Spirited Away, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, produced by Studio Ghibli.
The Short Version
This weekend, fall into the strange and wonderful world of Hayao Miyazaki.
The Plot in a Nutshell
Ten-year-old Chihiro’s parents are making her move to a new neighborhood, and she doesn’t want to. When her parents are magically transformed into pigs, she is plunged into a world of bizarre creatures and magical happenings.
When I was five years old, my most cherished possession was a VHS tape of The Little Mermaid. I watched the film so many times that the tape began to sport the tell-tale band of gray fuzz across the top—indeed, I watched it so often that even today I can clearly picture the location of the television in the room and exactly how the gray fuzzband looked during the final scene of the movie.
I suspect that animated films hold special charm for those of us who grew up during the Disney animation renaissance—a decade that saw the release of films like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King (you know, the 2014 Broadway line-up). And despite knowing now that Beauty and the Beast is a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome, and that Aladdin is pretty racist, and oh boy let’s not even get into Pocahontas, I still feel the old childhood excitement when it comes to animation. The movies I love may have changed, but the medium has stayed the same.
That’s because animation is cool. If you can imagine it, animation can make it happen. Want to see a dinosaur? Here’s Gertie the Dinosaur, a 1914 production that’s also one of the earliest animated films.
But no one has brought more magic and delight to animation than Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. When Studio Ghibli announced last month that they were restructuring and potentially closing, the internet erupted in a collective spasm of sorrow. Although that news has been tempered in more recent weeks, the future of the studio is still uncertain.
So it’s in honor of Miyazaki, who retired this year, and Studio Ghibli that I suggest a re-viewing of your favorite Miyazaki movie—and if you haven’t seen one yet, my personal favorite is Spirited Away.
The weird, unbridled creativity found in Miyazaki’s films is at full steam in Spirited Away. He has a trick of making a normal world magical and strange again, of reminding one of the corners and edges of one’s daydreams and forgotten imaginings. This is evident not only in the settings—all beautiful—but also in the characters themselves. No-face, for example, is one of the most memorable characters in film for me.
Think casual whimsy.
Although Miyazaki’s films often have dark turns and themes, the surface usually has a certain effervescence to it. That effervescence makes champagne the perfect accompaniment for your Studio Ghibli date night.
Why not skip dinner and go straight to dessert? Go to your favorite bakery and put together an attractive tray of delicious sweets. Serve with fruit.