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Films by Hayao Miyazaki - Animated Features for the Whole Family

Updated on November 23, 2014
Used under Creative Commons.
Used under Creative Commons. | Source

Those who are interested in the world of animation have to know about Hayao Miyazaki. As one of the best and most recognizable people in the sphere of animation, Miyazaki is a director, screenwriter, producer of animated films, an animator and a manga artist, and has reserved his place in the history of animation among the very best, but also a place in the hearts of many who have grown up watching his animated features and empathizing with his characters.

We have all probably seen one or two of his films, or at least heard of some. Some of his characters became iconic and the internet was swarmed by pictures and merchandise and whatnot. Characters like Totoro and Jiji, who are too cute to forget, or others like San or Howl or Haku, Chihiro and many more that are all representing something idealistic we should find in our own selves.

Even if we don't know or understand the sceneries he gifted us in his works, and even if we are not children anymore, Hayao Miyazaki's worlds are worlds we absolutely must visit. In this article we will do just that, without running away to Japan.


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Who is Hayao Miyazaki?

Hayao Miyazaki started his rich career as a low level animator in Japan and began building a name for himself in projects such as Gulliver's Space Travels, and eventually became a director and a key animator of many animated motion picture films. You may know how hard it is to succeed in this area in Japan – but he made the best of it and started out brilliantly.
Some of his projects before founding of Studio Ghibli with Isao Takahata include The Castle of Caliostro and Future boy Conan.

After the founding of Studio Ghibli in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki's name becomes a synonym of only the best. His best work includes the now infamous titles such as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Porco Rosso, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and many many more.

Because of the quality of his work, and because of the messages of his films that are not only positive, but also inspirational and touching, Hayao was recognized not only in Japan and his films were acquired by Disney for the US market. Disney distributed his motion pictures outside of Japan and hired some of the most famous American actors to do the voice acting for the English dubs. The result was incredible.

Some of his recent works include Spirited Away of 2001, Howl's Moving Castle of 2003, and Ponyo of 2008 – all extremely successful both in Japan and worldwide. Miyazaki has won the American Academy Award for Spirited Away in the category of best animated feature. Howl's moving castle received a nomination in that same category in 2003.

Overall, all of his films had a fantastic reception in both Japan and the rest of the world, and his consistent quality of work for almost forty years now testifies about the greatness of his name. Hayao Miyazaki – a synonym for animated masterpieces that simply blow you away, and all the way to the faraway Japan.


Themes of Miyazaki's Films

One of the main reasons Hayao Miyazaki inspires and captures with his films is because of the themes that set the undertones of each one of his creations. His films always have a lot of emotion in them, but they are also much more - they carry a lot of weight and touch upon a lot of issues that are more subtle and more delicate.

Though Hayao Miyazaki himself claims that all of his films are first targeted at children, it is hard not to notice a subtle hint here and there that points to some very serious problematic of the modern day and age. Some recurring themes are ecology and destruction of nature, industrialization, family issues and so on. His films point the accusing finger to things that are wrong with the world, but not with the intention of angering us or making us bitter - rather to make us conscious of things that are happening around us which are distancing us from nature and positive feelings – from things that are best in all of us. Hayao Miyazaki shows us that things do not always have to be black and white (even if they seem to be at first) and reintroduces us to the magic of life and all of those things that make us feel alive once more.

One such theme is flying. Hayao Miyazaki has a fascination with flying which is obvious from a lot of his works - even his first films. Kiki flies on her broom, Totoro glides through the skies, Porco Rosso is a pilot... The list goes on.

Hayao Miyazaki associates all of his characters and all of his settings to the best positive feelings that stay with us for a long time after watching any of his films. His films strike a chord at the first blow – and blow us away. His backgrounds are colorful and overflowing with life and his characters are natural, spontaneous and easy to relate to. All in all, his work radiates freedom, life and all the things humanity seems to be forgetting lately.


Hayao Miyazaki's style of working

Hayao Miyazaki has a very specific way of creating his films. As he has stated in many interviews, he never has a clear idea of what the film will be until he starts working on it. That means that he comes up with the story when he first starts drawing the storyboards. This may sound risky, but the people who work with Miyazaki are already used to this and do not need to pressure him - they know that the final product will be brilliant.

Another interesting thing about his work is that he never has a clear idea about the design of his characters until the very last moment before production begins. He says that he draws and redraws his characters both in his head and on paper until the very last moment when he has to come up with a final solution. Perhaps it is best this way and this enables him to have full freedom of expression.

Drawing by hand vs computer animation

When it comes to animation, Hayao Miyazaki is a traditionalist and prefers hand drawn animation to computer animation. A lot of his work features hand drawn frames done in water colors. During the making of some of his first films, he used to personally check and review every single frame done in the process of animation. However, because he writes and directs most of his films, and because of old age, Hayao Miyazaki nowadays prefers to rely on his staff to do all that work. He wishes his work to be less strenuous in order to be able to make a few more films before he officially retires.

Despite the fact that Miyazaki prefers hand drawn animated features, he has used computer graphic ever since first trying it in Princess Mononoke in 1997. The reason he decided to use it was because he was behind with work and approaching deadlines and wanted to make the best of what he had. From that point on, computer generated images were used in his subsequent films, but as he says, in a correct balance and measure to still ensure that the movie remains a 2D feature.

However, Studio Ghibli disbands their computer animation team in 2009, and then they return to fully hand drawn animation. Ponyo, a Studio Ghibli animated film of 2009 is a hand drawn movie done fully in water colors. This animated feature from Japan is the best proof that far away in the East, there are still people who believe that we can do much more by our own hands than we give ourselves credit for.

Hayao Miyazaki's characters

Apart from having progressive and idealistic themes, Hayao Miyazaki usually has very unusual characters that are easy to identify to. However, it is easy to notice that a lot of his protagonists are either little girls or strong independent women. When he was asked during one interview why this seemed to be a recurring pattern for him, Hayao Miyazaki jokingly answered that it was simply because he loved women. Of course, there is more to it.

He explained that he created Chihiro because he spent a lot of time with a friend who had a ten year old daughter and he realized that there were no films made for little girls of that age group in Japan. His other characters that are not heroines are nonetheless interesting and appeal to all kinds of audiences. Every film he has made has various characters for various people to best identify to, which only shows that Miyazaki is indeed clever and knows exactly what he is doing.

Another interesting thing to notice in all his films is the general absence of typical villains. Hayao Miyazaki portrays this correctly, as it is in reality. There are just people with different perspectives, people with more or less character, people who can have a change of heart for the best and those who resist it. This makes his stories even easier to relate to and compare to our lives.

Hayao Miyazaki’s Filmography

This part will contain the list of his major titles, in chronological order as they came out in Japan. This list consists only of films he has directed, produced and made screenplays, storyboards and/or original stories. Otherwise, the list would be much longer.

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind (Kaze no Tani no Naushika), 1984
    Miyazaki: Director; original story; screenplay

  • Laputa: The Castle in the Sky (Tenkuu no Shiro Rapyuta), 1966
    Miyazaki: Director; original story; screenplay

  • My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro), 1988
    Miyazaki: Director; original story; screenplay

  • Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyuubin), 1989
    Miyazaki: Director; producer; screenplay

  • Porco Rosso/The Crimson Pig (Kurenai no Buta), 1992
    Miyazaki: Director; original story; screenplay

  • Whisper of the Heart/If You Listen Closely (Mimi wo Sumaseba), 1995
    Miyazaki: Screenplay; storyboard; producer

  • Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime), 1997
    Miyazaki: Director; original story; screenplay

  • Spirited Away/The Spiriting-away of Sen and Chihiro (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi), 2001
    Miyazaki: Director; screenplay, storyboards

  • Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru no Ugoku Shiro), 2004

  • Ponyo, 2009


Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most prominent names in the world of animation and for many of us, he is not only the best in Japan, he is the best - period. His animated features contain characters and themes that not only entertain us, but also inspire us and make us remember some repressed values that the modern pace of life has stomped out of us. His characters are relatable and his stories suitable for both children and the adults.

For many of us, Hayao Miyazaki will always remain the best of the best, and not only speaking about authors of Japan. A large number of people consider him to be the best animated feature director in Japan and wider, and always recommend his work among the best.

His work is all available in English language, and the voiceovers feature prominent names of the American acting sphere. If you have not watched his movies, or have missed some of them, go watch them as soon as you can. They are an excellent (if not the best) choice of entertainment for the whole family.

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    • edas88 profile image

      Icarus Unburnt 4 years ago

      Thank you, I am so happy you enjoyed this hub. I'll strive to produce more good things. I appreciate your words of support.

    • edas88 profile image

      Icarus Unburnt 4 years ago

      Thank you and I really appreciate your words. Have a wonderful day too!


    • edas88 profile image

      Icarus Unburnt 4 years ago

      Ah, Spirited Away. I think that I had to rewatch it several times until I picked up all the subtle messages he left here and there.

      And thank you for linking my hub to yours, I'm extremely flattered! Wow!

    • larakern profile image

      larakern 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for sharing this great hub on such an interesting topic! I believe that I have seen a few of Hayao Miyazaki's films. He is very talented and so are you. Voted up!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful share and I look forward to so many more by you. Here's wishing you a wonderful day also.


    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      My first Hayao Miyazaki film was Spirited Away. I was blown away at the depth and storyline this animation had. I appreciate that he does not 'dumb down,' his audience.

      I wrote a hub on How to Draw Totoro. I am going to link your hub to mine.

      Voted up and shared!!!