It's a great pleasure for all of us that we have another world, animation, of different dimensions to run away to and from this complex world we're living in. In this sense, we owe Studio Ghibli and Pixar for their magnificent jobs over the last 20 years. These two studios have treated us to different pleasures that are derived from their differences in the ways they see and portray the world; yet, something more interesting is that those differences reflect different views the East and the West may hold.
Studio Ghibli and Pixar
Studio Ghibli and Pixar have made various animation films since the 1980s (Ghibli was established in 1985, and Pixar in 1986). You would be well aware of Ghibli for their works like The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro and My Neighbor Totoro, or names like Miyazaki Hayao or Hisaishi Joe. Alternatively, Pixar created such movies as Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, and Up before melding with Disney in 2006, with classical fairy tales being produced by the latter movie company.
How do Ghibli and Pixar view children?
Roger Ebert described Sen in The Spiriting Away of Sen And Chihiro as "...a 10-year-old girl who isn't one of those cheerful little automatons that populate many animated films." And as he continued to write, "...she is described by many critics as 'sullen.'" Aside from Sen, Seita in Grave of the Fireflies or San in Mononoke Hime also provide such uniqueness in child characters. Children in Ghibli films are not just adorable dolls with pinkish cheeks; but rather they are innocent, yet simultaneously clever and are very well aware of how to cheat. Just like adults, they understand that the world is not always generous and to never beg for pity. In Pixar movies, in contrast, children are there satisfying all of the general expectations of children. They are sweet, lovable, and ignorant. Whenever we watch Monster Inc., we are completely captivated by Boo's every little movement and the audience viewer has to suppress the urge to hug her. Andy and Bonnie from Toy Story, who go perfectly with the words "nice kids," appear to be wonderful owners of toys. Unlike the children in Ghibli films, they are just there pleasing audiences with their loveliness rather than functioning as overt message carriers.
How do Ghibli and Pixar breathe lives into non-humans?
Picture the scene in Toy Story where the toys gather together and hold a conference that resemble that of humans' meetings despite the storyline of them being mere toys. And so we see Woody, a cowboy doll who's in the position of a leader, presiding over the conference holding a microphone in his one hand. They discuss about deciding 'moving buddy' in order to prevent any toys to be left behind, evaluate the last plastic corrosion awareness meeting, and undergo trivial conflicts. Now try to picture how that same scene would be like if Ghibli made it. It would be difficult to imagine because non-humans in Ghibli movies act in a way that humans can never understand. Non-humans in Pixar movies such as toys in Toy Story, bugs in A Bug's Life, animals in Finding Nemo or cars in Cars all act like they're implanted with human spirits. Those characters reflect the human-oriented views and the bottom line is that 'What if non-humans were alive just like humans?' However, the world of non-humans in Ghibli have another system of rules and philosophy that are completely different with humans. Audiences can never expect how the tiny black things in My Neighbor Totoro or The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro would act like because they belong in worlds where human beings can never reach.
Ghibli and Pixar's different attitudes toward environment
Both Ghibli and Pixar are well known for their care and attention for the environment. They have tried for a long period to encourage people to care about nature and environmental problems; however, their ways hold slightly differing attitudes toward them. Pixar, in movies like WALL-E or Finding Nemo, mainly focuses on presenting the realistic portrayals of environments and such visualization is technically magnificent. However, one cannot easily realize that humans are to blame for those environmental problems via watching Pixar movies. Conversely, the level of violence in expression is much more severe in Ghibli movies. Mononoke Hime, for example, plainly shows audiences how nature and the creatures in it are suffering from humans and directly blames humans for such brutality.
When Toy Story 3 was released, the theater was full of children laughing and adults weeping happy tears. Similarly, children who have absolutely no idea about Miyazaki's pacifism can also enjoy his films as well as adults who can understand the hidden messages. Both studios succeeded at making dual codes and many critics suggest that is the premise for their big hits. Here at Indigo, we suggest another way to enjoy Ghibli and Pixar films. Try to compare how those two studios are differ in their views and think about how such differences reflect the views from the East and the West by comparing and contrasting two of their movies, such as Up VS Howl's Moving Castle!
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