Shortly after the release of Princess Mononoke in 1997, revered Studio Ghibli filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki retired from the profession he had helped define since 1961, stating at the time "I think that 'Princess Mononoke' will be the last (feature-length) movie that I make in this way."
Much to our benefit, he kept right on going, coming back in 2001 with Spirited Away, which many see as a highlight of his stellar career. He followed it up three years later with Howl's Moving Castle, and while he's periodically mentioned the idea of retiring for good, Miyazaki has kept right on producing more animated gems. As his latest film The Wind Rises was premiering at the Venice International Film Festival, Studio Ghibli president Koju Hoshino revealed that the 72-year-old Miyazaki is once again hanging it up, saying simply “He wants to say goodbye to all of you.”
The announcement comes as Miyazaki is facing critical backlash for the supposed anti-war stance of The Wind Rises, which details the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the aeronautical engineer who designed the Zero Fighter plane Japan used in WWII. Miyazaki's films often depict the causes he champions, in particular environmentalism and world peace, which have left him open to political attack. It's unlikely this has anything to do with his latest decision, and there's always the possibility he continues to work in the arena of short films rather than features.
Whether this retirement sticks or not, Miyazaki's contributions to cinema, not just animation, will go down as legendary. The Wind Rises will be released in the U.S. at a later date by Disney, just as they've done with The Secret World of Arrietty and Ponyo.