Studio Ghibli Colour Designer Michiyo Yasuda Has Died

Studio Ghibli Colour Designer Michiyo Yasuda Has Died
Facebook may have decided that you shouldn’t see the news, but we think you deserve to be in the know with Kotaku Australia’s reporting. To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

One of the most memorable, evocative features of Studio Ghibli films is their use of colour. The woman responsible for that has passed away. She was 77.

[Image via Studio Ghibli]

Michiyo Yasuda collaborated with Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata long before they established Studio Ghibli, working on films like 1972’s Panda! Go, Panda! and as a colour designer on Miyazaki’s 1976 television series 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother. After doing Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at Topcraft, she headed up the colour department at the then newly-formed Studio Ghibli.

(Image via Asahi News)

[Image via Asahi News]

Below is a small slice of how she could use colour:







According to The Mainichi and Asahi News, Yasuda passed away on October 5 due to an illness. She retired in 2008, but returned to work on 2013’s The Wind Rises, her last film. 

At the bottom of this old Japanese magazine scan, it says that staffers said she was “scarier than Miyazaki”, but adds that actually, she was an incredibly kind person. 

(Image via 10JP)

[Image via 10JP]

In 2009, Yasuda talked about her process with The Los Angeles Times, saying, “When the production starts, I choose the colours for each character. Colours don’t have a specific meaning — I just choose which colour fits each character. The reason Ponyo is pink — or red — is because she’s based on a red goldfish. In the scene where Ponyo is running on the waves, the colour of the fish that transform into waves, I found that colour on my first try. For that, I chose a colour that can be both the fish and the sea simultaneously.”

(Image via Studio Ghibli)

[Image via Studio Ghibli]

“What I like best is when I am building up the colours in my head, thinking of how to get the tone worked out,” she says. “Colour has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood. Colours and pictures can enhance what the situation is on screen.”

They sure can. And thanks to Yasuda, Studio Ghibli’s films are the better for it.


  • Uh. For some reason only now I notice that Ponyo was not cell-shaded.

    “scarier than Miyazaki”

    Jesus. Still, clearly visibly an incredibly talented professional. May she rest in peace and infinite colours.

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!