Featured Director of the Week: Hayao Miyazaki (1941 – )

This week we’re featuring Japanese  director/writer Hayao Miyazaki. If you think watching an animé film means you’re just going to see simply-drawn kids fighting off fantastic monsters, you’re in for an eye-opener and a treat with his films.  While most of them are appropriate for children (check the ratings!), his films have a level of visual detail and deep subjects that are entertaining for adults.  Although the story lines are sometimes simple, his films often feature subtle commentary on man’s negative effects on nature, and many are unusual in featuring strong female characters.  Miyazaki is a co-founder of Studio Ghibli, and the Walt Disney Company has rights to non-Japan distribution of many of Miyazaki’s films.

New to this director? Try:

Spirited Away – (PG, 2001).  This movie won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002. The film was dubbed into English by Walt Disney Pictures, under the supervision of Pixar’s John Lasseter, who raves about Miyazaki in his introduction.   From IMDb: “In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into animals; and a bathhouse for these creatures.” See IMDb: Spirited Away

My Neighbor Totoro – (G, 1988). Two young girls move with their father to a new house in the countryside to be closer to their hospitalized mother. While exploring, they discover a mysterious forest spirit, Totoro, who can be seen only by children.  Miyazaki’s love of nature comes though in this gentle film that is perfect for children but has wonderful visual delights for adults. See IMDb: My Neighbor Totoro

Trivia: “Reknowned Japanese director Akira Kurosawa included TOTORO in a list of 100 films he considered the best. It was one of the few Japanese films on the list.” From ForMovies.com

Princess Mononoke – (PG-13, 1997).  A young warrior, Ashitaka, is struck by a deadly curse while protecting his village.  On his journey to find a cure, he finds himself drawn into the middle of a war between a mining colony and the forest gods.   (If you have children in your home, note that this is rated PG-13, mainly for violent fights.)  See IMDb: Princess Mononoke.

Already a fan? Try:

Ponyo – (G, 2008) An animated adventure about a five-year-old boy and his relationship with a goldfish princess who longs to become a human – from IMDb 

Howl’s Moving Castle (PG, 2004) When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking home – from IMDb 

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – (PG, 1984)Warrior/pacifist Princess Nausicaä desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their dying planet – from IMDb

You can find all these films in VisArt’s Animé section, in the inside section of the cage that has TV shows and Family films on the outside.  Just ask a staff member if you need help finding them, or if you want recommendations for other great movies.

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