Japan’s Studio Ghibli is one of the world’s great animation studios. American film audiences are in for a treat this year because film distributor GKIDS along with Fathom Events are presenting Studio Ghibli Fest 2017, a six-film retrospective where they will screen one Studio Ghibli film a month in participating theatres across the U.S.A. through November 2017. Last month’s film was the 1988 classic My Neighbor Totoro.
All films selected for Studio Ghibli Fest 2017 were directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki. The six films are My Neighbor Totoro (which was screened on June 25 and 26 and is the impetus for this post), Kiki’s Delivery Service (July 23 and 24), Castle in the Sky (August 27 and 28), Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind (September 24 and 25), Spirited Away (October 29 and 30), and Howl’s Moving Castle (November 26 and 27). As you’ll see on a calendar, the screenings take place on consecutive Sundays and Mondays with the Sunday screenings being an English dub version of the film and Monday screenings being the English subtitle version. I purchased tickets for all six films at a discounted price at Cinemark.com (my local participating theater). More info about the festival is at the Fathom Events website
If you’ve never seen My Neighbor Totoro, you really should. It’s an incredibly charming and beautiful treatise on the wonder of childhood and is probably my favorite Studio Ghibli film. Getting to see a pristine digital print of this film on the big screen was a dream come true. The trademark animation from director Hayao Miyazaki and the supremely talented artists at Studio Ghibli continues to inspire. I was particularly moved this time by seeing the gorgeous watercolor backgrounds used in the film’s production super-sized on the big screen. Check out this video of the film’s art director Kazuo Oga painting in watercolor and you’ll get a taste for the tremendous artistry at work here.
Another treat was to hear the film’s marvelous soundtrack on the great stereo system at my local Cinemark theater. Composer Joe Hisaishi, who is often referred to as the “John Williams of Japan,” has over 100 film scores under his belt, and his score for My Neighbor Totoro is just plain magic in the best sense of the word. (I loved hearing this music again so much, I’ve been listening daily to the film’s soundtrack on Apple Music since the screening.) Here’s a video with Joe Hisaishi at the piano playing “The Path of the Wind,” one of memorable musical themes from the film.
I also learned at the screening that when My Neighbor Totoro made its cinematic debut in Japan, it was a double feature. The film was paired with another Studio Ghibli film–Isao Takahata’s beautiful and devastating Grave of the Fireflies. (My Neighbor Totoro has a running time of 86 minutes and Grave of the Firefiles is 90 minutes; I hope that Firefiles was screened first, but I don’t believe that was the case).After the film’s screening, I recorded a podcast with my friend and prolific film reviewer Rachel Wagner. You can check out our Totoro podcast here.
My Neighbor Totoro kicked off GKIDS’ Studio Ghibli Fest 2017 in a perfect way. I can’t wait to experience the rest of these wonderful Studio Ghibli films on the big screen in the months ahead. I hope you’ll join me, too. Follow me on Twitter and let’s discuss all things Studio Ghibli (#StudioGhibliFest).
A version of this post is also available on the Animation Fascination blog.