Studio Ghibli is one of the best animation studios working today, and its influence can be felt in these Disney+ movies
Studio Ghibli has a well-deserved reputation for creating animated feature films that are every bit as enchanting and emotionally resonant as Disney and Pixar. In fact, in many ways the studio’s films are a bit more complex than their American counterparts, precisely because they don’t seem to be bound to the same sorts of rules for commercial appeal.
However, there are some films that are available on Disney+, many of them produced by Disney or Pixar, that manage to capture the same sort of ethos and atmosphere that makes Studio Ghibli so appealing. Here are 10 animated films now available on Disney+ that fans of Studio Ghibli will appreciate.
Part of what makes the films of Studio Ghibli so different from their American counterparts is that they don’t usually focus on a clear-cut moral battle of good versus evil, in which all choices are deceptively simple in ways that they aren’t in the real world.
Pixar’s Up manages to do just that because while there is adventure, it’s much more an exploration of friendship, feelings, and the power of connection. It’s a deeply resonant film that will appeal to fans of Ghibli.
Moana was a refreshing change of pace for the Disney princess given that until recently, women in the lead role were almost completely absent from the studio’s canon. It’s also exciting to see a young woman take charge of her own destiny and set out on her own adventure, shaping the narrative around her own desires.
For anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Ghibli, they’ll know that the studio has its own share of strong female leads who set out to explore their worlds.
So many Studio Ghibli films focus on self-discovery and the efforts of individuals to go out into a world that is both strange and exciting. For these reasons, Coco is sure to meet the desires of Ghibli fans who want to see a similar set of issues explored in a world rarely seen in cinema: the Mexican afterlife.
Here, the narrative of exploration takes on a rather grim but strangely colorful aesthetic, as the young character Miguel journeys into the Land of the Dead on a voyage of discovery.
The power of community and of emotion are two of the strongest aspects of Ghibli films. Clearly taking a page from that book, Frozen, which is one of the most successful that Disney has ever produced, made a few changes to the classic Disney formula, with successful results.
The driving engine of this film is the unbreakable bond between the sisters Elsa and Anna and this, along with the truly breathtaking animation and the stirring music, make the original Frozen a must-watch for fans of Ghibli.
Inside Out (2015)
Studio Ghibli veterans know that every Ghibli movie will encourage and even force viewers to look at the world around them in new and exciting ways. Of all of the American animation studios, it is perhaps Pixar that manages to do the exact same thing with the most grace and beauty.
That is what makes Inside Out such a pleasure to watch. With story and characters that capture the poignancy and beauty of childhood and growing pains, it makes viewers of all ages look closely at their own psyches and at the deepest parts of their subconscious.
The Black Cauldron (1985)
Studio Ghibli, unlike some of its American counterparts, is respected for the ways in which it has proved itself willing to take risks with animation, pushing the form to explore new territory. With some exceptions, Disney has proven unwilling to do so.
One of those exceptions is The Black Cauldron, which is very loosely based on the series of novels by Lloyd Alexander. Though there are some narrative and script problems, the film is one of those rare times when Disney explored the darker side of animation, and to this day it is a haunting reminder of what might have been if the studio stuck to The Black Cauldron’s risks..
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)
Those looking for film on Disney+ that manages to capture the spirit and adventure of the best of Studio Ghibli should definitely take a look at this film. It’s one of those that emerged during that period when the studio was just as invested (if not more so) in the production of live-action films as it was animated features.
It is, of course, based on the Jules Verne novel of the same name. While the special effects might seem a bit dated now, it’s hard to miss the adventuresome and exciting spirit that motivates the whole film.
James & The Giant Peach (1996)
Road Dahl has a reputation for being one of those children’s authors who was able to capture the strangely nightmarish and the whimsically endearing in the same book, a quality he shares with Studio Ghibli.
This stop-motion film is very much a product of its time, but it is an incredibly touching and at times even beautiful film to watch. It’s a reminder of the power of childhood imagination and the limitless imagination of youth.
While Avatar didn’t really age well thanks to its overly familiar story, it definitely used the power of CGI and motion capture technology to push the entire medium of filmmaking into new and exciting directions.
The vividness of Avatar’s creation and the strange and exciting nature of Pandora – the planet it’s set on – are what make James Cameron’s film a perfect choice for fans of Ghibli. Both Ghibli and this film show that animation (computerized or otherwise) has the power to immerse audiences in a perilously beautiful and strange world.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
It’s unfortunate that Atlantis: The Lost Empire never got the love that it deserved, either from critics or audiences. It came out at the unfortunate moment when then the musically-charged Disney Renaissance was over, and the studio was trying to find the right formula to recapture its earlier glory while branching out into newer territory.
Despite its unremarkable initial reception, Atlantis has since garnered a loyal cult following and it’s still a good choice for fans of Ghibli precisely because it took more risks than the typical Disney animated feature would.
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