Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Directors: Hayao Miyazaki, Kirk Wise
Copyright Date: 2001
Studio: SHOUT! FACTORY
Languages: Japanese, English, French
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino and her parents are moving to a new neighborhood. While that experience would be bad enough, they mistakenly enter a door to the world of spirits, becoming trapped. Soon, a witch transforms Chihiro's parents into pigs, and she begins to work in the witch's bathhouse. Chihiro introduces herself as Sen in order to not be connected to her parents. Sen's new friend Haku guides her along her journey to rescue her parents and regain the bridge to the human world. Along the way, new friends are made and mysteries are solved.
This Academy Award winning film is beloved in both Japan and America. The soundtrack is also award-winning and was composed and conducted by Miyazaki's long-time collaborator, Joe Hisaishi. The music, performed by the New Japan Philharmonic, lends an air of enchantment and wonder to the film. While there are challenging things that occur, the optimistic tone of the soundtrack keeps things from ever feeling too heavy or foreboding. The animation is hand-drawn with a cast of characters who seem to be drawn from the mythology of Japanese culture. There are themes of fantasy, Western consumerism, environmentalism, and the threshold between childhood and adulthood. Spirited Away spent 11 weeks as the number one film in the Japanese box office and grossed around $10 million in the American box office even though it had very little publicity before the Oscars. The film holds a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and Roger Ebert gave it a full four stars and added it to his Great Movies list.
When Chihiro Ogino and her parents mistakenly enter the world of spirits, her parents are transformed into pigs. How will Chihiro get her parents back and return to her world?
About Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki is one of Japan's greatest animation directors. The entertaining plots, compelling characters, and breathtaking animation in his films have earned him international renown from critics as well as public recognition within Japan. The Walt Disney Company's commitment to introduce the films to the rest of the world will let more people appreciate the high-quality works he has given the movie-going public.
Hayao Miyazaki was born in Tôkyô on January 5, 1941. He started his career in 1963 as an animator at the studio Toei Douga studio, and was subsequently involved in many early classics of Japanese animation. From the beginning, he commanded attention with his incredible drawing ability and the seemingly endless stream of movie ideas he proposed.
In 1971, he moved to the A Pro studio with Isao Takahata, then to Nippon Animation in 1973, where he was heavily involved in the World Masterpiece Theater TV animation series for the next five years. In 1978, he directed his first TV series, Future Boy Conan (1978) (Conan, The Boy in Future), then moved to Tôkyô Movie Shinsha in 1979 to direct his first movie, the classic Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979). In 1984, he released Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), based on the manga (comic) of the same title he had started two years before. The success of the film led to the establishment of a new animation studio, Studio Ghibli (Sutajio Jiburi), at which Miyazaki has since directed, written, and produced many other films with Takahata and, more recently, Toshio Suzuki. All of these films enjoyed critical and box office successes. In particular, Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke (1997) received the Japanese equivalent of the Academy Award for Best Film and was the highest-grossing (about USD$150 million) domestic film in Japan's history at the time of its release.
In addition to animation, Miyazaki also draws manga. His major work was the Nausicaä manga, an epic tale he worked on intermittently from 1982 to 1984 while he was busy making animated films. Another manga, Hikoutei Jidai, was later evolved into his 1992 film Porco Rosso (1992). (About from here.)
Discuss how Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and how it the first, and to date only, hand-drawn and non-English-language animated film to win it.
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For teens who love anime, Studio Ghibli—and especially Miyazaki—is the peak of popularity. Spirited Away is considered an anime classic among teens, exploring the themes of living without parents and discovering self-sufficiency. The fact that this movie does not contain romance is an added bonus.