Everyone knows and loves Disney and the magical tales they can spin to entertain the entire family but Disney are not the only ones making exquisite family films filled with life lessons. Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation film studio in Tokyo. They are best known for their anime feature films since 1986 with various family film themes, teaching so many lessons in so many creative ways. The faultless animation creates so many mystical worlds that are just begging to be explored by young and older minds alike. Do not be afraid of the Japanese background, many, if not all, of their feature length films have been translated and voiced by many well known actors, such as Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway. Just a few of the films that should be explored are:
My Neighbour Totoro 1988
Based in 1958 Japan the film tells the tale of a university professor and his two daughters who move into an old house in order to be closer to the hospital that their mother is recovering from a long-term illness. The children’s world soon becomes a place filled with mystical adventures starting with the discovery that their home is inhabited by tiny animated dust creatures. One day the youngest daughter discovers two new magical creatures that lead her down the rabbit hole so to speak into a world of wondrous magic and a connection with nature and family.
Princess Mononoke 1997
This feature film sees the mystical magical world interact with the natural and human world as they all battle for control. A simple village attacked by a demon finds its savour in their last prince but in turn he gains superhuman fighting abilities though at a great cost. This is only the start of his quest, needing to find out where this demon came from, the corruption fearing to spread throughout the land. A battle for the land between the humans and the nature gods and creatures rages on and the prince finds himself in the middle of it all. Love blossoms and the hope for understanding and peace to come across the land.
Spirited Away 20017
This Academy Award winning film melds fantasy and reality into a creative entertaining animated film. A family travelling to their new home, end up taking a wrong turn and finding themselves within a magical world. As their daughter wanders off to explore and finds a boy who warns her to go back before the sun sets, her parents consumed by their own hungry greed are turned into pigs. With both her way back home lost and her parents transformed she has to find her way back home and save her parents with the help of those living within the mystical land. The family bond is one that can never be broken.
The Cat Returns 2002
A simple, quiet, shy and ditsy high school girl saves the life of a dark odd coloured eyed cat who would have been hit by a truck but soon her life is turned upside down. Soon she finds gifts of mice and catnip waiting for her at every turn. Soon she is even offered the cat prince’s hand in marriage before being taken away into their kingdom. Her only hope lies with the Cat Bureau and the Baron who she hopes will come to her rescue and bring her back home before it is too late.
Howl’s Moving Castle 2004
This film centres on a simple eighteen year old hatter who ends up wrapped up in the mysterious and tremendously exciting world of witches, wizards and curses. Cursed into the body of an old woman she searches for a way back to her normal life, not expecting love to blossom and war to break out sweeping her off of her feet giving her a chance to discover just who she is. With wonderful twists and turns and truly heartfelt moments throughout it is a film the entire family will love and enjoy.
These and so many more still being created to this day are wonderful explorations of Japanese culture and animation while still being inviting to the family. Instilling so many emotions within the audience, from sorrow to laughter a connection with the characters is almost immediate and the love for the tales lingers for years after. So why not try something new, Studio Ghibli and the wonderful twisting strings of their magical imagination.