A Beginners Guide to Studio Ghibli

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You may suddenly be finding that you have a lot more free time on your hands. The likelihood of this time being used flicking through Netflix trying to find something good to watch is pretty high. Well, Netflix has recently released 21 Studio Ghibli films that are definitely worth watching, so here’s a little introduction to Studio Ghibli and some of our favourites.  

Studio Ghibli is a powerhouse of Japanese animation. Founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli has produced numerous feature films, several short films, television commercials and even some video games. Studio Ghibli’s name comes from the Arabic word ‘Ghibli’ which means ‘hot Sahara wind’: The founders, Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuk and Isao Takahata, allegedly wanted Studio Ghibli to blow a new wind through the animation industry. But Ghibli was also the name of an Italian Aircraft used during World War II, flying a common theme in Studio Ghibli films as Miyazaki reportedly loved planes and flying.

Unlike other animation giants, Ghibli still predominantly uses traditional, hand-drawn animation methods. This means the production of films take a long time as every frame of the film has to be hand-drawn (typically Studio Ghibli films have 24 frames per second) and then are animated together.  CGI is used in some films, but it only ever accounts for around 10% of the final version. 

There are a lot of common themes that occur in Studio Ghibli’s films. These include environmentalism (particularly damage done by atomic bombs), childhood, community, flight, multiple worlds and both Japanese and European mythology. 

The official first Ghibli movie was Castle in the Sky in 1986, and the most recent Ghibli film is When Marnie was There, released in 2014. But after the release of When Marnie was There, Studio Ghibli temporarily halted production following the retirement of Miyazaki. But in 2017 it was announced that Miyazaki had come out of retirement to work on How Do You Live? which is currently in production. 

The Studio Ghibli films are some of the most successful films to come out of Japan. Six of their films are in the 10 highest-grossing anime films made in Japan, Spirited Away alone grossed over $360 million US dollars at the box office. In fact Spirited Away was so popular that it overtook Titanic at the Japanese box office, becoming the top-grossing film in the history of Japanese cinema. Ghibli’s films have also won several awards including a Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards for Spirited Away (they have also received a further 5 Academy Awards nominations), a Golden Bear award, and numerous Anime Grand Prix and Japan Academy Prizes awards

Some of our favourites

Choosing a favourite Studio Ghibli film wasn’t an easy task for the team at Giggle, much like choosing a favourite child! But after much deliberation, here is the shortlist:


Spirited away– Like many people, Spirited away was the first Studio Ghibli film that I watched and has remained my favourite ever since.


Spirited Away – It manages to be dark and beautiful all at the same time. Blew my kids away when they saw it – they watched it again the next day!


My Neighbour Totoro– I love its portrayal of rural japan in an interesting time period and its connection to nature. But also because Totoro is really cute! (Totoro is also the Studio Ghibli logo)


Pom Poko- I loved all the Japanese folktales and raccoons: it was both weird and cute! but Kiki’s Delivery Service is also great, I want to fly on a broom!


The Wind Rises– The story is wonderful, but the sound is just so gorgeous. All the plane noises are so, well, human. The whole thing is just really beautiful. I think it has some of the most extraordinary animated scenes ever made.