“The Boy and the Heron” director Hayao Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki weren’t on hand to accept their Best Animated Feature Oscar Sunday night — the second for the Japanese animation master — but Suzuki issued a statement to press gathered backstage at the Academy Awards instead.

“We’re very honored to receive the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. We thank the Academy for the award,” Suzuki said in his statement. “I would also like to give my thanks to those who were involved in the production of this film and those who worked to distribute the film worldwide.”

Studio Ghibli’s chief operating officer Kiyofumi Nakajima appeared backstage to issue the statement via a translator, apologizing for Suzuki and Miyazaki’s absence, saying, “Please forgive them. They’re kind of up there in the age bracket.”

In the statement, Suzuki also attributed his and Miyazaki’s age to why they couldn’t be on hand in the Dolby Theater, saying both he and Miyazaki “have aged considerably,” least of all since Miyazaki’s last movie and nomination, “The Wind Rises,” 10 years ago.

Via Nakajima, Suzuki said that the development of “The Boy and the Heron” was a long road and that much has changed since “The Wind Rises” was released. The movie could only start its journey after “the retracting of the retirement statement that Hayao Miyazaki made” 10 years earlier.

“This was a truly difficult project to bring to completion,” he said. “I am very appreciative that the work that was created after overcoming these difficulties has been received by so many people around the world and has received this recognition. Both Hayao Miyazaki and I have aged considerably. I am grateful to receive such an honor at my age. And taking this as a message to continue our work, I will devote myself to work harder in the future. Thank you very much.”

For Miyazaki, “The Boy and the Heron’s” win for Best Animated Feature is his second after he won for “Spirited Away” in 2002. He’s tied for the most nominated director ever, and he’s now the oldest winner, at 83, in the category ever. He hasn’t been on the press tour at all for the film, including at its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. We’ll give him a pass for staying home tonight.

“The Boy and the Heron” could be Miyazaki’s final film and his real retirement. “The Boy and the Heron” beat out an impressive field that included Pixar entry “Elemental,” Neon’s “Robot Dreams,” Netflix’s “Nimona,” and Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” the follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” from 2018.

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