Studio Ghibli in Western Pop Culture
By: John Fragglepuss Evans
This information was originally presented as part of our Salt Lake Comic Con FanX panel, “Studio Ghibli: Anime that Appeals to Everyone”. Thanks to everyone that attended the panel and my fellow panelists, Breanne Evans, Brittany Evans, Lindsay Starke, and Alec Unsicker.
Studio Ghibli is perhaps the most iconic Japanese animation studio, creating such films as Howl’s Moving Castle and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away. Imagine a Japanese Disney in terms of notoriety. For an in-depth look at the company, check out my post here.
Ghibli is beloved by countless individuals and has inspired many creators around the world. John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, stated “Whenever we get stuck at Pixar or Disney, I put on a Miyazaki film sequence or two, just to get us inspired again”. Other Pixar animators have paid equally complimentary to Ghibli’s films.
Several methods how been used to pay homage to Studio Ghibli:
A tribute is paid to Studio Ghibli in Bob’s Burgers season 3 episode 25, An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal. An exact scene of My Neighbor Totoro is recreated using Bob’s animation style and characters.
South Park also recreates a Ghibli scene in season 14 episode 12, Mysterion Rises. In the episode Cartman meets a sleeping Cthulhu for the first time and asks its name, much like Mei when she first encounters Totoro.
Inserting Ghibli characters as Easter Eggs
Several films and television series have inserted Ghibli characters as Easter Eggs, such as in: Toy Story 3, American Dad, South Park, Drawn Together, Powderpuff Girls, and Gravity Falls.
Season 3 episode 13 of Steven Universe is titled “Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service”, an obvious reference to Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Jim Kim, character designer supervisor at Walt Disney Animation Studios, drew an homage to My Neighbor Totoro using the two main characters from Big Hero 6, Hiro and Baymax.
The Simpsons created a unique tribute to Ghibli in season 25 episode 10, Married to the Blob. Homer and Mr. Nakamura to a Japanese bar where they drink Habushu (Snake Rice Wine) and stumble home intoxicated. The streets transform into a Ghibli wonderland, with references to Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Porco Rosso.
This next video tribute is not taken from a television series or film, but I wanted to share it because of how creative it is. It is an original creation by French animator dono. It is a tribute to Hayao Miyazaki and uses a mixture of 2D and 3D animation set to music by Joe Hisaishi.
If you need further proof of Ghibli’s influence, look to the geek conventions. If you have ever been to a comic con or seen photos of one, you’ve seen Ghibli cosplay. Popular choices include: Howl, Sophie, Totoro, San, Ashitaka, Porco Rosso, No Face, Kiki, and Nausicaä. If you’re lucky you might see a Forest Spirit, San, or Sheeta wandering the convention floor.
Photos taken at: Salt Lake Comic Con, Anime Banzai, and Anime Expo.
It makes me glad Ghibli has a strong impact on Western culture. I adore their films and hope to see more homage as time passes.