"Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" began as a manga, but Hayao Miyazaki's story became incredibly popular, and an animated film was released in 1984. Nausicaä, a brave, glider-flying princess, lives in a valley with strong winds that protect its inhabitants from a sea of toxic spores and giant insects. When a warship crashes in the valley and invades Nausicaä's home, she sets out to prevent war and find a solution to the ecological crisis. (Studio Ghibli)Link
Miyazaki's love of flight is explored in "Castle in the Sky," a lush fantasy about a young boy and girl who battle air pirates in a quest to find a mysterious floating island. (Studio Ghibli)Link
The furry monster from Miyazaki's "My Neighbor Totoro" is available everywhere as a stuffed animal, making it the most visible symbol of Ghibli's marketing prowess. This is Miyazaki's Mickey Mouse. (Studio Ghibli)Link
"Porco Rosso," released in 1992, follows its title character, a daredevil bounty hunter, who acquired his porcine, if bogartian, alter ego after losing his friends in wartime. Porco pilots his beautiful red seaplane high above the Adriatic while a beautiful nightclub singer waits below. (Studio Ghibli)Link
"Ocean Waves" was a TV movie that was the first Studio Ghibli film to not be directed by Miyazaki or Takahata. Ghibli attempted to make a film about a high school love triangle, that could be done cheaply with all the animators in their 20s and 30s.Link
The 1994 film "Pom Poko" chronicles a group of tanuki, raccoon-like creatures from Japanese folklore who possess skills of illusion that allow them to shape-shift. The tanuki mount a resistance when their forest home is threatened by suburban development. (Studio Ghibli)Link
"Princess Mononoke" (1997) tells the story of a young man afflicted with a curse that gives him extraordinary power on the battlefield but will lead to his eventual death. This lush fantasy follows his quest to stop the curse from claiming his life. (Studio Ghibli)Link
A teenage girl's struggle to become independent is the central theme of "Kiki's Delivery Service." Miyazaki's film follows a 13-year-old witch in training whose sole talent is her ability to fly her broom.Link
The breakout hit "Spirited Away" out-grossed "Titanic" in Japan and won an Oscar for best animated feature. It tells the story of a young girl stranded in a bathhouse for Shinto gods after her parents are turned into pigs. (Studio Ghibli)Link
Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, "Howl's Moving Castle" is the story of a teenage girl named Sophie, hexed with an old woman's body, who seeks out handsome wizard Howl in her quest to reverse the curse. (Studio Ghibli)Link
Some of Hayao Miyazaki’s most popular films — including “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Princess Mononoke” — are returning to the big screen as part of a Studio Ghibli retrospective hosted by the American Cinematheque.
It’s a return engagement after last year’s series at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica enjoyed sold-out screenings. The retrospective begins Friday at the Egyptian with a double feature of the Academy Award-winning “Spirited Away” and the tanuki tale “Pom Poko” — two of 11 films being showcased through Feb. 10.
Miyazaki could be considered Japan’s answer to Walt Disney. Studio Ghibli — founded in 1985 by Miyazaki, his mentor Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki — releases films that are immensely popular in Japan and have been growing in recognition in the United States. The films are known for their fantasy and magical realism, their hand-drawn look and their remarkable attention to detail.
“I once asked Miyazaki-san if all that effort put into a shot that goes by in a split-second was really worth it,” former Walt Disney Studios executive Steve Alpert, who handled Ghibli’s overseas division for 15 years and is now semi-retired, told Hero Complex last year. “He told me, ‘You may not think you see it, but you feel it.’”
Returning films also include “Spirited Away,” “Pom Poko,” “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” “Porco Rosso,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Castle in the Sky” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” New to the retrospective are “Whisper of the Heart” and 2008’s “Ponyo.”
“Whisper of the Heart,” adapted from a manga, is the story of a shy girl finding her voice, and “Ponyo” is about a little boy who finds a goldfish princess who longs to be human — a story loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” Click through the gallery above to read about each of the films in the retrospective.
The screening series includes several double features and family-friendly matinee screenings. General admission tickets are $11 and can be purchased at the American Cinematheque’s website.
– Noelene Clark
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