The Daily Gamecock

Like Disney classics? Try Studio Ghibli films

<p>"Kiki's Delivery Service" tells the heartwarming tale of a young and lovable witch.</p>
"Kiki's Delivery Service" tells the heartwarming tale of a young and lovable witch.

Some of us love Disney. We watch all the movies, we go to Disney World despite the horrible crowds and we talk about our favorite characters. But what if I told you there was an animation studio that was arguably better than Disney?

Enter Studio Ghibli, founded 30 years ago after its success in animating “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind." The company has since established itself as one of the leading Japanese animation studios with a worldwide target audience. Recognizing that Studio Ghibli was essentially the “Disney of Japan," the Walt Disney Corporation purchased the rights to localize their movies in North America, hiring major actors to voice their movies.

Studio Ghibli films, however, shouldn’t be watched for their voice actors nor for the company’s association with Disney but for the sheer fantastic brilliance that goes into each of their films. The studio’s writers manage to perfectly marry the fantastic with the realistic, building vibrant scenes that yank on the heart. The narratives seem to take an ephemeral and often whimsical stance on reality that belies a true concern for the human experience, both physically and spiritually. Ghibli fabricates seemingly ordinary protagonists and plunges them headfirst into a sea of fantastic beasts, magic or imagination without blinking an eye.

And yet, each character feels real, from the innocently budding romance of “Whisper of the Heart” to the daily struggles of a young witch trying to make it on her own in “Kiki’s Delivery Service." There are rarely any grand stories being told in Ghibli films. Focusing on the journey rather than the destination, Studio Ghibli normally touches upon internal struggles. In this sense, you care more about the characters than you might otherwise. Their films bring the audience to the level of their characters, momentarily making viewers feel like children again. And with their specific art style, it works.

Studio Ghibli’s art style is distinct, but it isn’t new. The studio’s art is best described as a colorful amalgamation of early Disney and early Japanese animation. The environments and characters are hand-drawn but extremely well-detailed, with hair blowing in the wind and dresses moving with the body. And their vibrant use of colors make even mundane or realistic scenery appear fantastic by comparison. Ultimately, their style is one intrinsically linked to the studio, setting a whimsical mood for their narratives while simultaneously contradicting the serious undertones.

Although the voice acting can be hit or miss, Studio Ghibli films are a cathartic experience. They’re filled with joy, sadness, passion, whimsy and fun — they take you back to childhood in the best ways. “Castle in the Sky” will awe you with its grandiose story about a magical city and “Grave of the Fireflies” will drag even the hardest of hearts to tears. If you like Disney, if you like animated films, give Studio Ghibli a try. You won’t regret it.


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