Throughout the month of January, The ToonSeum is proud to present a series of film screenings celebrating the birthday of one of the world’s most accomplished artists, Hayao Miyazaki. The filmmaker turns 70 years old on January 5th.
Often called the “Walt Disney of Japan,” Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli reinvigorated the Japanese animation industry in the 1980’s and 90’s with a string of genre-defying masterpieces that would become international hits. But it wasn’t until the success of 2001’s Spirited Away that most American audiences began to discover Miyazaki’s work. Largely through the efforts of PIXAR’s John Lasseter (who lists Miyazaki as not only a huge influence but a great friend), many of Miyazaki’s films have enjoyed broad theatrical and DVD releases.
Miyazaki’s films have changed the way the world thinks about animation. Typified by wild flights of fantasy, political and ecological commentary, and meticulous and breathtakingly beautiful hand-drawn and watercolor animation, Miyazaki films often cast a spell over viewers young and old. While combining nuanced story-telling techniques and a vibrant, naturalistic mis en scene, Miyazaki’s animation often subverts the viewer’s expectations, with calm, reflective moments that give way to unpredictable twists and turns. Most notably, Miyazaki’s protagonists are often strong, confident female characters just as his villains are often complicated, sympathetic victims of circumstance.
The following films will be screened with discussion and production notes:
January 13 at 7:00pm – Castle in the Sky (Laputa) (1986). After a daring escape from sky pirates, a young girl teams up with an orphaned miner to uncover the secrets of a magical city floating in the clouds. The second of Miyazaki’s first feature length films, Laputa is full of sweeping action and vibrant characters.
January 22 at 3:00pm – My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Miyazaki’s pastoral masterpiece is a story of two young girls coping with their mother’s illness and resultant move to rural Japan. There they encounter a Totoro, a gentle forest spirit that guides and protects them through the turbulent time. Totoro is the antithesis of American children’s movies: quiet, observant, and humane. Named by the British Film Institute as one of the Greatest Children’s Movies of All Time.
January 27 at 7:00pm – Princess Mononoke (1998) Roger Ebert called it “the Star Wars of animated film,” and he wasn’t exaggerating. The boldest and darkest of Miyazaki’s films, Mononoke is a complex Buddhist parable in which spiritual forces do battle with ragged human imperialists. Lush and provocative, Mononoke marks Miyazaki’s first foray into computer-generated imagery, accentuating several scenes with bizarre movement, though every single cel remained hand-drawn.
In addition to the screenings, the ToonSeum will conduct a poll allowing fans to vote for their favorite Miyazaki films and characters.
Films are all family-friendly, however Princess Mononoke contains adult themes and war-related violence. Admission for the screenings by donation only.