Studio Ghibli is a movie studio that produces Japanese animation. Like Pixar, their movies spark the imagination and focus on bringing the feelings of childhood and magic alive.
Although Ghibli has similar ideals to Pixar, their animation style is very different. Instead of leaning towards 3D, Ghibli produces movies that are similar to the cartoon style. This might make them sound less sophisticated, but after you watch one of their films, it'll be obvious that the sophistication and elegance in Ghibli's animation are still there. Their movies are detailed, elaborate, and fantastical.
I know that Japanese "anime" sounds intimidating and has some weird connotations in American society sometimes, but seeing one of these movies is worth it, trust me. Even if you don't want to watch a movie with subtitles, Studio Ghibli is associated with Disney, so their English voice-overs do the story justice. Here's a list of the best of the best (or, at least the ones I've gotten to see before).
1. "Spirited Away"
If you've heard of Studo Ghibli, you've probably heard of "Spirited Away." Like most of their other films, "Spirited Away" focuses on a young girl, named Chihiro, who is in the process of moving.
On their way to the new house, Chihiro and her parents decide to stop and explore — and maybe find somewhere to eat. After walking through a large tunnel and coming out to open land with rolling hills, they come across what seems like a deserted town with an abundance of food. After her parents start gulping down the food, they turn into pigs, and Chihiro is then stuck in another dimension. The rest of the movie is spent in this dimension as Chihiro tries to figure out how to change her parents back and then get back to the real world.
2. "My Neighbor Totoro"
"My Neighbor Toroto" was the first Ghibli film I saw — and it was a little weird, but I loved it. After seeing it in the theater for Studio Ghibli Fest, I didn't know how I felt about it at first.
"My Neighbor Totoro," again, is about two young girls, Satsuke and Mei, who have just moved into a new house with their dad. While exploring the nearby forest, the younger of the two sisters, Mei, discovers a tunnel that leads to the home of a sleeping forest spirit that she dubs "Totoro." The storyline is a little hard to explain after that, but basically it's about their interactions with their parents and Totoro.
"Ponyo" is the cutest of all the Studio Ghibli movies I've seen so far. This is also the one that I noticed the magic in the animation the most, during a certain scene where Ponyo is running on the ocean. It's beautiful. While the other movies felt a little odd to me, "Ponyo" just felt like a work of art.
This film is about a young fish who gets discovered and taken home by a young boy, named Sosuke. He talks to, feeds, and names the little fish Ponyo. Eventually she turns into a little girl. It's adorable.
4. "Howl's Moving Castle"Giphy
"Howl's Moving Castle" reminded me of David Bowie in "Labyrinth," mostly because of the style of one of the characters — shown in the gif above. Otherwise, the stories are completely different. This Ghibli film is about a teenage girl, Sophie, who gets cursed and turned into an old woman. Since she can't talk about the curse, she goes to seek help and ends up living with a wizard named Howl. This is one of the most magical Ghibli movies, next to "Spirited Away" and "Ponyo."
5. "The Secret World of Arrietty"
"The Secret World of Arrietty" is kind-of like the story of "Thumbalina." It's about a tiny family that has to survive living in the house of a normal-sized family, that they call "beans." The only child, Arrietty, is discovered by one of the normal-sized humans and adventure ensues.
Ghibli isn't as well-known in America as it should be. Each and every one of these movies, and many of the others, are beautiful and need to be appreciated for the style and magic that they bring into the world.
Compared to Pixar, which still produces amazing movies (and will probably continue making wonderful films for a while), I prefer Studio Ghibli. Even if you don't agree, I strongly suggest seeing at least a handful of these movies — they're definitely worth the time and money. Unfortunately, no Studio Ghibli movies are available to stream online (at all!!) because Disney is a jerk, so you would have to see them in the theater (which I highly recommend), or buy them on DVD (which isn't bad either).