Japanese master animator Miyazaki's films are finally coming to digital platforms

  • "Spirited Away" won the Oscar as 2001's best animated feature.

    "Spirited Away" won the Oscar as 2001's best animated feature. Courtesy of Studio Ghibli

 
 
Posted12/6/2019 6:00 AM

Those of us familiar with the works of Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki welcome any mention of his name with awe. His "Spirited Away," a 2001 fantasy about a transformational family trip, won the Oscar for best animated feature. A master of creative, whimsical and sometimes terrifying hand-drawn imagery, the 78-year-old Miyazaki is regarded as the greatest living animator.

And soon, his work will be the most accessible it ever has been to American audiences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For years, film buffs had to buy expensive DVD or Blu-ray releases (or stake out the local library) to watch Miyazaki's films at home. That changes Dec. 17, when GKIDS makes the entire Studio Ghibli catalog available across major digital purchase and rental platforms -- iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, etc. A few months ago, we learned Studio Ghibli's films would also be streaming on HBO Max, yet another new streaming outlet launching next year.

Many of Miyazaki's famous films are children's favorites, including "My Neighbor Totoro," with its cuddly hero and creepy cat-shaped bus, and "Kiki's Delivery Service," about a witch and her wisecracking cat.

"Princess Mononoke" is an epic adventure that pits man vs. nature.
"Princess Mononoke" is an epic adventure that pits man vs. nature. - Courtesy of Studio Ghibli

But where should you, the adult reader of a newspaper, start your Miyazaki journey? With 1997's "Princess Mononoke," a medieval adventure and environmental fable in which animal gods clash with the humans of Irontown as they encroach upon nature with their rifles. The heroine of the title rides a giant wolf, an elk with a humanoid face stalks the forest, tiny white sprites rattle their spinning heads -- and all is treated with the seriousness and scope of a historical epic.

If you want to get a head start, Miyazaki's earliest film, the one not released by the aforementioned Studio Ghibli, is streaming on Netflix. "The Castle of Cagliostro" features iconic anime hero Lupin III in the kind of adventure that involves secret passages, disguises and a damsel in distress. Much of it seems to be the inspiration for an entire generation of 8-bit video games. (That's a compliment, if you ask me!)

• Follow Sean on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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