How Studio Ghibli transformed AISFM for a week

Our Animation students teamed up with the Film Club for a film festival dedicated to movies from Studio Ghibli. And the fans came in droves.

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We always believe that every good article should start with a sweeping generalization, so we thought we should too.

Ask most movie-goers to name their favourite animation film and it’s more likely than not to feature from either the Disney, DreamWorks or Pixar stables.

Sure they produce some great films: Toy Story was exceptional, Lion King has sex written in the clouds, and Shrek was fun.

But all of those pale in comparison when you consider another studio, a Japanese one: Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli has produced some of the finest animation films ever to grace the screen. There are no love-sick robots, no conniving penguins, and certainly no singing lions, but what there is, is emotion, gravitas and a sense that something majestic is unfolding before your eyes.

Studio Ghibli has always been associated mainly with the legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki was responsible for making us sob like little children, cheer like football fans and bask in an illustrated glory.

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From the studio’s first film (also by Miyazaki) in 1986, Castles in the Air, to their ‘final’ one in 2014, When Marnie Was There (directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi) it’s been veritable magic.

We’ve mentioned the word ‘final’ in quotes because according to studio sources it has shut its doors temporarily owing in part to the Box Office failure of The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and Miyazaki’s retirement.

It was this hiatus that led our Bachelor’s in Animation student, Jay Mehta, to drive forward a film festival dedicated to Studio Ghibli.

“Studio Ghibli films are very character-driven and they pay attention to even the smallest details, and that’s what really makes them stand apart,” says Jay.

The Ghibli Film Fest, which was held in mid-September has been the most popular AISFM festival to date, with students and faculty packing the school’s theatre to watch such classics as Swept Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Grave of the Fireflies.

“These films connect with the audience,” he says. “They’re certainly better than Pixar,” he adds, with a wry smile.

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“Studio Ghibli films are very character-driven and they pay attention to even the smallest details,’ says Jay Mehta

Jay does believe that animated films like the ones produced by Studio Ghibli have not found a strong footing with Indian audiences. And he suspects they may never will: “Indian audiences mainly watch animation films when they have to take their kids to see it. They haven’t yet realized that animated films can also focus on adult emotions and topics that affect grown-ups too.”

He also bemoans the preconception that animated films must always be light-hearted fare, but he does see a change on the horizon.

“Videogames are drastically changing the way we look at animation. As videogames are becoming more adult-oriented, they’re taking animation along for the ride too,” says Jay. And one look at the trailer for the spanking new $500 million videogame Destiny goes a long way in proving his point.

But no matter what videogames do for animation, Jay’s heart lies in films, be they feature-length, shorts or advertisements.

Miyazaki may have retired, and Studio Ghibli moth-balled but their legacy is strong enough to endure even the most testing times for those animators who believe their medium is as powerful as live action.

As Miyazaki once said: “Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.”

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