Everyone at Pegbar would like to express our condolences to family and friends of Jimmy Murakami. He was a legend in animation, an amazing artist and in Cathal Gaffney’s words this morning a ‘founding father of Irish Animation’
I personally first met Jimmy when I was still a young student in 2006, it was an inspiration to be in his presence, he chatted about storytelling and expressed his opinions on art and animation. It gave me a boost and focus on what I wanted to achieve and do in life. Two years later I was graduating to which myself and other colleagues started Pegbar in order to start talking to the animation community. Pegbar allowed us to get into certain circles that recent graduates wouldn’t be privy to. Over the years we got to attend a lot of events and I had bumped into Jimmy multiple times. The more and more I talked to him the conversation started to change as we talked less about animation and more about analysing art and life. Last year in ‘Animation Dingle’ it was great to attend and see Jimmy receiving The Inaugural ‘Murakami’ Award for his lifetime achievement in Animation.
I’ve never worked with Jimmy nor do I claim to be personally close to him, but every time I had met him, he always made an impact on my thoughts and opinions. On hearing of Jimmy’s passing, it is with great sadness this morning that we have to post this.
Rest in Peace Jimmy Murakami
It may seem surprising that a Japanese American is one of the great European animators. But with a track record in Europe stretching back the best part of three decades, Jimmy Murakami is very much a part of the European scene. Born in California, he has spent much of his life based either in Dublin or London.
Following a course in Choinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, Jimmy joined the UPA Burbank Studio in 1956. The following year he moved to New York to join the Pintoff Studio, where one of his films was the Oscar nominated The Violinist.
In 1960 he moved to London and worked for four years as a producer and director with TV Cartoons. His films with the studio included the BAFTA winning The Insects and Charlie (which won a Gold Award at the Venice Film Festival).
In 1965 Jimmy returned to California to establish Murakami Wolf Films, producing and directing theatrical shorts, documentary film, television specials and commercials. Among the projects that he directed and animated at this time were The Breath (Annecy Grand Prix), The Magic Pear Tree (an Oscar nomination), And of Course You, Golden Eagle Award winner and The Good Friend.
In 1971 he set up Murakami Films in Dublin, producing both live and animated TV commercials. In 1980 in Los Angeles, he directed a live action feature film Battle beyond the Stars-a space version of The Seven Samurai-for cult producer Roger Corman.
In 1982 he was the supervising director on one of the best-loved animated films ever-the Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning TVC animation special The Snowman. In 1987 he went on to adapt and directed another Raymond Briggs book for TVC with the feature film version of When the Wind Blows, Grand Prix Feature Film winner Annecy 1987.
More recently, he has worked as director of a series of 13 half-hour programmes of The Story Keepers for Shepherd Films, Dublin ITV and Fox Network and 26 half hours of Inspector Mouse, produced by Alegro Animation in Dublin and PMMP in Paris.
Christmas 1998 saw the screening of his latest work a director, Oi Get off Our Train. Made by Varga/TVC in London, this was a 28-minute television special for the BBC, Miramax and ZDF.
Jimmy Murakami has completed directing a new feature film version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol-The Movie produced by London based Illuminated Film Company and released for Christmas 2001.
2006 Jimmy received a Honorary Doctorate Award from the University Dundee.