Written and Illustrated by Liz Unanyan
I was influenced to write this post and draw these pieces after visiting the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and noticing the similarities in Miyazaki’s artwork and his influence on other animation companies. Each room feels full enough to be the whole exhibit yet with every turn there is another room to display the countless works of Miyazaki. It was richly illustrated with his work on the wall and in glass tables to take a closer look, filled with first sketches and scene stills. As an artist, it was incredibly interesting to see his thought process as I analyzed with great detail each drawing for minutes on end. It brought to life the soul of Miyazaki and embraced his love of nature with a beautiful interactive grass patch in the middle of the room with clouds above. I also loved seeing such a range of people of different ages and cultures come together to appreciate his work. There were children running to each screen and display intently and letting out an ooo or an ahhh. It was really fulfilling to visit this museum and bring more life to some of the movies. I would have loved to seen a section that connected some other commonly watched films in the US to Miyazaki’s work to show just how great of an influence he brought to the world. His work was not only influential in an artistic perspective but impactful in his messages as they shaped the storylines of animation today.
Hayao Miyazaki’s work has influenced animation all around the world causing a global cross-cultural effect through cinema. His work has shown influence in many of Disney’s films including How to Train your Dragon (2010) drawing influences from Princess Mononoke (1999) and Castle in the Sky’s (1972)magical floating land similar to the Disney movie Up (2009). Miyazaki’s work has also influenced other companies like Pixar, with his 1988 film My Neighbor Totoro to the 2001 film Monsters, Inc. Disney is also seen drawing influence from Ponyo (2009) for their 2016 film Moana, and Coco (2017) having similarities to Ghibli’s Spirited Away (2001). His influence on American animation ranges to cartoons like Gravity Falls, Adventure Time, and The Simpsons as well. Although there are greater differences between the Disney and Studio Ghibli, there is definitely a visual connection between them. I also noticed how Disney tends to no longer have a traditional sense to their storylines, for example, a prince and princess fall in love and live happily ever after. One can imagine that Miyazaki’s films evoked such positive messages about saving the environment that it influenced the writing style of many including Disney. We can see this in Moana as well, as she saves her village by restoring the heart of the volcano that was stolen. As well as the movie Wall-E (2008) demonstrating the uninhabitable future we have which is a result of bad practices in human behavior that threaten every being to extinction. These films show great influence from Miyazaki’s writing style as well as artistic style.
In an article written by Graphic’s Editor, Michelle Jin, she analyzes the revolution of Studio Ghibli’s work on the film industry. Although some films may not have as obvious of a comparison to Miyazaki’s artwork, his influence is also shown through his immersive realistic storylines and settings. Many set in a dark futuristic world post destruction, usually including a young protagonist to save the day. This is commonly seen in Miyazaki’s films as many of his protagonists are younger, and the audience sees the world through their pure perspective. Jin names some films that sought influence from Miyazaki including Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. Guillermo’s film shows influence of Miyazaki through his characters while Anderson’s work has a strong resemblance to the setting and focus on the environment.
Miyazaki’s work tends to reach far beyond the intended demographic and resonates with all ages, specifically an Oscar winning film for best animated feature in 2003, Spirited Away. Although Miyazaki’s storytelling skills are exemplified only in a way that Ghibli films can be, other animators took inspiration from this film after its big award. Coco (2017) any many other films following Miyazaki’s now have a heavier focus on cultural elements to resonate with audiences and create that sense of empathy. We see this done with the movie Coco in that, no matter what cultural background you came from, you could resonate with the movie, (definitely one of my favorites). Many companies now try to mimic the immersive value and storytelling style of Miyazaki into their work, but his stands out from all the others. His work is authentic and his messages are coming from genuine concern of the Earth’s well-being.
Many countries have different language versions of Studio Ghibli films as they have become popular all around the world. They have also influenced others to write similar stories with a heavy influence of children and animals becoming closer to nature. In Russia, a common TV show called Masha and the Bear shows similar use of themes to Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro in which the bear takes care of baby Masha as she discovers the world and nature around her. This demonstrates that his work has reached a worldwide audience.
Miyazaki is one of the best animators in history, which is why his work influences so many. He captures a sense of innocence and youth through his art yet teaches important lessons to people of all ages. The way he is able to capture the emotion of his characters and make the audience empathize with each character’s situation shows the talent he holds. This is what makes him most influential, through his work, he creates empathy and tells of important lessons that other companies felt influenced to make films about as well. He started a movement through his work and will forever be recognized in the history of animation. The name Studio Ghibli will live on forever and has created its own style of storytelling through animation that has inspired and impacted the film industry everywhere.
Jin, Michelle. “Opinion: Studio Ghibli Animation Techniques Revolutionize the Film Industry.” The Nexus, wvnexus.org/?p=6446.
Li, Chenmei. “Influence of Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation on the Cross-Cultural Spread of Japanese Traditional Culture Under the Background of 5G and Wireless Communication.” Wireless Communications and Mobile Computing, vol. 2021, Hindawi, 2021, pp. 1–5, https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/1640983.
“Studio Ghibli Shares Cryptic Photo ‘Teasing’ Crossover with Pixar.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 20 May 2021, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/studio-ghibli-disney-pixar-movies-b1850898.html.
4 thoughts on “Studio Ghibli Transforms Animation Forever”
Wow, your pieces are beautiful. I love seeing the crossover of characters between Disney and Studio Ghibli. I think you picked which characters to pair up by finding which Disney and Ghibli movies have similar themes. I really love how you paired up two robots meant to clean up humanity’s mess. WALL-E and the Laputa robots would definitely be best friends. I appreciate that your project focused on Miyazaki. I think some may think of Miyazaki as just being influenced by Disney, but you are completely right he inspires them as well. He also inspires a lot more studios than Disney. As you said, Miyazaki’s work is a massive influence on the animation industry as a whole.
One nitpick: How to Train Your Dragon is a DreamWorks, not a Disney, film. But I agree that its story-world shows a strong Miyazaki influence!
Your drawings are cool! I especially like the juxtaposition of WALL-E (holding the little green plant) and the Laputa robot (with the green growing from his shoulders).
To start, adorable and creative pictures to compliment your post. I LOVE the one of Wall-E and the Laputian robot (both characters from my favorite movies). Combining Disney characters and Studio Ghibli characters to create one piece of art is so telling in many ways, first because of Miyazaki’s complicated views on working with Disney, and second, because of how his films were transcribed nationally by Disney to be dubbed for the masses. Ultimately, it was a beautiful union that gave way to such amazing influence and art. Second, I had no idea that so many Disney creations from the past had taken influence from Miyazaki—even if was it slightly. The international adoration for Miyazaki still blows me away and never ceases to amaze me. Great final project! Cheers 🙂
What a thought provoking and in-depth essay, with wonderfully illustrated pictures! I loved going through this post! I feel so many essays and reviews have looked at and covered all the influences western media, more specifically Disney, has had on Miyazaki and his films, and I think it’s refreshing to see how he legacy has inspired many of the classics that we have come to know today. I love how your breakdown and talk about both his illustrative and creative influence, as well as his influence in the storytelling of many of these animated shows and films that have taken inspiration from Miyazaki! You’re also an amazingly talented artist, and I feel every image you’ve included has added to your essay, and truly captures just how connected a lot of these iconic films and characters to Miyazaki and his creations! Great post, and I love your art!