While Walt Disney Animation Studios may be the biggest and most famous animation studio in the world, Disney will never be Studio Ghibli. What Disney has in terms of quantity, Ghibli more than makes up for with quality films that pull the heart and push the boundaries of animated features.
Almost all of Studio Ghibli’s library has been critically acclaimed, but even the worst Ghibli films exhibit qualities that surpass the competition. While each film is unique, they each have qualities that make them instantly recognizable as Studio Ghibli films. From characters to music, storytelling to design, Ghibli reigns over every other animation studio.
ten Only the best Hollywood actors have to offer for the English dub
After Walt Disney Studios took over the international distribution rights to the Ghibli films in 1996, the quality of the voice acting and cast cast increased dramatically. It’s considered a great honor for actors to work on a Ghibli movie, and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars have found their way into a Ghibli movie.
Studio Ghibli’s English dubs include big names like Kirsten Dunst as Kiki in Kiki’s Delivery Service, Michael Keaton as Marco in Porco Rosso, or Cary Elwes as Baron Humbert von Gikkingen in Whisper of the heart and The cat returns.
9 Relatable protagonists allow viewers to connect with stories
Even if the film is about a banished prince, a group of raccoon dogs (tanuki), or a 13-year-old delivery witch, viewers may find something they associate with the protagonists of the Ghibli films.
In Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka tries to be a peacekeeper, pompoko tanuki fight for their environment, and in Kiki’s Delivery Service, Kiki is just trying to find her own place in the world. They’re three wildly different films, but just about anyone can find them relevant, even decades after these films were made.
8 Brilliant sheet music elevates art
Ghibli’s most prominent musical composer is Joe Hisaishi, whose work can be found in all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, including his upcoming adaptation of How do you live?. Thanks to Hisaishi, the scores of Castle in THE sky, My neighbor Totoro, and Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle are as recognizable and comforting as Totoro himself.
Michio Mamiya, Katz Hoshi, Shigeru Nagata, Yuji Nomi, Akiko Yano, Tamiya Terashima, Cécile Corbel, Satoshi Takebe, Takatsugu Muramatsu and the Shang Shang Typhoon group have also created beautiful scores for Ghibli over the years.
seven Lively food always makes your mouth water
One of the most satisfying aspects of any Ghibli film, the design and animation of various foods throughout the movies can only be described as “food porn”.
Of those huge slices of bacon that make your mouth water Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle (even if they were just sitting on a table for who knows how long) to the simple beauty of homemade ramen in Ponyo; food is always a highlight for viewers, as most food in Western animations mostly looks like a pile of porridge.
6 Loose narratives make characters’ lives deeper
It’s often said that it’s hard to describe the plots of Ghibli movies, and there’s some truth to that. Even when adapted from other works, Ghibli films tend to keep the story free and unfettered.
Although Ponyo is based on The little Mermaid, the film is more about a magical little girl turned magical fish whose powers have real-world consequences as she gets a taste of human life. Movies often have a setup and a conclusion, but the bulk of movies are about the character’s experiences.
5 Compelling female characters that put other studios to shame
What sets Studio Ghibli apart from other animation studios is the care they take to create compelling and admirable young female leads. The term “strong female character” is thrown around a lot, but it’s far too superficial an assessment of the women and girls of Studio Ghibli.
Fierce and principled characters like San and Lady Eboshi from Princess Mononoke or heroines who regain their confidence like Haru from The cat returns or Chihiro in Taken away as if by magic is one of the best Studio Ghibli characters.
4 Distinctive character designs that enrich the mind
While some Ghibli films are highly stylized and distinct from the rest of the studio’s library, most films tend to follow a similar character art style. Despite this, Ghibli’s designers and animators do a great job of distinguishing the film’s various characters from each other and making visual choices that make each film unique.
The robots of Castle in THE sky, faceless from Taken away as if by magic, the spirit of the forest Princess Mononoke, and Totoro himself are some of Ghibli’s most special designs.
3 Use of space in his visual world
Ghibli films are so rich and enduring, in part because of the incredible world-building each film creates. Even at Isao Takahata The Story of Princess Kaguya Where Our neighbors the Yamada, which draw on simplistic watercolor and comic book-inspired backgrounds, the world-building is enhanced by the sense of space.
Other Ghibli films follow the more traditional route but still manage to electrify the screen, such as the massive airships of Castle in THE sky or the Borrower’s cottage in Arrietty.
2 A piece of humanity in every frame
There’s an infamous quote from Hayao Miyazaki in 2016 where, after seeing a demo of an AI-created animation, he said, “I would never wish to incorporate this technology into my work at all. I firmly believe this is an insult to life itself.”
When sitting down to watch a Ghibli or Miyazaki movie, any viewer can see the care the Ghibli animators put into every frame. The films resonate with Miyazaki’s responsibility to visualize humanity, like, for example, Ghibli’s iconic giant teardrops.
1 They don’t need “parent jokes” to please adults
What really sets Studio Ghibli films apart from American animation studios is the complete lack of sly jokes that are aimed directly at the parents of children watching their films. There are plenty of kids’ movies with winks and jokes that kids will understand when they’re older.
For Ghibli films, these tactics are unnecessary due to the captivating stories and high-quality production of the films themselves. The Ghibli films elevate animated films, making it more than just a kids’ movie to throw jokes at. The timelessness of Studio Ghibli films makes them just as enjoyable for children as they are for adults.
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