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Three Family Friendly Studio Ghibli Films

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by Tom Fieldhouse (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son. I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Published July 25th 2020
Three top animated movies: invite the whole family
Masterful storytelling, lovable characters and superb settings

Mr Miyazaki, with his wonderful mind / Source:

Director Hayao Miyazaki has made 22 feature length animated films since 1984. His 'Studio Ghibli' is justifiably world-famous for its fascinating settings, lovable characters and exciting plots. Miyazaki is the director, animator and writer of many of the movies, which are all animated and fall within the anime style made famous by Japan. The musical scores are also superb and enhance these movies even more.

These three movies all have meticulously created beautiful settings, in magical yet realistic worlds. The characters are also very moral and courageous, which adds to their power. The first two chosen movies have a rural setting, but the third is markedly more city-oriented. Here are three of his most wonderful movies, which are all perfect for family viewing. All three are currently available on Netflix UK, or to buy or stream.

1. Laputa: Castle in the Sky

The Castle in the Sky, once it has been revealed by Sheeta / Source:

Made in 1986, this is one of the very first Studio Ghibli movies, and in my opinion, the absolute best! Jump in to the lives of Pazu and Sheeta, two unlikely adventurers who are searching for a mythical island that floats in the sky, hidden by gigantic clouds. Add in some lovable sky pirates, sinister army spies and a loyal, royal robot, then you have the makings of this beautiful story.

The plot is very exciting and imaginative and offers creative storytelling at its best. This film will most suit slightly older children, as there are some subtle and thought-provoking morals and themes that might be lost on younger kiddies. Nevertheless, this is a family movie, and a fast-paced adventure story to escape in to.

2. My Neighbour Tortoro

My Neighbour Tortoro
The main characters from this gentle adventure / Source:

Another of Miyazaki's first films, this one was created in 1988. Satzuke and Mei are sisters who move into a house in the countryside with their academic father. Whilst their mother recovers from an illness in hospital, the sisters meet friendly forest spirit that has wonderful powers. There are a whole host of other lovely characters in this movie, which is more gentle and amusing than Laputa. The movie also features arguably the most imaginative and bizarre of all Ghibli characters, namely the 'Cat Bus'. There are some serious scenes and themes in this movie, but as the plot centres around two younger characters, this film will appeal strongly to younger viewers. As ever though, Ghibli is superb for adult viewers, too.

3. The Cat Returns

The Cat Returns
A loyal Baron, being brave / Source:

Animated in 2002 and adapting a graphic novel of the same name, this movie is an urban fairytale that has a bizarre twist. A chance encounter with a gift-carrying cat leads to main character Haru being plunged into a world full of walking, talking cats. There are the same loyal, courageous and loving characters, but this movie has a decidedly urban feel to it. Although the cat world is full of challenges and adventures, the movie still retains a family feel. My son was delighted by the walking cats, and he has just turned eight.

I love all of these movies as an adult. There is so much to love about them, whether you are an animation buff or just want to enjoy a bit of escapism for a couple of hours. They are also a joy to watch with family, and even to watch the reactions of little or big ones seeing them for the first time. An aspect that I love is the superb voice talents of the dubbed English versions that are on offer. You can watch all the movies in the original Japanese, but all movies are dubbed convincingly by English speaking actors and actresses. With the voice talents of Billy Bob Thornton, Ralph Feinnes, Mark Hamill, Ellie and Dakota Fanning (among others), the films are even an audio treat. I do hope you enjoy the movies if you watch them. Netflix is currently screening many of Ghibli's finest, so I wish you happy viewing. Thank you, Mr Miyazaki!

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Why? Wonderful family-friendly, fantasy animation movies.
When: Whenever you wish, but perfect for rainy day viewing, or ideal for a Sunday afternoon.
Where: Currently on Netflix, but also available to stream or buy
Cost: Netflix subscription, or very affordable in the shops/online
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