“See the good in that which is evil, and the evil in that which is good.” - Hayao Miyazaki
Recently, we have been sorting through the ICFFCY collection of films that were once screened at our children and youth film festival. It is an amazing collection of films created especially for young cinema goers by imaginative people from around the world; films that may not always be seen by the usual cinema goer as they would not necessarily be screened at your local cinema. While doing this we came across our copy of ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service,’ an incredible animated film for children and families about a young witch who moves to a new town and uses her flying ability to earn a living. The film touches on the themes of loneliness, sadness, and failure, but fortunately for the audience it has a positive ending and Kiki managed to achieve what she was aiming for.
‘Kiki’s Delivery Service,’ is one of the many animations created by one of Japan’s greatest animators Hayao Miyazaki. His films include: ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ (1988), ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997), ‘Spirited Away’ (2001), ‘Howl's Moving Castle’ (2004), ‘Ponyo’ (2008), and ‘The Wind Rises’ (2013). The unusual thing about most of his films is that the leading character, protagonist, is female and the storyline of the films does not contain a male saviour! They are so popular that ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ has now been adapted for the theatre with live action and puppets, other Studio Ghibli films will soon follow.
In 1985 Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli, where he directed many of his best-known feature films including ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’ (1986), ‘Porco Rosso’ (1992), ‘Ponyo’ (2008), and ‘The Wind Rises’ (2013).
The films from Studio Ghibli are extremely popular, ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997) was the first animated film ever to win the Japan Academy Prize for Picture of the Year, another of his films, ‘Spirited Away,’ released in 2001 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003 and was awarded the Golden Bear as the Best Feature Film at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival, this makes it the most popular and famous of Miyazaki's films. The film tells the story of Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighbourhood, enters the world of Kami (spirits of Japanese Shinto folklore). After her parents are turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.
In November 2014, Miyazaki was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for his impact on animation and cinema. Having retired, he returned to work in 2016 to work on ‘How Do You Live’, which has yet to be released.
The Studio Ghibli films were firstly distributed outside of Japan badly dubbed and heavily edited in order to appeal to western audiences, this meant that they lost a great deal of their environmental themes and changing the name of the characters. This was later corrected and the films redubbed and much of their original meanings restored.
Watching the Miyazaki animations can be a mystical and worthwhile experience, as he combines magic with realism in his storylines. They were a great success when we screened them as part of the ICFFCY film festival all those years ago, and even though time has passed they remain a favourite for family viewing. These beautifully hand drawn animations have captured the hearts of young people around the world and will continue to enthral and in many ways educated young people for years to come!
“Everybody, try laughing. Then whatever scares you will go away!” — My Neighbour Totoro (1988)