Move over Pixar! Studio Ghibli is considered the premier animation house by many cinephiles. Last year marked the 30th anniversary of Studio Ghibli which was founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Yasuyoshi Tokuma, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki. Studio Ghibli has released twenty-two feature films so far. The first film they made was Nausicaa: The Valley of the Wind in 1984, but the first Ghibli film released in the U.S. was My Neighbor Totoro, in 1993. I admire Studio Ghibli for their visual creativity, complexity and nuance. Plus there is always an important theme in each film. I also revere the Japanese studio because of all the strong women protagonists they include in every movie.
My three favorite Studio Ghibli films are Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. They are all directed by Hayao Miyazaki and all three deal with important themes. Castle in the Sky is influenced by Gulliver’s Travels and deals with the greed and power of totalitarian government. Spirited Away is more abstract, mysterious and mesmerizing. It is a coming-of-age film that definitely makes comments about greed and environmental pollution. It won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003 and is #30 on IMDB’s Best Films of all time list. Last, Princess Mononoke is the strongest conservation film in the Ghibli oeuvre. They are all beautifully animated, have great voice-overs and terrific soundtracks.
My mother is partial to Whisper of the Heart by Yoshifumi Kondo, The Cat Returns by Hiroyuki Morita and The Tale of Princess Kaguya by Isao Takahata. In addition to Princess Kaguya, Isao Takahata directed the wonderful Grave of the Fireflies, which won two awards at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival in 1994. It is also rated #62 on IMDB’s best films of all time. The Tale of Princess Kayuga garnered tons of international awards and was nominated for an Oscar last year for Best Animated Feature. My mother loves the charm and lyricism of these films. Again, all three have strong female protagonists.
I have seen 18 out of the 22 features by Studio Ghibli and I am looking forward to seeing the other four. One of those four, Only Yesterday, was recently released in the US. It was directed by Isao Takahata in 1991, but is only now getting its U.S. distribution.
Gotta run guys. I’ve got to make the 4:35 showing of Only Yesterday at IFC center!