What’s the thing in common between Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke and Japan? If you couldn’t figure out the answer within 10 seconds then you’re missing out quite a lot.
It’s the poetic and marvelous animated world of Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation film studio probably known by most of you. But how good do you really know this fascinating dreamy animation studio?
Today we will talk about your favorite fantasy world, along with its award-winning best productions of all time.
That’s not all! We will also review some fun and amazing facts about its debut, its philosophy, and the latest news that are raising concerns about a possible end of its animation style.
First Steps, Idea and Debut
As you certainly know, Hayao Miyazaki wasn’t the only founding member of Studio Ghibli. He actually combined efforts with his friend and ex-coworker Isao Takahata in 1985, after a fairly long-running collaborative career at Toei Animation Company and many other studios. You might even recognize their names on the production team lists labeling many hits in the animation field.
We can mention for instance “Doggie March” in 1963 and “Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon” in 1965, in addition to the famous “Heidi” animated television series. So, it’s safe to say that the word “veteran” is an understatement that can’t describe the potential of these amazing people in the animation and storytelling field. It’s actually their deep interaction with the animation industry that led them to notice the flaws that were starting to pile up. To clarify this further, the rise of the animated television series in the Japanese production field started to threaten the quality of the outcome.
As a result, it was enough of a reason to push Miyazaki and Takahata towards a perpetual thrive for something bigger, better, and definitely deeper. Studio Ghibli crafted its first signature into the animation world in 1986, with the animated fantasy-adventure film known as “Castle in the Sky”. It was an astonishing first success of the studio, winning the “Animage” Grand Prize right after its release and taking the earnings count to over 150 million dollars. Everything about the film was made with extreme care: the plot, the storyline, the characters, the music, the animation… basically everything to the most specific details. It was certainly the irrefutable proof that Studio Ghibli’s highest principle is taking the enchantment sky-high and avoid cutting out from the quality just for the sake of reducing time, resources, or intellectual effort.
Gratest Studio Ghibli Productions of All Time
I can see every fan waiting with some sort of apprehension to see his favorite title pop up, ready to fight with all his might to defend the position of the animated masterpiece. But that’s the thing: with over 20 mythical and legendary productions out there, Studio Ghibli stands out as the Orion Constellation of the worldwide animation industry. It would be a fairly difficult task to make a selection, knowing that it’s safe to consider all the produced feature films an international hit, sharing the same fantastic hazy, and charming qualities. So let’s just refer to numbers and start the chronological count with:
• “Grave of the Fireflies”, released in 1988 and directed by Isao Takahata. You can describe the plot as a sad and tragic depiction of World War 2, specifically in the Japanese Kobe city. If you’re familiar with the American review aggregator known as “Rotten Tomatoes”, you’ll see that the film received 100% positive reviews.
• Shortly after the huge success Takahata made with his heart-touching film, Miyazaki directed, screen-wrote, and released one of his greatest animated fantasy films “My Neighbor Totoro” in the same year. It even went on to put the adorable and fairly bizarre character “Totoro” as the official mascot of Studio Ghibli ever since.
• In 1989, Miyazaki kept at it with his beloved cheerful character Kiki in the witchy “Kiki’s Delivery Service” animated film. If you happen to know Kiki you probably agree with me as I find the character highly inspiring with her constant outburst of optimism. The wild mixture of witchcraft, humor, and adventure is really what makes the film so catchy as it instantly bonds with the audience.
• Studio Ghibli also had an entry in the drama and romance genre with the animation film “Whisper of the Heart”, written by Miyazaki and released in 1995. You can definitely perceive the fantastic style of Miyazaki’s storytelling although the movie was intended to fall under the “Slice of Life” type. The musical harmony of Shizuku and Seiji is certainly enough to play quite gently on the strings of your heart.
• Next up, I believe we can’t mention Studio Ghibli without having an epic flashback of “Princess Mononoke”. Directed and written by Miyazaki, it was released in 1997 to massive acclaim, becoming Japan’s highest-earning fantasy animated film and throning on the Box’s office for 4 years. The wolf princess surely showed the world what it means to be brave, combative, and bloody as hell.
• In 2001, Studio Ghibli released the gorgeous and dazzling fantasy film “Spirited Away” to worldwide ravaging acclaim. Directed and written by Miyazaki, the master-mind that made us sink deep into the enchanting world of Chihiru won numerous awards with this title.
The list can obviously be extended to many other successful titles, such as “Only Yesterday”, “Arriety”, “Ponyo”, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” and many others. Studio Ghibli almost never fails to cage us willingly in this pleasant, fantastic, and breathtaking animated universe.
Fun Facts and Recent Releases
Other than Miyazaki’s fascinating creations and endless sources of imagination that almost make you feel like you’re in a dream, he was also interested in aircraft. It was the Italian Reconnaissance aircraft model “Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli” that inspired the name of the studio. It was a deep metaphor related to the essence of the word’s meaning itself, as it implied that Studio Ghibli will be like a desert wind that will change the aspect of the Japanese animation for good.
As for recent activity, Studio Ghibli released its first 3D animation movie “Aya and the Witch” on the 30th December 2020 exclusively in Japan. It sure raised massive concerns about this CG feature debut by Goro Miyazaki, making the audience fear a sudden shift in the animation style. The positive detail that probably warmed the hearts a little was the high similarity between Aya and the witch Kiki, but it’s certainly undeniable that the animation is still top-notch according to the trailer.
Although many important figures deceased, such as Isao Takahata and Yoshifumi Kondo, the legacy they left will make their names live for very long.
Studio Ghibli wasn’t only a desert wind, but a hurricane that flipped the animation world in such an intense way.