RETRO REVIEW: Flying Castles, Forest Spirits, and Valleys of Winds: Midtown Art’s Studio Ghibli Collection April 13-19, 2018

by Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

Do you remember the first anime film you ever saw? The chances are fairly high that whichever one popped in your head, it was a Studio Ghibli production. Prior to the mid-’80s, anime films did not receive wide releases that spanned continents and instead found moderate success at home in Japan. This all changed very quickly upon the release of Hayao Miyazaki’s NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND in 1984, a film that garnered massive financial success in Japan and international critical acclaim. Encouraged by the success of NAUSICAA, Miyazaki, along with fellow director Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki, have created 21 films for Studio Ghibli since its inception, with at least one more directed by Miyazaki in the works.

The Studio Ghibli films are often the first exposure many Americans have to feature-length Japanese animation and have garnered beloved cult cinema status for many fans in the U.S. If you consider yourself to be one of these fans, then you will be delighted to learn that Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema will be screening eight Studio Ghibli classics, starting Friday April 13 and running through Thursday April 19. And if you have a friend that has yet to have met King Totoro, No-Face, and all manner of talking cats and warrior princesses, this is the perfect opportunity to show them the wonders of the world of Ghibli right here in Atlanta!

SPIRITED AWAY (2001) (4/13 & 4/17) The young protagonist Chihiro is based in part on the 10-year-old daughter of a friend of Miyazaki’s. Meeting her inspired Miyazaki to craft a new film despite the fact that he was considering retirement at the time. Chihiro and her parents come across what appears to be an abandoned theme park in the country. Unbeknownst to them, the pavilion is really an otherworldly bathhouse that plays host to demons, gods and spirits of all kinds. It falls upon to Chihiro to save her family and escape the clutches of the most powerful spirits.

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984) (4/13 & 4/16). Technically speaking, this film precedes the formation of Studio Ghibli by a year, with Nausicaa being released in 1985 and the studio being created in 1986. Thousands of years after nuclear war has ravaged the Earth, a peaceful princess becomes embroiled in a battle to save her land from both the the poisonous jungle that borders her kingdom and the violent and power hungry political factions that lie just beyond.

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (2004) (4/14 & 4/18). Actor Christian Bale was so impressed after seeing SPIRITED AWAY that he expressed interest in playing any role in the English dub of HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, no matter how small. He ended up voicing the male lead. A curse laid by a petty witch onto young and insecure Sophie turns the 18-year-old into an elderly woman. Sophie soon discovers that the spell can be reversed, and her plan leads her to a powerful, mysterious wizard and his flying castle.

PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997) (4/14 & 4/18) holds the title of being the most expensive anime film ever produced at the time, having cost around $23.5 million to create. This investment paid off, as it went on to out-gross E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) and become the most profitable film in Japan until the release of TITANIC (1997). A young woman raised by wolves leads her fellow woodland creatures in rebellion against the industrial town that seeks to vanquish them. She is aided by a warrior from far out west who seeks a remedy for the curse that has befallen him.

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (4/15 & 4/19). The character of King Totoro became so beloved that sales of plush toys in his likeness boosted profits for the film considerably, and he went on to become the official Studio Ghibli mascot. Two sisters find themselves in an unfamiliar environment after their family moves to the countryside for the health of their ill mother where they come across a playful bunch of nature spirits, led by the lovable King Totoro, who bring joy and adventure into the girl’s lives.

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989) (4/15 & 4/19). This film can be considered a work of alternate historical fiction, as it is set in an unnamed European town where neither World War I or World War II took place. Upon turning 13 years old, apprentice witch Kiki leaves home for the city with her feline companion Jiji to learn the two most important skills a young witch can master: flying on one’s broomstick and personal independence.

THE WIND RISES (2013) (4/16). Miyazaki stated that he had never cried upon watching one of his own films, until seeing THE WIND RISES for the first time. A biopic that chronicles the life of Japanese aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi from his childhood dreams of aviation to his rise to success as an engineer, as well as the romance and war that come to shape his world.

CASTLE IN THE SKY (1986) (4/17). The titular castle drew inspiration from both the airborne island found in Jonathan Swift’s novel GULLIVER”S TRAVELS and the real life Paronella Park located in Far North Queensland, Australia. After a young boy befriends a mysterious girl he finds hovering in the sky, he is drawn into an aeronautical adventure filled with pirates, airborne ships, and a floating island that may hold the key to discovering the girl’s true identity.

Purchase advance tickets here.

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