Pop (Japanese Pop) genre.

Yonezu utilizes a small chamber orchestra for a more intimate feel. The gentle strings and piano create a delicate backdrop for his vocals.

“Spinning Globe” is the film’s central theme, capturing the protagonist’s emotional journey. The lyrics (in Japanese) are thought-provoking, reflecting on life, purpose, and the world’s vastness.

Joe Hisaishi is a legendary Japanese composer known for his long-standing collaboration with Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. His scores are renowned for their emotional depth and ability to blend seamlessly with the animation.

Hisaishi’s score for “The Boy and the Heron” is likely to follow his signature style. He often combines traditional Japanese instruments like the koto (a zither-like instrument) and shakuhachi (bamboo flute) with Western orchestral elements, creating a unique and evocative soundscape that reflects the film’s fantastical world.

The movie’s soundtrack has 37 songs, each representing a different part of the story. You’ll hear exciting music for adventurous moments, spooky tunes for mysterious scenes, and touching melodies for emotional parts.


Miyazaki’s Magic: The Story Behind The Camera



In 2013, Hayao Miyazaki, the famous animator, said he would retire after releasing “The Wind Rises.” But then he changed his mind after working on a short film called “Boro the Caterpillar” in 2018. He decided to make another full-length movie. This decision was captured in a documentary called “Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki.”

Miyazaki started planning the new film in 2016 and got approval from Studio Ghibli, the company he works with. They began working on it seriously in 2017. The film was inspired by a children’s book called “The Book of Lost Things” and a story Miyazaki loved as a child called “Ghost Tower.” Miyazaki wanted to finish the film by the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.

However, the production took longer than expected. Miyazaki used to work much faster when he was younger, but now he works slower. Studio Ghibli planned to finance the film by putting their older movies on streaming platforms like Netflix.

The film was described as a big fantasy project, and it took a long time because everything was hand-drawn. By 2020, about 36 minutes of the film were completed, but there was still much to do. Due to COVID-19, the team had to work from home, which made things a bit faster. The film was expected to be 125 minutes long.

In 2021, Miyazaki said he didn’t have an answer to the question the film’s title poses. The producer called it an ambitious fantasy project. By 2022, the film was almost finished and was said to be Miyazaki’s last. In 2023, the English version of the film was cast and produced. It included famous actors like Christian Bale and Robert Pattinson.


Record-Breaking Success: ‘The Boy and the Heron’ Wins Oscar



Making history, “The Boy and the Heron” is only the second hand-drawn 2D movie to win this award. This success builds on the one set by Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” 21 years ago. Also, this is only the second time in history that a movie made entirely in a foreign country has won the Oscar; “Spirited Away” was the first in 1990.

To add to the list of records, Miyazaki is now the oldest person to win an Oscar for an animated film, beating his record of 62 years old, which he set with “Spirited Away.” “The Boy and the Heron” is notable because it is the first PG-13-rated film to win this award. All previous winners were either G or PG.

It was a lucky day for U.S. distributor GKIDS, which won an award for “The Boy and the Heron.” This is their 13th title in the feature animation category. This win is a long-awaited accomplishment; after being named an impressive 13 times, the prize was finally claimed tonight.

They didn’t go to the awards show to pick up their prize, nor did Miyazaki or his director. He skipped the Oscars the last time he won because he didn’t want to go to a country that was bombing Iraq at the time. He didn’t say why this time. His manager thanked everyone and said it was hard to make the movie.



“The Boy and the Heron” beat out many other nominated movies for the Oscar. Everyone is surprised with its deep intellectual themes and introspective story. Audiences and reviewers alike were deeply moved by Hayao Miyazaki’s deeply personal connection to the story based on his experiences.

The hand-drawn animation appeals to the viewers because it is about youth, loss, and the power of imagination.

The movie makes history by becoming the second hand-drawn 2D movie to win the prestigious Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Miyazaki’s reputation as a great animator gets even better, and he gets a well-deserving award for his immense contributions to the art form.

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