Hayao Miyazaki

One of Japan's most highly regarded anime directors, Hayao Miyazaki was born Jan. 5, 1941, in Tokyo. While in high school, he attended a viewing of Hakuja Den -- the first feature-length anime film -- and became instantly hooked on the form.

After attending Gakushuin University, Miyazaki went to work as a junior-level animator on children's cartoons. In 1979, he helmed his first feature, Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro, quickly establishing himself as a director of beautifully drawn, morally ambiguous tales that often highlight the tension between man and nature.

Although Miyazaki's films found critical and box office success in Japan, it wasn't until Miramax's release of his 1997 effort Princess Mononoke that he became widely known to U.S. audiences. In 2003, his Spirited Away won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and in 2006 Miyazaki was nominated for Howl's Moving Castle.