The Friday Fillip: King of Dreams

I’m a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. Yes, I’m an old man and these are animated films for children. And that’s okay, because both of the defining features of these movies can be the source of much pleasure for adults. Animation, especially the hand-drawn cells that come out of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, lets the filmmaker do whatever he can imagine; and for me that’s one major value in art — its ability (I’d say “duty”) to take us to places we cannot go in our short, gravity-bound, lived lives. Then, to enter into the world of children is to encounter an imaginative richness most of us “normcore” adults can barely recall. This combination of freedom and fertility is exciting.

In Miyazaki’s movies there are many heroines, much flying, magic everywhere, and things that are strange. He does not pander to his child audience, which cannot be said about most flics aimed at kids. He takes the young and their robust dreamworlds seriously — but never earnestly. Neither does he bother to seed the films with those references and hooks, the way Hollywood does, aimed at keeping parents happy and superior. He simply and honestly fashions delight and beauty out of our dreams.

Now, I may be preaching to the choir here. His movies have been popular and have won him Oscars. But in case there are Slaw readers out there who have not sampled, let alone feasted on, Studio Ghibli films, I’m going to provide some temptation in this fillip. (I would, of course, like to offer you an easy-to-get-at full sample, but his movies are basically available only on DVDs. The pirated material on YouTube is generally of poor quality.)

One or two stills (taken from a New York Times piece that praises Miyazaki better than I can) will capture some recurring aspects of his studio’s work, in particular his focus on girls as protagonists, his combining “naturalistic” backgrounds with more “cartoony” foregrounds, and above all his fascination with flight and the sky.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Though I can’t provide you with the full experience, I can give you a taste of what you’d find if you watched one of his films. Trailers are available on YouTube, some of them in high definition. So I’ve put together a playlist of these for most of his movies:


Finally, if the creative process interests you, or if you are curious about a man who has devoted his life to telling stories to children (and me), I heartily recommend that if you have Netflix you watch a feature length documentary on Miyazaki, called The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

Enjoy. Popcorn optional.


  1. Mr. Fodden is right. Now I have to see if I can dig up my VHS copy of My Neighbor Totoro!