Breezing past The Wind Rises at the Academy Awards, blockbuster Frozen won Best Animated Feature. But that didn’t stop Hayao Miyazaki’s final film from soaring to new heights as a heartfelt tribute to an Italian aircraft designer depicted in the lyrical movie about dreams and war.

For Italo Caproni, the movie is a glory in itself for its homage to his grandfather, Gianni Caproni, who was portrayed as the mentor of protagonist Jiro Horikoshi.

In the film, Caproni’s character, although appearing only in Horikoshi’s dream sequences, was a solid force in the real Horikoshi’s life, guiding him since he was a small boy and as he grew up to become one of the world’s greatest airplane designers.

“My grandfather, Horikoshi, and director Miyazaki are all similar in that they are professional and are very fond of creating something,” said Italo, who lives in a suburb of the Northern Alpine city of Trento.

Italo, 40, moved by Miyazaki’s earlier film Porco Rosso in 1998, sent Miyazaki two books that contained photos and blueprints of creations of his grandfather’s company, some of which are housed in the Gianni Caproni Museum of Aeronautics in Trento.

Porco Rosso is a story about a former Italian World War I fighter ace set in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Italy and featured many airplanes that were similar to aircraft designed by Gianni.

It was no coincidence that Miyazaki named his Studio Ghibli after Gianni Caproni’s Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli World War II fighter aircraft.

“After the end of World War II, the existence of my grandfather was denied,” Italo said, adding that his grandfather had been labeld as a “collaborator” in the war.

“I thought director Miyazaki understands my grandfather better than Italians do.”

Gianni Caproni designed and manufactured his aircraft in 1910 for the first time in Italy. His aircraft company constructed many fighter planes after World War I broke out in 1914.

He wanted to build passenger planes and attempted to realize that dream by creating the Ca.60 for trans-Atlantic flights but the aircraft crashed on a test flight in March 1921. Miyazaki depicted the huge plane flying in the sky in The Wind Rises.

By Maesie Bertumen