Pre-Release Episode: Spirited Away

Intro by Maria

If I were to ask you what the greatest animated feature of our time is, what would you say? Would you travel back to the 1930s, when Snow White, which was the first full-length animated feature, was released? Or maybe you would list a Pixar film like Toy Story or Finding Nemo? Perhaps you’re a sucker for animated movies that tug on your heartstrings, like Up? Which I don’t blame you for. I mean, Up must be the only movie that can make anyone cry—even me.

But how about if I told you that the greatest animated feature of our time is a Japanese one called Spirited Away? Maybe you’ve never heard of this film, and maybe you have, but the film was released in 2001 in Japan and then in 2002 in the United States by Disney. It was the creation of the director Hayao Miyazaki’s film studio called Studio Ghibli (which you can listen to Brandon and me mispronounce and get confused about throughout the entire podcast). By the way, I looked it up. The Italian way to pronounce it, which I suppose I should know as I am an Americanized version of Italian, is gib-lee, but the way Miyazaki pronounces it is jib-lee, so I’m going to go with that.

No matter how you pronounce it, Studio Ghibli is known for its animated feature films that are mostly hand drawn and fantastical. The films I’ve seen—which are this one (Spirited Away), Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro—have always been a journey into the imagination, usually focusing on a young protagonist discovering new worlds or saving old ones. And if we’re keeping count, I’ve seen a total of 5 Studio Ghibli films, not 4 as I do claim in the podcast.

Spirited Away is about 10-year-old Chihiro, who is driving with her parents to start a new life in a new house. They stop along the way and literally go through a tunnel—I mean, how obvious can we get with the metaphors?—to a new world. At first, it looks like an abandoned amusement park, but as Chihiro’s family eats themselves until they are literally pigs, Chihiro realizes she’s not in Kansas anymore (even if Brandon’s there). She’s entered a place where spirits go to relax: a bath house—somewhere every 10-year-old girl should be, right?

Ubaba, the bathhouse witch, forces her to grow up and enter adulthood so that she may save her parents and return home. During her journey into adolescence, the film shows us just how greedy adults are, and how some spirits like to eat them. Oh, and did we mention that Chihiro’s love interest is a river spirit dragon named Haku? Ah, yes. All these journeys, including my imitation of the musical score, and more wait for us as we enter into our first-ever Peculiar Picture Show podcast.

Music in this episode is from Purple Planet Music and Free Music Archive.

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