animation films

The wonderful world of Studio Ghibli, in five films

If you haven’t seen ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ or ‘Spirited Away’, go forth and get them.

The Red Turtle was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (May 11-22), where it won a special jury prize in the Un Certain Regard section. The wordless animated film tells the story of a castaway trying to survive on a deserted island and witnessing the miracles of nature and the beauty of relationships.

‘The Red Turtle’.

Directed by acclaimed Dutch animator Michael Dudok De Wit, of Oscar- winning short film Father and Daughter fame, The Red Turtle has been produced in association with Studio Ghibli, one of the most celebrated animation studios in the world. Co-founded up by renowned animator and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki in 1985, Studio Ghibli is renowned for its elegant simplicity, fantastical splendour, and profoundly human and environmental themes. The Red Turtle is releasing in Japan in September 2016. While we wait for an Indian release date, there is a magical world of Studio Ghibli films to get through, including the epic Princess Mononoke, the imaginative Porco Rosso, the heartwarming Whispers of the Heart and most famously and the tragically brilliant Graves of the Fireflies. Here is our top five list.

‘Castle in the Sky’(1986) The first Studio Ghibli production has a fantasy steampunk setting. Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky tells the story of Sheeta and Pazu, who battle storms, pirates and an army on their quest to find a flying castle that holds the answers to some of their questions. Pazu’s father once found Laputa but no one believed him. Now Pazu needs to prove to the world that Laputa does exist. Sheeta owns an ancestral crystal made of an imaginary substance called Aetherium, which holds immense power to save the world as well as destroy it. Laputa is home to this power, robots, and heaps of ancient jewels and riches.

An epic adventure set in the skies, Castle in the Sky is packed with laughter, fear, tragedy and explosions. The film discuses some of Ghibli’s favourite themes – nature, the perils of uncontrolled technology, friendship, greed, and, most importantly, love.

‘Castle in the Sky’.

‘My Neighbor Totoro’ (1988) Two sisters and their father move to rural Japan, where the girls befriend a forest spirit. One of Miyazaki’s most iconic movies, My Neighbor Totoro is made timeless by its simple story and its delightful characters. The adorable children’s film shines despite the shadow of possible death (the girls’ mother lies sick in a hospital), while the girls discover soot sprites, a very creepy Cat Bus, and, of course, Totoro.

Miyazaki’s sentimental ode to childhood and the simple pleasures of a rural life not only gave Ghibli a place in film history but also inspired the studio’s logo, which is a silhouette of the lovable Totoro.

‘My Neighbor Totoro’.

‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ (1989) Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service is a coming of age story of a 13-year-old witch who leaves home for the first time to live on her own. Kiki takes off on her shaky broomstick and reaches a coastal town where she delivers cakes for a bakery. A simple and bittersweet adaptation of a children’s novel by Eiko Kadano, the film features a remarkable central character. Kiki’s Delivery Service challenges many gender stereotypes, especially when viewed in contrast with the princess-in-distress archetype from Disney animated features made in the same period. Kiki is self-reliant, battles with self-doubt and remains down-to-earth from beginning to end.

Her cat Jiji, who travels with her, is one of Ghibli’s most fascinating creations. The talking cat is a symbol of Kiki’s younger self and innocence. The elegantly drawn Jiji is as much a winner as the extraordinarily kindhearted girl-witch.

‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’.

‘Spirited Away’ (2001) Miyazaki’s film gave Studio Ghibli the international acclaim it deserved. Spirited Away won an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category and a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and is Japan’s highest-grossing movie of all time. It’s the story of Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl who enters the spirit world and takes up a job at a bathhouse while looking for a way to save her parents who have been turned into pigs by an evil witch, Yubaba.

Like most Ghibli films, Spirited Away features a brave and compassionate young woman at the centre – an endearing klutz who tests her limits and finds the courage to do what’s right. The film features a wonderfully imagined and realised world of enchanting creatures and monsters and explores some of Studio Ghibli’s favourite themes – the environment, tradition versus modernity in Japanese culture, mythology, friendship and love.

‘Spirited Away’.

‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ (2013) A thing of visual beauty and immense emotional depth. Isao Takahata’s tale of a beautiful princess from the moon is based on Japanese folktales. Princess Kaguya, or Takenoko as she is lovingly called, is discovered as a tiny nymph sleeping inside a bamboo stalk. But soon enough, she grows up to become a woman of unmatched grace and beauty. She experiences joy, love and immense happiness but endures pain, anguish and loneliness too as she is ripped away from a life close to nature and placed in a world brimming with earthly riches and wealthy suitors.

The film was the swansong of Takahata, who directed Grave of the Fireflies and Pom Poko for Studio Ghibli. The Tale of Princess Kaguya unfolds like a delicate scroll. It plays out in pastel shades, charcoal strokes and watercolor fluidity and changes shape, speed and tone as Kaguya goes through her physical and emotional transformation. Joe Hisaishi’s music is a character in its own right.

‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’.
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It’s the new year and it’s already time to plan your next holiday

Here are some great destinations for you to consider.

Vacation planning can get serious and strategic. Some people swear by the save and splurge approach that allows for one mini getaway and one dream holiday in a year. Others use the solo to family tactic and distribute their budget across solo trips, couple getaways and family holidays. Regardless of what strategy you implement to plan your trip, the holiday list is a handy tool for eager travellers. After having extensively studied the 2018 holiday list, here’s what we recommend:

March: 10 days of literature, art and culture in Toronto

For those you have pledged to read more or have more artistic experiences in 2018, Toronto offers the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomising vending machine for old books. You can find the Biblio-Mat, paper artefacts, rare books and more at The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookseller. If you can tear yourself away from this eclectic bookstore, head over to The Public Library in Toronto for the Merril Collection of over 72000 items of science fiction, fantasy magic realism and graphic novels. With your bag full of books, grab a coffee at Room 2046 – a café cum store cum studio that celebrates all things whimsical and creative. Next, experience art while cycling across the 80km Pan Am Path. Built for walking, running, cycling and wheeling, the Pan Am Path is a recreational pathway that offers a green, scenic and river views along with art projects sprinkled throughout the route. You can opt for a guided tour of the path or wander aimlessly for serendipitous discoveries.

Nothing beats camping to ruminate over all those new ideas collected over the past few days. Make way to Killarney Provincial Park for 2-3 days for some quiet time amongst lakes and hills. You can grab a canoe, go hiking or get back to nature, but don’t forget to bring a tent.

If you use the long-weekend of 2nd March to extend your trip, you get to experience the Toronto Light Festival as a dazzling bonus.

June: 10 days of culinary treats, happy feet and a million laughs in Chicago

Famous for creating the deep-dish pizza and improv comedy, Chicago promises to banish that mid-year lull. Get tickets for The Second City’s Legendary Laughs at The UP-Comedy Club - the company that gave us the legendary Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Key & Peele. All that laughter can sure work up an appetite, one that can be satiated with Lou Malnati’s classic deep-dish pizza. For dessert, head over to the Ferrara Original Bakery for mouth-watering treats.

Chicago in June is pleasant and warm enough to explore the outdoors and what better way to soak in the sunshine, than by having a picnic at the Maggie Daley Park. Picnic groves, wall climbing, mini golf, roller blading – the park offers a plethora of activities for individuals as well as families.

If you use the long weekend of 15th June, you can extend your trip to go for Country LakeShake – Chicago’s country music festival featuring Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

August: 7 days in London for Europe’s biggest street festival

Since 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrating London’s Caribbean communities with dancing, masquerade and music ranging from reggae to salsa. Watch London burst into colours and sparkle at the Notting Hill Carnival. Home to Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens Museum, London is best experienced by wandering through its tiny streets. Chance encounters with bookstores such as Foyles and Housemans, soaking in historic sights while enjoying breakfast at Arthur’s Café or Blackbird Bakery, rummaging the stalls at Broadway market or Camden Market – you can do so much in London while doing nothing at all.

The Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising can send you reminiscing about those old ads, while the Clowns Gallery Museum can give you an insight in clown-culture. If you’d rather not roam aimlessly, book a street-art tour run by Alternative London or a Jack the Ripper Tour.

October: 10 days of an out-of-body experience in Vegas

About 16 km south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, lies a visual spectacle. Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by Ugo Rondinone, stands far away from the wild vibe that people expect in Las Vegas and instead offers a sense of wonder. Imagine seven pillars of huge, neon boulders, stacked up against one another stretched towards the sky. There’s a lot more where that came from, in Las Vegas. Captivating colour at the permanent James Turrell exhibit in Louis Vuitton, outdoor adventures at the Bootleg Canyon and vintage shopping at Patina Décor offer experiences that are not usually associated with Vegas. For that quintessential Vegas show, go for Shannon McBeath: Absinthe for some circus-style entertainment. If you put the holiday list to use, you can make it for the risefestival – think thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, right above you.

It’s time to get on with the vacation planning for the new year. So, pin up the holiday list, look up deals on hotels and flights and start booking. Save money by taking advantage of the British Airways Holiday Sale. With up to 25% off on flight, the offer is available to book until 31st January 2018 for travel up to 31st December in economy and premium economy and up to 31st August for business class. For great fares to great destinations, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.