Miyazaki vs. Disney: Why Studio Ghibli will always have my heart
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Internationally acclaimed Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, born in 1941, is recognised as a masterful creator of captivating and spellbinding fantasies, enchanting worlds and overtly moralising animation for both younger and older audiences. His exceptional work over the past three decades has built himself a global legendary reputation and a cult following, with his creation of award winning Spirited Away in 2001 wowing the world of animation. Although many have regularly referred to animation legend Miyazaki to be “The Japanese Walt Disney”, one can argue that he holds completely different aesthetic and philosophical agendas, as Studio Ghibli brings animation to film in different ways. Fantasy as a critique vs. as an escapism Although Miyazaki’s association with realism associates more with Disney than of traditional Japanese anime, Miyazaki’s approach to animated fairy tales gives much more freedom for the imagination. Cavarallo states that Miyazaki brings to life ‘intricate fantasy realms’; he produces a world with very clear rules that is internally consistent, even if it is fantastic, with an ‘encounter with a magical Other’ at the heart of all his films. Whilst Disney uses fantasy as escapism, Miyazaki uses the fantastic to critique many negative and unpleasant facets of civilisation: consumption, greed and corruption are all clearly echoed within Miyazaki’s films through tales of magical transformation. In Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki uses the animated fairy tale to expose corruption and greed as an inescapable fact of modern society, which Disney fails to do. A good example being the pollution of the River Spirit. The workers’ desire to cleanse him may suggest that this dirtying of our world is only temporary and easily solvable; however, their actions are not carried out of a universal desire to help and purify the guest, but out of necessity and greed. This is evident after we see gold scattered across the Bathhouse floor which is consequently desperately sought after, and their sheer ignorance of the fact that the River Spirit is still present. It is the Bathhouse itself that represents modern society, full of human pollution, only concealed by illusion. No-Face, a lonely wandering spirit, represents those who are easily corrupted by desire. He is essentially a blank slate who adopts the vices of whomever he consumes, so he quickly becomes corrupt and obsessed with material objects. His main purpose is to show how corrupt the power of greed can be, and how quickly someone with no personality could be turned into a monster if they were only exposed to that side of human nature, never experiencing the power of selflessness.
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