Studio Ghibli: Netflix buys rights to iconic animated films

By Levi Jouavel
Newsbeat reporter

  • Published
A scene from Spirited AwayImage source, Alamy
Image caption,
A scene from the Oscar-winning Spirited Away

Next month 21 films from the legendary Studio Ghibli are coming to Netflix.

It means new people will be introduced to "the ultimate escapism" of Studio Ghibli's films - up until now they've only been available on DVD, when they're broadcast on Film 4, or illegally.

Some of its most famous films include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and Howl's Moving Castle.

"It will really give people the chance to enjoy a lot of classics that they may not know about but are famous in the anime world," says Sarah Taylor, whose heart has "been with Ghibli" since she was 16 years old.

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If you aren't familiar, Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation film studio founded in 1985 by animators Miyazaki Hayao and Takahata Isao.

They are best known for their anime feature films.

"I believe in the power of story. I believe that stories have an important role to play in the formation of human beings, that they can stimulate, amaze and inspire their listeners," Miyazaki Hayao said in a 2002 interview.

So what does this mean to fans?

We spoke to three Studio Ghibli superfans who couldn't contain their excitement after hearing the announcement.

Image source, Sarah Taylor
Image caption,
Sarah's favourite Studio Ghibli film is Howl's Moving Castle

Sarah Taylor was first introduced to the films by her Japanese housemate.

"I saw some artwork on her wall and I thought - 'What is this? This is amazing'.

"She showed me the film and I was captivated, it really showed me what Japanese life could look like with a thrilling magical element on top," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"When I say I love anime people sort of roll their eyes a bit unless they have seen some and understand it.

"People still think it's just cartoons, but they're grown-up films."

'It's the ultimate escapism'

We didn't have to look too far to find the next superfan: Laura Bailey is a "massive anime fan" - and she's an assistant producer at BBC 1Xtra, round the corner from us at Newsbeat.

Image source, Alamy
Image caption,
My Neighbour Totoro, from 1988, is one of Studio Ghibli's most famous films

"It's great to have it on Netflix because people are really getting introduced into anime and are going to be able to watch the classic movies and understand what all the hype is about," Laura says.

She says the traditional stereotype of someone who watches anime is changing over time.

"I know a lot of rappers like AJ Tracey have spoken about watching anime, I don't think it's like a weird or geeky thing as much as it used to be when I was growing up," Laura says.

"It's the ultimate escapism, its like a Japanese Disney. It will take you to a different world if you ever grew up with cartoons."

A podcast... all about Studio Ghibli?

Yes, you heard it right. Jake Cunningham is co-host of the Ghibliotheque podcast - despite only watching his first Studio Ghibli film only 18 months ago.

Each week for the podcast he's given a film to watch by his superfan co-host, and has now watched them all.

Image source, Alamy
Image caption,
Spirited Away won the Oscar for best animated film in 2003, when the other nominees were Ice Age, Lilo & Stitch, Spirit and Treasure Planet

"It's been such a humongous learning curve for me, I've loved every aspect of it. These films are perfect.

"Before, other than when they'd be on Film4, you'd have to go out and buy the physical media, now it's on Netflix. I can't wait to people to watch those films because they are beautiful in themselves," he tells us.

"I just wish they'd announced this 18 months ago... it probably would've saved us a bit of money!" Jake adds.

He recently visited Japan to record the podcast and went on a hunt for a "particular Japanese poster" from a Studio Ghibli film.

Image source, Jake Cunningham
Image caption,
"It just shows how the landscape of anime fans is changing"

"I think they are totally different to any other animation studio out there, there is so much heart in all of them."

With the films now accessible to anyone with a Netflix account outside of the US, Canada and Japan, Jake thinks lots of people will see just how ahead of their time the Studio Ghibli catalogue was.

"They're promoting messages - like environmental comments and self-identity - that I think Western studios are only getting into 20 years later."

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