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Fri, 6 July 2007
by: Australian Ninja
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Welcome back dear readers, the story of Studio Ghibli continues here in part two of Buttonhole's "Spotlight on Studio Ghibli." If you missed part one, read it here now.
Last time I talked about the formation of the animation studio, and in this part we'll take a brief look at the some other highlights before delving into in-depth reviews of the films in future articles. So read on Anime lovers.
Studio Ghibli has a rich and creative history. But none of it would have been possible without two very talented men. Directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata are well known as the creative force that gave birth to Studio Ghibli (along with producer Toshio Suzuki and a whole team of Ghibli staff). Miyazaki is best known for the mega-popular hit film Spirited Away. And Takahata is best known for his direction of Grave of the Fireflies. While these films are fantastic, there's more to these wily Director / Producers than just their S.G. productions.
Before forming Ghibli, both men worked together at other major companies that produced various animated TV shows and films.
While the projects they contributed to over the years are too numerous to mention in full here, their most notable (and worth watching) pre-ghibli works include "The Little Norse Prince" (1968) for Toei Animation, "Future Boy Conan" (1978) for Nippon Animation, "Castle of Cagliostro" (1977) for A Pro, "Panda Go Panda" (1972) for TMS Entertainment and "Nausicaa" (1984) for Tokuma Shoten. Nausicaa has since been re-released under the Studio Ghibli imprint.
The Little Norse Prince - directed by Isao Takahata - was such an ambitious film for the time (with themes of racial persecution and elements of socialism) that TOEI would not release it without significant cuts and changes to the film. Obviously as a film this was not something TOEI (usually involved in producing animation aimed at children) would be eager to release at all.
Castle of Cagliostro - directed by Hayao Miyazaki - while differing significantly from the Lupin The Third source material, was another landmark Anime film.
Both films are really worth tracking down and I encourage you to watch them.
So well before the formation of Ghibli both Miyazaki and Takahata had substantial careers in the animation industry in both film and television. When you appreciate the amount of work and effort Miyazaki has put into the industry over the years, it's easy to understand why he has tried retiring from Studio Ghibli - and from making animated films - several times. He's gone on record as being retired and saying that this or that film will be his last as Director. However, he seemingly keeps coming back and with each film fans wonder if it will truly be the last project he is actively involved with.
|Meow! All aboard, first stop... Fun City |
The Studio Ghibli Museum
If you happen to live in or travel to Japan, you can visit the Studio Ghibli Museum. Unlike that kick-ass museum Ben Stiller works at where exhibits come to life at night, most modern museums are full of exhibits guaranteed to send you to snooze land ten minutes into the tour. By contrast the Ghibli museum is the amazing Technicolor dreamcoat of museums. What does that mean? Well how about having it's very own crest for starters. Then there is the giant-sized kid friendly catbus for the young ones to bounce around on. Multiple staircases and doorways that make it impossible to view the exhibits in anything but a random order. Massive displays of animation cells from the Ghilbli films and a giant sized statue of a robot from Laputa. Check out one tourists intriguing visit to the museum and some excellent pictures right here
You may just think you can turn up and buy yourself a ticket at the door, but you can't. No sir, I don't like it. To get yourself a ticket you'd have to book months in advance and go through a travel agent, but at least it's possible to reserve tickets if you live outside Japan. I'm adding the SG museum to the list of places I really want to go to when I find a stray briefcase full of money.
To see how to book yourself a ticket read these detailed complicated and highly unexciting instructions But let's get back to the films shall we?
~ The complete list of Studio Ghibli film productions ~
1984 Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds
1985 Laputa a.k.a. Castle in the Sky
1988 My Neighbour Totoro
1988 Grave of the Fireflies
1989 Kiki's Delivery Service
1990 Only Yesterday
1991 Porco Rosso
1994 Pom Poko
1995 Whisper of the Heart
1996 Princess Mononoke
1999 My Neighbours the Yamadas
2000 Spirited Away
2001 The Cat Returns
2004 Howl's Moving Castle
2006 Tales from Earthsea
With such a significant volume of fantastic Anime films, it's hard to know where to start. For Ghibli virgins you really can't go wrong with Spirited Away; the most popular Ghibli film overall amongst fans of all ages and a film well suited for family viewing (and also my favourite film of all time).
For older fans, the more mature themed titles of Nausicaa, Grave of the Fireflies and Princess Mononoke are recommended and are not intended for children. Kids could watch them with adult supervision, but it's not really sensible as the films get violent and have quite serious themes that would likely bore a kid anyway.
The more family friendly titles of Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, and My Neighbour Totoro I highly recommend for family viewing and especially for children. That doesn't mean adults won't dig them, just that these films are funny and a real delight to watch with your family. You will relate to these films more if you watch them with your family or a friend, rather than by yourself.
|The finalists in the International Yodelling Tournament |
Basically all of the Ghibli films are pure magic, although some you are bound to like more than others. Often if just comes down to personal taste. But having said that, I would recommend to everyone to watch at least once the most essential Ghibli films. These are the films featured in hundreds of magazine and internet articles, the ones talked about endlessly by film critics and mentioned by your mate as being "really really good" often followed by "I've never seen anything like it before"
So I can't stress enough how much you should watch all of (or at least start with one of) these four stunning titles:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds - A toxic jungle has made large areas of the planet unliveable, and humans fear the giant insects that inhabit it.
Nausicaa has an affinity with nature and abhors the war-making ways of her village's neighbouring kingdoms. When they are accidentally invaded, Nausicaa must rise to defend her people and the planet itself.
My Neighbour Totoro - Mei and her sister Satsuki live with their father while they await their sick mothers return from the hospital. One day, Mei gets lost in the woods and discovers a large friendly nature spirit creature known as Totoro…
Spirited Away - Young Sen stumbles into a world of Japanese mythological creatures when she loses her parents while on a walk through what seems to be an abandoned fairgroud. While working in the spirit bath house a witch takes her name from her and the only person she thinks she can trust is a dragon disguised as a human being.
Grave of the Fireflies - Two war orphans struggle to survive in the World War 2 era. The young children are faced with the pain of no parents and empty bellies. Will any of the strangers they meet come to their aid, or will their struggle be met with apathy and end in quiet desperation?
So whats coming next from SG? The next two films are Tales from Earthsea and Ponyo on a Cliff. Earthsea screens in Australian speciality cinemas this year, with a DVD release likely late 2007 or early 2008. Some cinemas have already played Earthsea and others have yet to screen their debut. Look for session dates on the net. Every state gets the film at different times so you'll have to search a bit. Use the below cinemas for a kick off when searching online.
NSW - Dendy Newtown
QLD - Dendy George Street
SA - Palace Nova
VIC - Kino Dendy
WA - Luna in Leederville
Ponyo is scheduled for release in Japanese theatres around 2008. So sit back and put your feet up, it's going to be a leisurely wait for that one.
Tales from Earthsea (based on Ursula K. Le Guin's novel series) in particular is notable for being the directorial debut of Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro Miyazaki. So far it has received mixed reviews and comments by the media. In fairness to Goro, he has not had decades of experience in animation like his father Hayao, and can hardly be expected to produce the same quality of films his father has become known for. With both Miyazaki and Takahata getting on in years, the future of Studio Ghibli is looking muddy. With Goro being a hesitant successor, and a real lack of other substantial candidates to take over the directorial and creative roles, only time will tell what happens to Studio Ghibli.
Well, that's Buttonhole's brief look at the basics of Studio Ghibli. But where to from here? For starters, my sincere desire to share my love of these films via a brief introduction to the who what when of Studio Ghibli has run away with me.
|No seriously, we can legally hunt Care Bears in this forest! |
Yes, over the coming months I will personally cover every SG film via an in-depth review. I was going to talk about the films some more in this feature, but I wouldn't be doing them justice, each deserves a full review all to itself.
So come one come all! Gather around folks, and be prepared to feast your eyes on fifteen of the most glorious super-spectacular animated films your will ever see. Then immerse your senses in liquid television as we look at pre-ghibli films and TV shows the likes of which will shock and amaze your sensibilities.
All this and more at Buttonhole! (I know you can get your Ghibli fix elsewhere but you'd have to look for it, and that's all kinds of effort you don't need to expend).
Being the hired goon that I am, I highly recommend checking out the full range of Ghibli films at the Madman website. The Ghibli films have their very own section where you can get details on each film including any extras features on the DVD and a quick plot summary, so take a look
Spirited Away is a great film to start with, or if you've already seen it try the heart-warming My Neighbour Totoro or more grim war story Grave of the Fireflies. You can also purchase Ghibli films at many of the chain stores and speciality DVD stores throughout Australia. Some enlightened rental stores even carry a few Ghibli films. Personally I plan to buy all of the Ghibli range eventually (I have about half of them so far). So if you enjoy animated films, or just want to find out what all the Miyazaki and Takahata hullabaloo is about, why not watch some of the excellent Studio Ghibli Anime films, you'll be glad you did!
If you have any questions in particular related to this article (or just want to share your Anime love) don't hesitate to email everybody's favourite gaming ninja - just click that link at the top of the page by my mugshot.
I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't urge you once again to check out Nausicaa.net the most comprehensive information source of all things SG on the net.
And remember, be sure to check in at Buttonhole for reviews of all the Ghibli films in the near future.
Click here to read PART 1 of this article
Reviews of Ghibli films at Buttonhole
Tales from Earthsea
by: Australian Ninja
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