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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Studio Ghibli Retrospective in LA

Fourteen films from the renowned masters of animation are playing now through February 12 at the Egyptian and Aero Theaters in Los Angeles. The featured films include Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, and Castle in the Sky, as well as seldom-seen films by Isao Takahata. This is the second retrospective of Studio Ghibli presented in Los Angeles in recent months. So, if you missed it the first time at the LACMA, here’s your opportunity to catch these imaginative films again. But don’t push you’re luck. See them now! No telling when you’ll have such a great chance again.

Studio Ghibli was founded in Tokyo in 1985 by animation directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and fast became one of the most successful and well-respected animation studios in the world. Cultivating a creative force like no other, the studio’s films have been praised for their originality, unique animation style and epic storytelling. Join the American Cinematheque for this retrospective of some of the most amazing animation ever seen on the big screen, which includes new 35mm prints of several films that have never before been released in North America!

If you’re not familiar with the works of Miyazaki and Takahata then this is a great opportunity to find out what all the well-deserved hype is about. Besides being a beloved part of the Japanese pop culture, several of the studio’s films have gone on to garner worldwide acclaim. The most notable is perhaps Miyazaki's Spirited Away, which received the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002. The filmmaker’s continued success prompted Time magazine to name Miyazaki one of "the most influential people" in 2005 for his artistic handling of the often misunderstood and under-appreciated art form of animation.

My personal favorite Miyazaki film, Castle in the Sky will be showing Saturday, February 4 at 7:30 PM at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. This 1986 classic will be projected with a brand new 35mm print. Many (myself included) consider this infrequently screened masterpiece to be Miyazaki’s most stunningly beautiful and exciting work. The “little princess lost” tale is about a young girl with a mysterious crystal pendant who literally falls out of the sky and into the arms of a boy her own age. Together they search for a floating island in the sky rumored to be the site of a long-dead civilization that promises enormous wealth and power to the one who can unlock its secrets. This early production by the studio not only features immaculate, ornate detailing, but a friendly giant robot. This is a definite solid sell for older kids interested in animated films and not just shoot-em-up cartoons.

And don’t let an aversion to subtitles keep you from the theater. Although these films originate in Japan the screenings will be presented in a fashion that will accommodate the taste of all audiences. Half of the films will be in the original Japanese language versions with English subtitles, and half will be dubbed in English for a more family-friendly experience. How’s that for consideration? You can check the event details for the specific details for each screening.

Don’t live in LA? Not even close? Well, you still might be able to catch this impressive series at a metropolis near you. The Los Angeles engagement is only stop number two for the retrospective, which followed an enormously successful debut at New York's IFC Center. Other stops include Boston, Washington DC, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and other major markets. We are terribly spoiled here in LA when it comes to special screening events, but fortunately for those outside the reaches of the vast southland the producers of this tour recognize the fact that Studio Ghibli fans exist all across North America. Hooray for smart promoters who care about their programming. If there were more of them we’d all be going back to the theater a lot more often to see the films that make the experience of going to the movies a cherished event.

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