Growing Up Between Disney and Ghibli



Studio Ghibli showcase coming to Australia
Studio Ghibli showcase coming to Australia

There’s no denying the fact that I’m a Disney-child, born and raised.

“Once upon a time” and Prince Charming run deep in my veins, so much so that it’s my personal belief Disney has foiled many of my future relationships.

And yet, a new “Disney” has entered my life since my childhood. While, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast will always have a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf, they just now have a Japanese friend.

The first time I watched a Studio Ghibli film, I cried. Not of romance or excitement, but of sheer terror. The film was Spirited Away.

Released in 2001, Spirited Away became the most successful film in Japanese history, grossing around $330 million worldwide. It also won an Academy award for best-animated feature and the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.ghibli 2

Despite all this, a particular scene involving a dark, masked creature eating people and then vomiting them back up evoked confusion and disgust in little nine-year-old me that deterred me from revisiting Studio Ghibli for years.

Moving to present day, I now have four Studio Ghibli movies proudly displayed next to my Disney collection, and have decided that my favourite film of all time is Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).

The character Howl from the film has also secured a solid place in my list of hottest animated characters (we all have one).

Partners in crime Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata founded Studio Ghibli in 1985, and are based in Koganei, Tokyo, Japan.

Their films are in no way limited to their home country though; they have become a beloved genre of their own kind, embraced all around the world for their singularity and ability to transport the viewer into the kookiest corner of the directors’ imaginations.

Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata
Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata

Rather than being trapped in towers awaiting true love’s first kiss, Miyazaki’s princesses are riding wolves and fighting in wars to defend Spirit Gods. His characters live in castles, which have the ability to walk and fly, and airships run by pirates.

They are inspirational and include a smorgasbord of beautiful landscapes and loveable characters, proved by the mini figurine I have of an extremely powerful fire demon named Calcifer.

Special mention must also go to orchestral virtuoso Joe Hisaishi, who composed many of the scores in Miyazaki and Takahata’s films.

These songs have rescued me from many a night of writers-block and from the suffocating mind-space of the rush-hour train to and from the city. The melodies work just as the films’ animation does; they pull you out of wherever you are and into a place of magic and beauty.

My appreciation for Studio Ghibli stems from all of this, but particularly from it’s skill in taking a Western audience, such as myself, and showing them the beauty of Anime and Asian culture.The characters and stories are magical and fascinating, and transcend all ages and cultures.

They are gems which have encouraged people like me to explore past Western story telling and film making. Growing up, for myself and many others, it provided an opportunity to engage in stories beyond Disney.

This spring Australians are being given the chance to relive the magic of Studio Ghibli on the big screen with The Tale Of Studio Ghibli Showcase, visiting Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

The showcase will feature four animated masterpieces which represent significant points in Miyazaki and Takahata’s partnership, along with two documentaries giving us a sneaky peek into the production of their latest award-winning films, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and The Wind Rises.

The festival comes as a salute to Miyazaki, who sadly announced his retirement as director last year. Don’t fret though, he has announced his retirement many times before and fingers crossed he changes his mind again. I’m going to ignore his comments that he is “quite serious this time”…


The films to be shown are The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya (2013), The Wind Rises (2013), The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013), Isao Takahata And His Tale Of The Princess Kaguya (documentary), Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and My Neighbour Totoro (1988). 

Dates: October 9th – 22nd – Melbourne (Cinema Nova), Sydney (Dendy Newtown), Brisbane (Dendy Portside), Canberra (Dendy Camberra) and Hobart (State Cinema).

October 30th – November 12th – Perth (Luna Leederville)

November 27th – December 10th – Adelaide (Palace Nova East End)

More information at and

Tess McLaughlan

Author: Tess McLaughlan

Tess McLaughlan was born in Melbourne and is currently studying Journalism with a minor in Spanish at RMIT University. She has been a contributor to RMIT's Catalyst Magazine online and has a keen interest in the arts and cultural journalism.