Studio Ghibli Fest, a celebration of one of the most acclaimed Japanese animation studios' works, is a national collaboration that began in 2017 between GKIDS and Fathom Events that brings films from Studio Ghibli onto the big screen in the States. From March to November, one film a month is shown in theaters across America for three days only. Whether you’re a diehard Studio Ghibli fan or you’ve never watched a Ghibli film before, there’s something in these beloved films—and this festival—for everyone.
Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki. Its first box–office success was Kiki’s Delivery Service, which was the highest–grossing film in Japan in 1989. The studio saw continued domestic success, taking home the highest–grossing films of Japan in 1991, 1992, and 1994.
A number of Studio Ghibli’s films were released internationally under different distributors—My Neighbor Totoro was released by Fox Video and Grave of the Fireflies was released by Central Park Media, both in 1993, and Kiki’s Delivery Service was released by Disney in 1996—but the studio’s big international break came in 2001 in the form of Spirited Away. Spirited Away became the highest–grossing film to ever be released in Japan and went on to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2002 and the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003. As of 2018, it is still the only non–English animated film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The studio has released nine more feature–length films since Spirited Away, most of which have received box–office success and some, international recognition.
Studio Ghibli’s rise to fame brought acclaimed, traditionally–animated films into the international spotlight, particularly the American spotlight, during a period when traditional animation saw a decline in America. Many Ghibli films are lighthearted, sweet, and meant to explore adventure and growth in children, but others also highlight animation as a medium that could be used to provide social commentary and tackle political issues (The Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke). Studio Ghibli’s impact on communities across the film industry, not only in animation, is vast: the robot from Laputa: Castle in the Sky appears in Avengers: Age of Ultron and John Lasseter, director of Toy Story, is an outspoken fan of Miyazaki’s.
Films like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away are known and loved across international communities, and for many now–matured fans of the studio, “Ghibli” is synonymous with sentimentality. But it has been a long time since the original, classic Ghibli films were released, and many newer fans have never experienced them as they were meant to be experienced: in a cinema, where sound is loud and clear, and visual quality is high. Studio Ghibli Fest brings this experience to the American audience, giving both old and new Ghibli fans the opportunity to revisit or meet beloved characters on the big screen.
Spirited Away is showing in theaters October 28 (dubbed), 29 (subtitled), and 30 (dubbed).
Laputa: Castle in the Sky is showing in theaters November 18 (dubbed), 19 (subtitled), and 20 (dubbed).