Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsOne company that’s internationally renowned for making films with child protagonists; about childhood; and featuring the journeys and alternative worlds that are widely held staples of children’s film - note that I’m studiously avoiding the tricky phrase ‘children’s films’ - is Japan’s Studio Ghibli. Pronounced akin to ji-bu-ri in Japan, it is often sounded as jib-ly in English-speaking countries. Like most truly famous entities historically,

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 secondsit often goes by a single name: Ghibli. Ghibli was founded in 1985, by the directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and the producer Toshio Suzuki. The company’s works – most famously, their anime (or animated) feature films - have trickled across the globe, both with English subtitles and dubbed into languages other than Japanese. Like ‘children’s films’, ‘anime’ has complex and contested definitions traced by writers such as Jonathan Clements, Thomas LaMarre and Rayna Denison. For the purposes of this session though, we are talking about animated, feature-length films made in Japan. A script is developed, characters and costumes are determined, and a storyboard is created outlining the plot and including the key frames.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 secondsThen individual frames and backgrounds are hand-drawn by animators then filmed and edited together with the audio material such as dialogue, sound effects and theme music. CGI (computer generated images) are used only occasionally by Ghibli. The blog Ghibli Gabble takes screenshots from ‘The making of Only Yesterday’ featurette to illustrate the process. You can check it out by following the link provided. Despite a slower rate of releases in recent years; Miyazaki’s semi-retirement since 2014; and the death of Takahata in Spring 2018, Ghibli’s growing international fame is such that in the UK, for example, their films are increasingly shown in cinemas directly on their release. Meanwhile, films from their back catalogue are the subject of Ghibli seasons in arthouse and independent cinemas.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 secondsYou might have heard of some of their most

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 secondsfamous, classic titles: My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away. In 2017, the Film4 summer screen at London’s Somerset House hosted a screening of Totoro complete with a pre-show set from Ghibli disciple DJ Norsicaa. Have we whetted your appetite?

What is Studio Ghibli?

Studio Ghibli is a well-established, world-leading company from Japan. They are most famous for their animated films. Let Sarah Olive introduce you.

But don’t just take our word on Studio Ghibli. They’re regularly written about in the film sections of newspapers internationally as well as studied in university film departments. Below are a few snippets from them about Ghibli’s history and the principles and practices of its founding fathers:

‘“Ghibli” is inspired by the Arabic word for the hot, dry winds that blow across the Mediterranean from the Sahara Desert, a term that Miyazaki had found in an aviation textbook. The intention was that, as with a sirocco, so the Studio would blow fresh air into the Japanese film industry… Miyazaki recommends that parents should restrict their children to watching his films only once a year so that the experience of watching them becomes a memory to be treasured, and dislikes the notion of children consuming too much media’. Telegraph

‘Studio Ghibli…has frequently been described as Japan’s answer to Disney. It’s perhaps closer to the truth to call it Japan’s antidote to Disney. Studio Ghibli’s lush, hand-drawn, 2-D animation, disregard for Hollywood narrative formulae and guiding philosophy—that animated films can be for grown-ups—are sadly foreign concepts in the paradigm of modern animation’ The Economist

‘Like Miyazaki, Takahata’s films feature children and childhood, and depict the childlike in such sensitive ways, they are never childish nor made only for a children’s audience. Rather they speak to the commonality of experience for adults and children, and use the emphases on everyday gesture that animation so powerfully amplifies – the cutting of fruit, a baby pursuing frogs, picking a flower, placing a comforting hand on a shoulder – to communicate universal themes and connections…He noted that drawing always suggests the hand that creates the image, and as such, the human feeling that resides within it, and might be shared. He argued, too, that drawing always reminded him of the resourcefulness, energy and vulnerability of the child, which he tried to show in his films…Takahata observed that he didn’t believe audiences watched live action films carefully, but that animation forced them to do so, because it produced reality more solidly than it actually is’. Paul Wells, The Conversation

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This video is from the free online course:

Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture

University of York