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Spirited Away, the Movie that went Global (Global Films)

Spirited Away (or 千と千尋の神隠し) is a 2001 animated Japanese film created by Hayao Miyazaki, creator for Studio Ghibli. It tells the story of Chihiro who is a 10 year old little girl who is moving away with her parents, and in the process enters the world of spirits. Her parents are magically turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba and to free herself and her parents, Chihiro takes a job in Yubaba’s bathhouse.

The film was released in Japan in 2001, becoming the most successful film in Japanese history, earning more than $361 Million worldwide. Receiving globe wide praise, the film is commonly found on the list of the greatest films to exist, definitely in the animated lists. Winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for the first of the films in that genre, and receiving numerous other awards.

Many who have not seen the film may believe the film is intended for audiences who are of younger ages, such as children. Yet the film really isn’t aimed at a specific age, it has things that younger ages and older ages will understand and appreciate more than the other. Young children can understand the basic story line and still manage to enjoy the movie, a young girl is trapped and needs to escape. But for adults it can be more in depth than just understanding a basic story line, valuing the lessons it can teach and the more so ‘adult’ topics that the movie handles and explores during its run time.

Ideally for individuals to understand the film, It is ideal to have a base knowledge of how the Japanese culture acts and how they perform different cultural elements than the audiences own. For example, one of the common concertises of entering a building or someone else’s home, not only be verbally invited inside but also to take off their ‘outside’ shoes. This is just a common knowledge thing and in reality, Miyazaki did not write these cultural elements to be integral for the story to understand what is happening in the film, this opening up the film for such success with audiences around the world.

In the films world wide release there is clear evidence of a cultural hybridisation (the blending of elements from different cultures). This can be found primarily in the speech in the film. Through travelling across the world in its success, Spirited Away has hybridised different cultures, using a Japanese animated film using the language of the country it is in. Yet in terms of the cultural proximity, we see Spirited Away break this idea that films are stuck in their respective cultures, the film literally is one of the most successful animated films in the world.

As explored by Lamarre, they state that the “Ghibli-Brand isn’t conservative or traditionalist in the sense of embracing Japanese traditions or promoting ‘Japanese-ness’, In stylistic terms, it tends toward a sort of cozy European kitsch with environmentalist undertones, typified in the numerous technologically and culturally eclectic burgs in Miyazaki’s films with their beatific openness to sea, sky, and greenery” (Lamarre 2009) This statement can be the perfect definition as to why it is so globally popular, a culture making a movie that whilst uses its own, it still adapts and includes others so they can relate?

What do you think was the cause of Spirited Away’s wide success? Let me know!

Till next time,



Lamarre, Thomas (2006) The first time as farce: Digital animation and the repetition of cinema, in S. Brown (ed.), Cinema anime: Critical engagements with animation, pp. 161–88

Lamarre, Thomas (2009) The anime machine: A media theory of animation (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press).

Stringer, J (2003), Movie Blockbusters, Routledge, London. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central

Miyazaki Hayao (2001) Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, released in English as Spirited Away (Studio Ghibli).


Published by Alex Cooper

UOW Communication and Media Student - Majoring in Digital and Social Media - Minoring in Graphic Design

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