Jimmy Murakami, one of the founding fathers of Irish animation, sadly passed away on Sunday morning after a brief illness.
The 80-year old veteran played an invaluable role in developing Ireland’s animation industry and directed numerous award-winning shorts and features, including ‘When The Wind Blows’ in 1986.
Born in San Jose, California Murakami attended the Chouinard Art Institute in the 1950s before being hired by United Pictures of America. After moving to New York to work with Pintoff Productions he worked in his homeland of Japan for six years before returning to Los Angeles in 1965 to launch his company Murakami-Wolf Productions with business partner Fred Wolf. Murakami settled permanently in Ireland while working as second-unit aerial director on Roger Corman’s The Red Baron in 1971, where he set up the commercial studio Quateru Film.
His work with English illustrator and novelist Raymond Briggs on 1982’s 'The Snowman' and the 1986 feature 'When the Wind Blows' produced some of the animator’s most acclaimed work with 'The Snowman' in particular remaining an enduring children’s favourite to this day. Murakami Films opened in Dublin in 1989, with the studio producing popular television series such as 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' and 'Storykeepers'.
Murakami’s unique vision and experience made him a key figure in the development of the Irish animation sector from its small beginnings to its present-day success.
Cathal Gaffney of Brown Bag Films, called Murakami “a founding father of Irish Animation”; Jason Tammemagi (Geronimo) said “He was a friend to us all in the Irish animation scene, supporting new talent and offering advice”. Brown Bag Films have commented, “All of us in Brown Bag Films have many happy anecdotes and memories of Jimmy, and today we celebrate a life well-lived and mourn the passing of a friend who inspired an industry.”
See Sé Merry Doyle’s documentary ‘Jimmy Murakami Non Alien’, and the Cartoon Brew Website
Jimmy Murakami is survived by his wife wife Ethna and his daughters Deirdre and Claire.