Spirited Away: Starting Points & Childlike Imagination

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Where do we become transformed?

When we consider wonder in its purest form, it is often attached to that of a child’s imagination, which runs deep with anticipation and possibility. There are few that get this reality more than director/writer Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Studios team, whose 2001 film Spirited Away earned the Academy’s top prize in animation–a feat few other studios have accomplished since Pixar’s reign began over a decade ago.

In short, Spirited Away is a coming-of-age film that tackles life’s complexity through the lens of a 10-year-old, Chihiro. The story is appropriately complex itself–hitting questions and themes of culture, gluttony, the environment, and spirituality–all while embodying an incredible sense of adventure and mystery along the ride. And it is within these pursuits that transformation awaits. All in all, it might be the most imaginative film I’ve ever seen…

But Miyazaki is not concerned with how I feel about the film. This is a film that is genuinely created for children (10-year-old girls to be exact). Sure, hundreds of films are released each year for the kid market. In fact, over $800 million was been spent on the animation genre this year to date. But while we understand that financial considerations are always a reality for any studio/director, Miyazaki’s obsession seems to be elsewhere – creating a film that embodies the wonder of a child via the perspective of a child–for the child.

When rednow began in 2006, we began by trying to understand the difference between good art and bad art. What makes a particular piece of art wonder-full versus those without?

While subjectivity is certainly at play, there seems to consistent factor: starting points. In other words, there is a significant difference between setting out to entertain versus express. Miyazaki has chosen the latter and it pays off in beauty, imagination, and experience. But don’t take my word. Take a 10 year-old’s perspective… Here’s a review via my (then 10-year-old) daughter.