It’s not a surprise that many of us wish that our lives were like a Studio Ghibli film.
Studio Ghibli films have a charm of their own. Most of them are wholesome, without being overtly sentimental and they teach us important lessons about life, as well as remind us not to take the little moments for granted. Often, they carry socially relevant messages that gently nudge us to pause and think deeper about certain issues.
In addition to being aesthetically delightful, they are also laden with Easter eggs and several of the films have interesting backstories that are almost as fascinating as the movies themselves.
How many of these fun facts do you already know?
10. MIYAZAKI’S INSPIRATION FOR PRINCESS MONONOKE CAME FROM DIVERSE SOURCES
Princess Mononoke (1997) has often been hailed as Studio Ghibli’s best and most nuanced of all films, especially for its strong critique of environmental destruction and war, themes that were also explored in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). Being a pacifist throughout his life, Miyazaki’s inspiration to make this film came from a variety of sources.
Firstly, he was impacted by the wars in former Yugoslavia that contributed to the strong anti-war tone in the film. A manga called “Mudmen” that refers to the Asaro Mudmen from Papua New Guinea perhaps provided the basis for the conception of San and the Spirit of the Forest. Miyazaki’s own childhood encounters with blacksmiths in turn led to the creation of Irontown in the film.
Finally, John Ford’s westerns also provided some ideas and the magical forest depicted in the film was inspired by the Shiratani Unsuiky forest in Japan.
9.A WORM WAS NAMED AFTER THE CATBUS IN MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
My Neighbor Totoro (1988) is a heart-warming film that can be re-watched anytime to rediscover the magic of childhood. It also showcased the Ghibli mascot as a forest spirit that loves cuddles, affection and children.
While the figure of Totoro itself is a mixture of several animals (including a racoon, cat and an owl), a species of velvet worms (Eoperipatus totoro) in the animal kingdom has been named after its resemblance to the Catbus- another beloved character in the film.
8.THE WATER IN PONYO WAS HAND-DRAWN BY MIYAZAKI
In fact, his attention to detail is so on-point that he drew most of the waves and the sea in Ponyo On The Cliff (2008) by himself. The film which is loosely based on the “Little Mermaid” fairytale literally features the director’s own artistry.
7. THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA IS BASED ON AN ANONYMOUS SCIENCE FICTION FAIRYTALE
However the story isn’t a Ghibli original, but based on an anonymous Japanese folktale dating back to 1592. The story has been characterized as a proto science fiction story on account of its references to the moon and the fact that Princess Kaguya or “Lil’ Bamboo” is technically an extraterrestrial being.
Moreover, it has been adapted onscreen before- Princess of the Moon (1987) and Claire (2001), both of which are live-action films.
6.THE CHARACTER OF HOWL FROM HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE IS DIFFERENT IN THE BOOK
However, the character of Howl as he appears in the film is notably different from the book. For one, Howl in the book is more vain and prone to throwing tantrums while Howl in the movie has the vibe of a somewhat brooding Byronic hero. Moreover, the movie Howl can also transform himself into a bird.
5.THE SAME CHARACTERS APPEAR ACROSS FILMS IF YOU CAN SPOT THEM
For instance, near the end of The Secret World of Arietty (2010), when Arietty and her family leave the house in search of a new home, there’s a racoon in that scene. The same racoon appeared in Pompoko (1994).
Similarly, the fox squirrel that was seen near the robot in Laputa’s garden in Castle In The Sky (1986) had previously appeared in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind(1984).
4.GAIMAN WROTE TWO SCRIPTS FOR GHIBLI AND MIRAMAX
However, while Ghibli wanted Gaiman to retain the Japanese flavor and cultural nuances, Miramax wanted the script to be westernized. Unable to reach a compromise, Gaiman wrote two scripts for the two companies and let them figure out the rest.
3.PORCO ROSSO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AN IN-FLIGHT FILM.
Set during the 1930s, the film follows the adventures of a war veteran who presently freelances as bounty hunter, who is suddenly transformed into a pig. The title literally translates to “Red Pig” in Italian.
Nevertheless, before the film was released in the theaters, it was showcased as an in-flight film.
2.KIKI IS ALMOST HIT BY A BUS NAMED “STUDIO GHIBLI”
There’s a scene near the beginning of the film where she’s almost hit by a passing bus. Now that would have been a pretty unremarkable detail had it not been for the fact that the bus bore the name “Studio Ghibli” on it.
That’s a pretty clever self-insert, don’t you think?
1.WHISPER OF THE HEART HAS A SPIN-OFF SEQUEL
For instance, Whisper Of The Heart (1995) is a beautiful coming-of-age romance film that ends with a happily ever after. The heroine in the film Shizuku is a passionate bookworm and she meets her future boyfriend when she notices that a certain Seiji is the one who had checked out her library books.
Her love for reading also gives way for her talent for writing and she even writes a fantasy story. And it seems that stories do have a life of their own. For example, there’s a scene in the library where she is looking for a new book and one of the books on the shelf is called “Totoro”- a not-so-subtle reference to My Neighbor Totoro (1988).
Moreover the cat figurine “The Baron” that features in her fantasy novel also appears The Cat Returns (2002) which is a sort of spin-off sequel to the film. There’s another stray cat Muta who is introduced in there and who appears in The Secret World of Arietty (2010).
Looks like the Ghibli films are all full of interconnected and delightful secrets!