R.I.P. Jimmy Murakami, pioneering animator behind The Snowman

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Japanese-American animator Jimmy Teruaki Murakami was known as the Father of Irish Animation. He directed the films The Snowman and When The Wind Blows, and also worked on Narnia and Christmas Carol movies. And he directed the live-action Battle Beyond the Stars. He died the other day, aged 80.

When Murakami was young, he and his family were put into internment camps along with other Japanese-Americans during World War II. And in a recent documentary, Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien, he revisited the camp where he spent a big part of his childhood:

He was nominated for an Academy Award for his 1968 short film, The Magic Pear Tree. In the late 1970s, he joined up with Roger Corman and wound up directing the films Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids from the Deep (uncredited.)

But it's his animated work on The Snowman and other films that Murakami is most remembered for — The Snowman regularly appears on lists of the most visually stunning films of all time. He told an interviewer:

Channel 4 initially asked me to direct Snowman. It wasn't my cup of tea so I became supervising director. That was successful, I didn't realise how successful it would be. Then I was sent the manuscript for When the Wind Blows and said, 'This is my kind of film!' It was a much more serious, adult subject. [Both The Snowman and When the Wind Blows are based on picture-books by Raymond Briggs. When the Wind Blows is about two pensioners trying to do 'the right thing' in the face of nuclear war.] I'll be frank, I'm not one for kid's films. It's not because I don't want to make films for kids, but I think kids would see anything that looks good and well-made; the only difference is less sex and violence, which I would never condone.


In 1989, he opened Murakami Films in Dublin, which produced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show as well as Storykeepers, and he became a mentor to generations of young Irish animators.