- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
At the 75th Academy Awards, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away won best animated feature in the second year of the category’s existence — and, to this day, it is the only hand-drawn feature (mostly; computers were used sparingly) to win the honor.
The eighth film from Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli — following such classics as 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro and 1997’s Princess Mononoke — is set in a local bathhouse in Bunkyo, the district of Tokyo where the writer-director was born. Miyazaki, then 59, wrote a screenplay that follows 10-year-old Chihiro as she attempts to save her parents, who have been turned into pigs after eating cursed food. She takes a job at a supernatural bathhouse run by a witch. There, she meets a masked figure known as No-Face, a Jabba the Hutt-like “stink spirit” from a polluted river, and Haku, a 12-year-old conjurer who transforms into a dragon.
Made on a budget of $19 million ($30 million in 2021) — 10 percent of which was covered by Disney, which handled U.S. distribution and English dubbing — Spirited Away brought in $275 million worldwide ($430 million today), overtaking Titanic to become Japan’s highest-grossing film for 19 years. With subsequent rereleases, the coming-of-age fantasy took in an additional $85 million at the box office.
As Miyazaki said in 2002, “If you stay true to joy and astonishment and empathy, you don’t have to have violence and you don’t have to have action.”
This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day