Like quite a few people, my first experience of Studio Ghibli was seeing Spirited Away at the cinema (ok, most people probably saw Princess Mononoke before that, but I didn’t, alright?). It totally blew me away with a storyline that was full of exotic ‘foreign’ magic and wonder that was a world away from the Disney animation we’re all so used to. Not that this article is going to be a Disney-bashing one at all, far from it. But ever since that cinema trip, I’ve fallen in love with Ghibli and the films of Hayao Miyazaki in particular.
With new Ghibli film Arrietty out in the UK this weekend, it seems like a good time to write a little bit about these Japanese animation masters. That isn’t a Miyazaki film, but looks good, so I’m looking forward to it. His last one so far was Ponyo, which came out a few years ago and was a variation on the ‘Little Mermaid’ story. It was another sumptuous-looking piece of classic 2D animation, old-fashioned in the Pixar era, but no less impressive for it. Having watching it again recently on Blu Ray, the only disappointment is that not many other Ghibli films are available in that format yet.
A lot of die-hard fans would probably be outraged by this, but I must confess that I’ve always watched these films in their dubbed formats, rather than subtitled. I’m not sure why this is, because I’d never choose to watch a dubbed live action film (Godzilla movies aside), but there isn’t quite the same jarring effect in animation. Plus, the dubbing is usually done very well, with top notch big name actors and voiceover veterans. Hearing Michael ‘Vic Mackey‘ Chiklis from The Shield as Chihiro’s dad in Spirited Away always amuses me…
Obviously Princess Mononoke is a classic, and it sums up the kind of films they are perfectly. It’s dark and violent, but nowhere near what you’d expect from an ‘anime’ film, and it’s still, you know, for kids. And like most of the Ghibli films, there’s a strong ecological message about the damage we do to our planet. Positive messages abound in this world and the environment is pretty much always a powerful force, be it in the shape of Mononoke’s tree spirits or the big friendly Totoro.
There’s more to Ghibli than Miyazaki of course, and Isao Takahata has already directed some classics. First-timer Hiromasa Yonebayashi is at the helm for Arrietty and will hopefully fare better than Miyazaki’s son Goro did with his first film, Tales From Earthsea, which was panned when it was released. He’s just done his second film, From Up On Poppy Hill, and that looks much more like what we’ve come to expect, so it will be interesting to see that one. Until then, we’ve got the Japanese take on The Borrowers, so I’ll be reporting back on that after the weekend hopefully.
- Discover the beautiful Secret World of Arrietty! (nediunedited.com)
- /Film LA: The Studio Ghibli Collection Runs January 26-February 12 (slashfilm.com)
- Hints About Two New Studio Ghibli Projects Revealed (slashfilm.com)