Spirited Away is one of the most iconic and loved anime movies of all time. Released in 2001, the film was both a smash hit in Japan and around the world, with the film introducing a wider audience to Studio Ghibli and the rest of the Ghibli archive in the process, giving fans a gateway into the wonderful world of Miyazaki.
The film follows a young girl named Chihiro as she crosses into the spirit world and ends up working in a bathhouse for spirits. The film is a beautiful coming of age story combined with unique and wonderful fairytale elements.
10 Miyazaki’s Gardner’s Approach
There are several different ways to write a plot, whether it be a script or a novel. George RR Martin, the writer of the Game of Thrones books, has said that he favors a ‘gardening’ approach, whereby he plants the seeds and then allows the characters to develop naturally.
Miyazaki appears to take this approach too, with the Japanese director working on his storyboards before even writing a script. Miyazaki even said, “I don’t have the story finished and ready when we start work on a film.”
9 Cleansing Of The River Spirit
One of the most memorable scenes from the movie is the scene in which Chihiro cleans the river spirit. The disgusting spirit is cleansed of all the dirt, debris, and bacteria that had been stinking out the bathhouse.
However, what is interesting is that this scene is based on true events (kind of). Miyazaki based the scene on an experience he had when cleaning a riverbed.
8 Miyazaki Almost Retired Before
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most iconic and influential directors of all time, with the Japanese director being the creative force behind such classics as My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.
However, Miyazaki very nearly didn’t direct Spirited Away. The director had planned to retire after completing Princess Mononoke, but only returned to make Spirited Away after seeing his friend’s sad 10-year-old daughter.
7 First Anime Film To Win An Academy Award
Studio Ghibli has one of the best reputations in animation today, with the Japanese animation studio creating some of the most iconic and loved characters of all time. However, some may be surprised to learn that Spirited Away was the first anime movie to win an Academy Award.
In 2001, Spirited Away managed to beat the likes of both Lilo and Stitch and Ice Age to take home the Best Animated Feature award at the Oscars.
6 Added Lines For The English Dub
As the film is Japanese, an English dub was required in order to make the movie as profitable as possible in the US and English speaking markets. However, several elements of the plot would require an explanation in order to make sure Western audiences understand the movie.
As a result, several lines had to be added in order to explain certain things. For instance, one particular line saw a character explain what a bathhouse was to the viewer.
5 Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full
One of the most notable scenes in the movie features Chihiro’s parents eating food that doesn’t belong to them. In order to deliver a good performance of Chihiro’s mother eating while talking, voice actor Yasuko Sawaguchi ate some KFC while reading her lines.
However, this wasn’t exclusive to the Japanese cast, voice actor Lauren Holly also used the same method, though she ate an apple rather than some KFC.
4 Closing Credits Song
Studio Ghibli movies often have some of the most beautiful soundtracks in animation, composed by Joe Hisaishi, the Ghibli soundtracks are often as beautiful as the movies themselves. Spirited Away is no exception, with the music helping to create the incredible atmosphere of Miyazaki’s vision.
The song that plays over the closing credits is one of the most iconic from the movie, however, some may be surprised to learn that this song was not originally intended for the movie. The song was intended for a Miyazaki movie that wasn’t released, but Miyazaki liked it so much he included it at the end of this movie.
3 Cut The Line
One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is when Chihiro squashes the worm that has been living inside Haku with her foot. During this scene, Kamaji tells Chihiro to ‘cut the line’. This references a Japanese good luck charm that requires someone to perform a cutting gesture through another’s connected index fingers.
However, the actress who plays Chihiro was only aged 10 at the time and didn’t understand the reference, so Miyazaki had to explain the Japanese custom to her.
2 Mythic Influences
Spirited Away, as does a lot of Studio Ghibli movies, make use of Japanese mythology when crafting their unique and beautiful worlds. While Spirited Away does this too, it also makes use of a very specific Japanese myth in order to craft its story.
The theme of not looking back that the movie draws on comes from the Shinto myth of Izanagi, which itself is very similar to the Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridice.
1 Name Meanings
It’s fairly common for Miyazaki to use clever names when creating his characters and Spirited Away is no different. The characters in the movie have names that reflect either their appearance or their purpose in the overall narrative of the story.
For instance, Boh translates to ‘little boy’, Kamaji means ‘boiler man’, Yubaba means ‘bathhouse witch’, and Zeniba means ‘money witch’. Similarly, Chihiro means ‘a thousand searches’ and Sen means ‘a thousand’.
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