The Ultimate Studio Ghibli Film Guide: 2016-2020?

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The Ultimate Studio Ghibli Film Guide:
1984 - 1989 | 1991 - 1994 | 1995 - 1999 | 2000 - 2004 | 2005 - 2010 | 2011 - 2015| 2015+

By 2015 Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli1 had truly established itself as being at the forefront of traditional cel-animated magical films since becoming the first studio to win the Best Animated Film Oscar for a film not originally in English for their phenomenal film Spirited Away (2001). The studio had been founded by two animators, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, alongside producer Toshio Suzuki.

Studio Ghibli films emphasise themes of belonging to one's environment, peace, magic, hard work, wonder, flight, strong and wise elderly women and determined young girls. The spirituality of all living things, as emphasised in Shinto polytheistic beliefs and customs, is particularly significant; all animal and plant life is respected. Heroes use environmentally methods of transport, travelling on important journeys by train while those who cycle can be relied upon. Other key themes include transformation and heroines often share a magical flying experience with their heroes. Recuperation and taking time to take stock of you place in life is also vital.

Miyazaki is a Europhile, and many of his films have European features. This includes both architecture and aircraft. Art nouveau and vehicles from the 1920s-1950s are strong artistic influences and frequently appear, with novels from that period also likely to be adapted.

Studio Ghibli's future was once again in question as both founding directors Takahata and Miyazaki were growing older and had announced their retirement – several times in the case of Miyazaki. Oscar-nominated director Hiromasa Yonebayashi who had made two films for Ghibli and been hoped to continue the studio's success, founded his own company, Studio Ponoc, in 2015 and enjoyed critical success with its debut Mary and the Witch's Flower, made with many Ghibli animators and retaining much of Ghibli's charm. Having announced a moratorium on animation production, was the end approaching for the Studio Ghibli story?

The Films

Below is a summary of Studio Ghibli's films during this period. Also mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more named female characters who have a conversation together that does not focus on one or more men. As well as the original Japanese actors to voice each character, the English actors are also listed.

22. The Red Turtle (2016)

DirectorMichaël Dudok de Wit

A castaway is washed up alone on a desert island after a violent storm. His initial attempts to escape by building a raft and sailing beyond the horizon are all scuppered when his rafts are destroyed one-by-one by an initially unseen force, later revealed to be a red turtle. After his third raft is destroyed and he has completed the long swim back to shore, the man sees the red turtle lying on the beach and seeks revenge by attacking it and tipping it onto its back, where it is trapped.

The man later takes pity on the turtle and attempts to rescue it, only to be unable to tip it back before it dies, later transforming into a woman who he nurses back to life. Together they enjoy life on the island and raise a son, while surviving the forces of nature.

Length77 minutes
SettingDesert island
Dramatis Personæ
  • Man
  • Woman, transformed from being a red turtle
  • Their Son
English ReleaseN/A

This film is Studio Ghibli's first international collaboration. The origin of this film began after Miyazaki was impressed by Dutch director Michaël Dudok de Wit's Oscar-winning animated short Father and Daughter (2008) and wanted to collaborate with him as well as distribute his short film in Japan. They agreed to collaborate with European distributor Wild Bunch, French production company Why Not Productions and Belgian animation studio Belvision Corporation3.

Having a different director and made largely in Belgium this film still has many Ghibli traits. The man, woman and child still very much live in harmony with their environment, with there being something of the friendly soot sprites about the behaviour of the small crabs on the beach. Everyone works hard to survive. The theme of transformation is found in the titular red turtle itself, and there is a sequence of flying when the man and woman fall in love. Like most Studio Ghibli films the story is set at a coastal location – in this case a deserted island. Coastlines are, by being the place where the opposing elements of land and sea meet and merge to form a place that is by definition both, magical.

The film was critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated, losing to Disney's Zootropolis.

The Future

In 2018 Isao Takahata passed away.

1Pronounced 'Jib-Lee'.2There is no dialogue and none of the characters are named, however there are two male and only one female character.3Best known for animating Tintin films and working on Asterix the Gaul and Asterix and Cleopatra (both 1967) and Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods (2014).

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