A guide to Studio Ghibli animation: Flying in and out of Miyazaki's spirit worlds
To call the work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki fairy tales would be simplistic; his films (and to some extent those made by others in his fold) pit the forces of nature and the manmade world against one another in fantastical and sometimes strange and confounding ways. But despite the clash inherent in these scripts, Miyazaki's sense of wonder is a constant, and that's just one reason why his exquisitely hand-drawn animations are so beloved around the world.
A scene from Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo."
Intrigued? Then thank the Denver Film Society for its fall film series "Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli," which kicks off tonight at the Denver FilmCenter with an array of films in brand-new 35mm prints on the big screen and continues with changing programs through mid-October.
The Academy Award-winning Spirited Away is considered Miyazaki's masterpiece, so it's a good place to start -- and always worth seeing again.
And you can -- what follows is a sneak peek at some our other favorites in the series. For a complete schedule, visit the DFS online.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Hayao Miyazaki, 1984
Nausicaä, Miyazaki's first feature-length film, is an epic tale and the first of many stories revolving around a resolute young female protagonist. Inthis case, she's a princess caught in a future world overrun by noxious gases and a fearful but misunderstood herd of giant caterpillar-like creatures called the Ohmu. It's a film of great beauty, and the recurring idea of human flight -- in this case, on gliders -- also makes an early appearance.
Castle in the Sky, Hayao Miyazaki, 1986
Miyazaki's first film under the Studio Ghibli banner, Castle features a boy and a girl with magical powers and comic relief via an airborne pirate queen named Dola and her protective pack of pirate sons, all marooned on Laputa, the last of a network of floating cities in the sky brought to ruin. The girl, Sheeta, possesses a powerful crystal amulet that comes in handy as she and the boy, Pazu, discover the secrets of the long-abandoned city; Dola stands as one of many magical and sometimes dangerous grannies who people Miyazaki's worlds.
Our Studio Ghibli guide continues on the next page