Animation Pioneer Jimmy Murakami Dies at 80

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"The Snowman" (1982)

“The Snowman” (1982)

DUBLIN, Ireland — Jimmy Teruaki Murakami, one of the fathers of the Irish animation industry, passed away peacefully on the morning of Feb. 16, Animation Ireland reports. He was 80 years old.

Murakami came to live in Ireland in 1971 and established Quateru Films to produce commercials in animation and live action. In 1989, with his former partner Fred Wolf, he established Murakami Wolf Dublin to produce the hit animation series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

"The Magic Pear Tree" (1968)

“The Magic Pear Tree” (1968)

MWD had a staff of over 100 Irish artists. The studio went on to produce “James Bond Jr.,” “Speed Racer,” and “Budgie the Little Helicopter.”

As a freelance director, Murakami directed “The Storykeepers” for Shepherd Films in Dublin, a hugely successful international hit.

Born in San Jose in 1933, he was interned with his family at Tule Lake during World War II. After the war, the family settled in Los Angeles.

After attending Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, Murakami worked as an animator at UPA Burbank, where he designed characters for the Oscar-nominated “Trees and Jamaica Daddy” (1957), and Pintoff Studio in New York, where he designed the Oscar-nominated short film “The Violinist” (1959).

After a brief stint with Toei Animation in Tokyo, he joined TVC London in 1960 and produced and directed award-winning shorts, including “The Insects” (1961). Returning to Los Angeles in 1965, he established Murakami Wolf Productions to produce shorts and commercials. He won the Grand Prix in Annecy in 1967 for Breath and was nominated for an Oscar for “The Magic Pear Tree.”

After making Ireland his permanent home, Murakami directed “Battle Beyond the Stars,” a live-action feature starring Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn and George Peppard, in Los Angeles in 1980.

"Breath" (1967)

“Breath” (1967)

In 1982 he was supervising director on “The Snowman” at TVC. Based on a children’s book by Richard Briggs, the Academy Award-nominated film is about a snowman that takes a little boy on a magical journey to the North Pole.

Also at TVC, Murakami directed “When the Wind Blows” in 1986. Also based on a book by Briggs, it is about an elderly British couple who prepare for a nuclear attack, unaware that the nature of warfare has changed since World War II.

In 2000, Murakami directed “Christmas Carol the Movie” in London. This animated film, which has a live-action prologue, retells the holiday classic from the point of view of a mouse. The cast includes Simon Callow, Kate Winslet and Nicolas Cage.

For the last ten years, Murakami concentrated on painting and had several exhibitions. Most recently he was developing “The Morning of One Hundred Suns,” a feature based on his reaction to the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

His own story is told in the 2010 documentary “Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien,” in which he confronts his past by revisiting the Tule Lake camp. The title refers to the U.S. government’s description of Nisei as “non-aliens” to obscure the fact that they were U.S.-born citizens whose constitutional rights were being violated.

From the time he came to Ireland, Murakami lectured and tutored animation students. He was a guest lecturer at IADT Dun Laoghaire and at Ballyfermot College, and personally mentored many young animators.

He married Ethna McInerney in 1972 and they had two daughters, Deirdre and Claire, and four grandchildren, Keelin, Rory, Finn and Tara. Survivors also include his son-in-law, Nick; brother, Jun; sister, Yuri Joko; uncle, George Yoshinaga; aunt, Molly Hamasaki; and the McInerney family in Ireland. Memorial donations may be made to the Irish Cancer Society.

To see videos of Murakami’s work, visit Cartoon Brew.

For more information, visit www.jimmytmurakami.com/.

"When the Wind Blows" (1986)

“When the Wind Blows” (1986)

Jimmy Murakami and his wife, Ethna, at their home in Dublin, Ireland in December 2013. (Photo courtesy of

Jimmy Murakami and his wife, Ethna, at their home in Dublin, Ireland in December 2012. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Gleeson)

 

 

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