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DPAC highlights Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki

Kevin Noonan | Sunday, September 16, 2012


The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC) features the works of famed Japanese filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki in their latest film series, “In Spirit: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki.”

The series, which began Sunday with the 1997 fantasy film “Princess Mononoke,” highlights the distinctive visual style and storytelling fashion of the 71-year-old Academy Award winning Miyazaki, who also co-founded the successful Japanese film production company, Studio Ghibli.

Often compared to Walt Disney (Disney Studios), Nick Park (Claymation style, “Wallace & Gromit”) and Robert Zemeckis (performance capture animation, “The Polar Express”) in terms of influence, innovation and prowess in the world of animation, Miyazaki knew in high school that he wanted to be a “manga artist,” the Japanese term for animators and comic book illustrators.

Miyazaki took his first job in animation at 22 years old, and began gaining praise for his film work shortly thereafter, successfully pitching a rewrite to the conclusion of 1965’s “Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon,” a film released when he was only 24.

He directed his first feature anime film, “The Castle of Cagliostro,” in 1979, but it was his second film, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind,” that established many of the lasting themes of his work. In many of his films, Miyazaki focuses on the human impact on the environment, pacifism, feminism, morally ambiguous antagonists and a fixation with flight and aircraft.

The series, which will screen one or two of Miyazaki’s films, dubbed in English by often-famous American authors, each weekend through October 14, continues this weekend with arguably his most acclaimed film in American culture, 2001’s “Spirited Away,” Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at DPAC.

“Spirited Away” follows Chihiro Ogino, a moody ten-year-old girl, who enters a fantasy world while moving with her family into a new neighborhood. Her parents transform into pigs, and Chihiro falls under the spells of the witch who runs the bathhouse where she has taken a job. Chihiro soon forgets her own name and becomes trapped in the spirit world.

The film was the most successful film in Japanese history (before being topped by “Titanic”), earning more than $274 million worldwide at the box office. The American release was supervised by John Lasseter, CEO of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, and grossed more than $10 million in the United States.

Critics almost universally praised the movie, and it is considered one of the greatest animated films of all time. It won Best Film and Best Song at the 2002 Japan Academy Awards, and became the first anime film to win an Oscar when it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003.

“Spirited Away” plays at DPAC this Sunday at 3 p.m. Student tickets are $3. Show times and dates for the rest of the series can be found on DPAC’s website, performingarts.nd.edu.

Contact Kevin Noonan at
[email protected]