My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, The Journey of Chihiro: all the films produced by the Japanese animation studio, Ghibli, are coming to Netflix between February 1st and April 1st, 2020! For the purists or those who would like to discover them properly, we offer you a short review of the masterpieces of Hayao Miyazaki and his colleagues in chronological order.
Appropriations: Studio Ghibli.
In response to the launch of Disney+, Netflix has delighted cartoon fans by announcing the inclusion in its thick catalogue of all films produced by the legendary Japanese animation studio, Ghibli. The 21 films – which do not include the co-production La Tortue Rouge but include Nausicaä de la Vallée du vent, which was released before the creation of the studio – are added to the Tombeau des Lucioles, already present since last December in the French menu of the streaming platform. As a reminder, they will be integrated in waves of seven, on the first day of the next three months. The Journal du Geek returns to this monumental filmography, for all those who would like to see them again or discover them in their original chronological order of release.
Ghibli Studio was founded in June 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, two former directors of animated films and animated series for Toei Animation, as well as producer Toshio Suzuki and the publisher of Animationmagazine. But within the catalogue of the famous studio is a feature film that was made and distributed before its foundation. Originally created as a manga for the magazine Animation, Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of Wind Valley was developed as a feature-length animated film for Toei, then Japan’s largest animation studio, in 1984.
Second film directed by Miyazaki after having taken up the adventures of the character of Arsène Lupin III in The Castle of Cagliostro, this post-apocalyptic fresco has all the themes that will mark the career of the Japanese director and the future studio : a female heroine as protagonist, airplanes and other aircraft, the denunciation of the degradation of nature by human selfishness, etc.. At the time of its release, Nausicaä stands out above all by its narration. This one is much more mature than the majority of animation works of the time, which were more oriented towards children.
His immense success at the Japanese box office gave Miyazaki and his mates wings and convinced them to take flight on their own. The analogy of flight is not insignificant: to name their new studio, Miyazaki borrows the name of an Italian fighter plane, used during the Second World War. Also in reference to the other name of the sirocco in the Arabic language, Ghibli then takes for goal to blow a fresh wind on the landscape of Japanese animation by favoring only feature films (in opposition to the series and OAVs favored by the giant Toei) dreamy, certainly, but more mature.
- Nausicaä de la Vallée du vent (1984) joins the French Netflix catalogue on March 1, 2020.
The studio’s first official film was released in 1986 under the name Château dans le ciel (in its French version). Directed once again by Hayao Miyazaki, he makes his mark more by his fairy tale than by the maturity of his writing, but manages to transport the spectator. Miyazaki takes us to the forgotten floating city of Laputa, always with the help of more inventive aircraft, in a beautiful tribute to his father, an aeronautical engineer. This mirror of Atlantis is an illustration of the restorative beauty of nature in the absence of man and the damage of his megalomania.
After a first commercial success, the studio tries the bet to release its next two films on the same day, April 16, 1988. This challenge allows him to offer two radically opposed film genres without concession. The first is The Tomb of the Fireflies, by Isao Takahata. It tells the tragic story of a brother and his little sister, left to their own devices at the end of the Second World War. The hard-line approach discourages families from going to see him with their children and makes him a bitter box-office failure. Fortunately, the studio’s challenge paid off. My Totoro Neighbourhood, centred on the encounter of two sisters with a fantastic creature called Totoro, attracts younger audiences and is a big hit in Japanese theatres. From then on, Totoro’s face became the emblem of the studio.
While the “japanimation” on the big screen comes out of the shadows with the Ghibli productions or the film adaptation of the manga Akira, Miyazaki’s studio closes the decade with lightness. Kiki, the little witch comes out in 1989. Thanks to its protagonist, a young girl in full emancipation, this fourth film – like Nausicaä before it – will serve as a precursor to the studio’s biggest hits in the next two decades.
- The Castle in the Sky (1986) – February 1st
- The Tomb of Fireflies (1988) – already available since 1 December 2019
- My Neighbour Totoro (1988) – 1 February
- Kiki the Little Witch (1989) – February
The first half of the 1990s was not the most striking period for the studio that is now known as the Japanese Walt Disney Pictures. And it won’t be for nothing, either. In 1991, the director of the tragic Tombeau des Lucioles proposes a film that is just as adult but less morose. Drip Memories is closer to a romantic drama. Filled with flashbacks, the film stops many times on the youth of a protagonist who, as she grows up, becomes a melancholy woman. The following year, Hayao Miyazaki evokes a kind of nostalgic sadness with Porco Rosso, his genius Mediterranean aviator transformed into a man-pig after the war and its atmosphere close to the Casablanca of 1942.
In 1993, Studio Ghibli took on a new challenge with the making of the TV movie, I can hear the ocean. This love triangle is the first studio project not to be directed by Miyazaki or Takahata. The latter prefer to entrust the helm to the young facilitators, to test them. In 1994, Ghibli proposed Pompoko, a rather youth-oriented film about a community of raccoon dogs (or ” tanuki“, in Japan), animals close to raccoons, polymorphs. Then, a year later, the founders of the studio think they have found their successor with the young Yoshifumi Kondo and his film Si tu tend l’oreille. However, Kondo died of a ruptured aneurysm in 1998.
Prior to that, in July 1996, Studio Ghibli signed a contract with the Walt Disney Company, granting it the distribution rights for its films outside Japan (and more precisely, via Buena Vista France, here at home). This is a first for the studio, most of whose work had not previously been released outside its home country. To mark the occasion and face adult animated films such as Ghost In The Shell (1995) or Perfect Blue (1998), Hayao Miyazaki unveiled one of his most ambitious projects the following year: Princess Mononoke. This ecological fable, immersed in a fantastic medieval Japan, breaks all the records of Japanese cinema. At the time, it was the country’s biggest annual commercial success and its revenues were the best for a Japanese film.
When Yoshifumi Kondo died in 1998, the studio was in mourning. Miyazaki announces, for the first time, his retirement. One year later, Isao Takahata directed Mes voisins, les Yamadas, a film with sketches that contrasted with the studio’s now established graphic and narrative styles. To emerge from the fog in the following decade, Miyazaki nevertheless announced that he would return to the rescue with what many today consider his most emblematic work.
- Drip Memories (1991) – February
- Porco Rosso (1992) – 1 February
- I can hear the ocean (1993) – February
- Pompoko (1994) – 1 April
- If you reach for your ear (1995) – April
- Princess Mononoke (1997) – 1 March
- My Neighbours the Yamadas (1999) – March
If Ghibli studio is the Japanese Disney and Miyazaki is his Walt Disney, then this film is probably his equivalent of Lion King. In 2001, The Journey of Chihiro was released in Japan’s cinemas and conquered everyone. The initiatory journey of a little girl trapped in a magical dimension even breaks the record set four years earlier by Princess Mononoke. To this day, it remains the biggest success in the history of Japanese box office.
Ghibli is then at the top of the animation world. The following years saw the successive releases of Cats Kingdom, a spin-off of If You Listen led by an outsider, Hiroyuki Morita, and then Hayao Miyazaki’s Walking Castle , dealing with war and the negative effects of power on people’s lives. In 2006, his son, Goro Miyazaki, directed his first animated film, Les Contes de Terremer. Adapted from the novels of Ursula Le Guin, relating an imaginary world where magic is based on the knowledge of words, this film is, perhaps, the first to be openly inspired by the studio’s previous works – in particular, Nausicaä and Mononoké.
In 2008, Miyazaki Sr. returns with his tenth film, the eighth for Ghibli. Ponyo on the cliff closes this decade with a story closer to the tale, which borrows from The Little Mermaid.
- The Journey of Chihiro (2001) – March
- The Kingdom of Cats (2002) – 1 March
- Le Château ambulant (2004) – April
- The Tales of Terremer (2006) – February 1st
- Ponyo on the Cliff (2008) – April
Twenty-five years after its creation, Studio Ghibli is gradually detaching itself from its founders. In 2010, the young animator, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, made his first film under the aegis of the studio with Arrietty, the little world of thethieves, inspired by the children’s books written by Mary Norton, Les Chapardeurs. In 2011, Goro Miyazaki signs La Colline aux coquelicots, where a brother and sister, separated for many years, meet for the first time.
In 2013, the two founders, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata (who died in 2018) are making their last two films to date. The former is once again inspired by his family heritage and his passion for airplanes with Le vent se levève, a love story between a true aeronautical engineer, Jiro Horikoshi, and a woman suffering from chronic pneumonia. The second, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, with a graphic style closer to pencil, is inspired by one of the oldest stories of Japanese folklore. Then, in 2014, the young prodigy behind Arrietty signs Memories of Marnie, a story of friendship between two young girls, one of whom is trapped in a mysterious mansion.
- Arrietty, the little world of thieves (2010) – March 1st
- Poppy Hill (2011) – April
- The Wind is Rising (2013) – April 1st
- The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013) – March 1,
- Memories of Marnie (2014) – April
In the middle of 2010, Studio Ghibli encounters a new period of turmoil. In 2015, the producer of Kaguya, Yoshiaki Nishimura, leaves the studio to found his own animation company with some of Ghibli’s young talent. The studio Ponoc (which comes from the Serbo-Croatian word for “midnight”) releases Mary and the Witch’s Flower, with the former young hopeful from the Ghibli studio, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, at the helm.
Meanwhile, the Miyazaki studio’s dominance in animated features is rivaled by films such as The Boy and the Beastin 2015 and the resounding success of Your Name in 2016. So much so that the legendary director decides to interrupt a new early retirement in 2017 to announce what will perhaps be his last film : How do you live?. This should slightly precede or even coincide with the opening in Japan of a first theme park featuring the studio. The comparison with Walt Disney Pictures is therefore not about to be outdated.