Studio Ghibli Proves There is Always a Place for 2D Animation
While traditionally developed, 2-dimensional animation has been an important part of filmmaking culture since the popularization led by Disney, but most recent trends have shown a shift towards computer-modeled 3-dimensional animation. Two-dimensional animation is not dead yet, though. With films such as Frozen, Toy Story, and Zootopia shattering all sorts of records and reaching a level of popularity that most live-action media would kill for, it is important to remember that 2D animation can still be an incredibly powerful and moving art form and is likely to always have a place in the global zeitgeist.
Disney might be the most well known in this medium, at least in the western world, but Japan’s Studio Ghibli has also held an import place on the animation podium since its founding in 1985. Formed by two men who would become known as some of the greatest artists in their field, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli has shown itself to be a dominant force in the often maligned, misunderstood, and overlooked field of Japanese anime.
While there are many styles that make up anime as a whole, it is usually thought to be characterized by large eyes and Japanese schoolgirls, an observation that, while sometimes accurate, undersells the vast variation and individual flavor that is injected into each project. This is especially evident when the projects come from places such as Studio Ghibli, which focus on large projects, rather than mass produced serials.
Spirited Away: One of Studio Ghibli’s Biggest Hits
Studio Ghibli is so popular in Japan that of the 15 highest-grossing anime films in Japan, Ghibli is responsible for eight. In addition to winning vast numbers of awards within Japan, the popularity of some of these projects has also caused them to be nominated for several prestigious international awards, with five nominations for Academy Awards and one win for Best Animated Feature, with the 2001 Miyazaki written and directed ‘Spirited Away.’ In fact, ‘Spirited Away’ was the first film in Japan to overtake the records set by James Cameron’s ‘Titanic,’ to give you some indication of its popularity.
So, what makes this company and their projects so popular and beloved? Many, including Miyazaki himself, put it down to their focus on original and touching storytelling. In fact, while Miyazaki has had an enormously important role in shaping anime as a whole, he often derides the mass-produced anime of today, which he believes has become overly formulaic and profit-obsessed. Instead, what Studio Ghibli tries to do is create relatable tales set in fantastic and often bizarre worlds, often mirroring the alienation and isolation that many of us feel in an impersonal modern society.
If you have an interest in animated movies but have yet to take a look at the offerings from Studio Ghibli, you could start with two of the most popular crossover hits in ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Princess Mononoke.’ ‘Spirited Away’ tells the story of ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino and her adventures in an alternate world filled with the supernatural. This story has often been compared to Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.’ ‘Princess Mononoke,’ on the other hand, is set during Japan’s later Muromachi period and follows the story of a young warrior involved in a conflict between forest gods and the encroaching humans who threaten their homes and resources.
Despite the recent retirement of founder Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli maintains their dedication to well written and beautifully animated films, so don’t forget, while Disney, Pixar ,and Dreamworks may be the most common names in the area of animated films, you shouldn’t count out the foreign competition. Any fan of animation who hasn’t seen the offerings from Studio Ghibli is missing not only fantastic stories, but an important part of animation history. If this sounds like you, you know what to do.