Ghibli by hyung86

The great Animation debate: Ghibli versus Disney

Disney is a universal brand, a timeless reflection back to our youth, brimming with fond memories of cinema trips and cosy nights in with the family. Tales of traditionally perfect Princesses, talking animals and sing-along-songs. The companies ability to hold a special place in the hearts of each generation for almost a century is admirable. So, why is Studio Ghibli, the Japanese counterpart for the East, so much more?

For those who do not know of Studio Ghibli, it was founded in 1985, around 62 years after its fair-to-say rival, Disney. The Japanese company has created over 20 beautiful animated feature films to date, with their own array of wonderfully crafted heroes and heroines.

The two animation giants undoubtedly share similar traits, their work is utterly timeless and adored globally. However, it is a belief shared by many that the East began to take over the West when it came to quality animation, and there are a fair few reasons why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Growing up, I watched both Disney and Studio Ghibli films, and the latter continues to move me as I edge towards my mid-twenties (a scary prospect). The heart of Studio Ghibli stems from its animation team, especially from the creative brain of the former lead director, Hayao Miyazaki, who created something with a far deeper moralistic and feminist meaning.

Ghibli Posters

Why are strong female leads so important in animation?

Like many, I found myself learning far more from Studio Ghibli, with their tales of female struggle and empowerment (most films tend to have a strong female lead). Unlike the Disney Princesses, the heroines are relatable without the patronising undertone and the magic and depth of their fantasy tales awakens the attention of adults, as well as presenting important moral dilemmas and messages for children watching.

Looking at the female leads in Disney films (predominantly the Disney Princesses) in comparison to those in Studio Ghibli, a striking difference will continuously manifest itself. Time and time again in Disney, it will be seen that these princesses are overtly defenseless without the men in their lives to rescue them (Mulan, Merida and the new Princess Moana being the few exceptions).

Compare this to Studio Ghibli, and you will find feminist icons in abundance,  the majority of Ghibli films have an admirable and strong female lead. Miyazaki says:

“Many of my movies have strong female leads – brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

Not relying on a man (or anyone for that matter) is a recurring theme, everyone is seen as equal in the gender Olympic’s and this is just wonderful for the self-esteem of a small child, who doesn’t love feeling empowered and equal?

WHY is female empowerment needed IN ANIMATION?

An example of utter reliance on men is presented to us in The Little Mermaid (Disney). Our leading mermaid, Ariel, plays centre-stage under the sea, she is beautiful, feisty and terribly naive. Of course, she falls head-over-heels for the ‘wrong’ guy in the opinion of her father, whom she then desperately seeks out upon the land in exchange for her voice. He notices her, but not enough to avoid being bewitched and ensnared by a witch. Says it all but a happy ending is guaranteed, this is Disney.

old-sophie-howls-moving-castle

Compare this with female protagonist Sophie of Howl’s Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli), and you are presented with a self-conscious wallflower. Sophie is plain and unnoticed, obviously reinforced as viewers see that even her own mother fails to realise her transformation from a young girl into a twisted hag. This ordinary girl, no ‘beauty’ on her side, must seek out a wizard whose attention she had caught in her youthful state. The issue being that she cannot speak a word to anyone about the curse and therefore must lurk around until she can figure out how to break it herself, while her wizarding companion is on a quest to find himself also.

There is far more depth to Sophie, she’s opinionated, brash and stern (probably something to do with the aged state and being utterly fed up). Whereas Ariel is presented as emotionally motivated and stroppy, only seeking her happiness as an end goal and caring little for the loss of those around her (particularly her somewhat overbearing father who is terrified about her disappearance). On the other hand, Sophie seeks to help all those around her, she is a complex character whose love and compassion motivates her throughout, perhaps even at her own expense and happiness at times.

The problem with Disney is that helplessness, ‘love’ and beauty define the Princesses. With Studio Ghibli, beauty isn’t key, the female leads are admired for their strength, journey, and powerful hearts. It is a stark and reoccurring difference, just select any Disney or Studio Ghibli film.

Some critics argue that Studio Ghibli films exploit these young heroines. However, It would seem that the consensus argues that Ghibli, in fact, challenges girls to solve their own problems. Saying this, modern Disney appears to have approached this too with ‘stronger’ characters such as Mulan and Merida, to name a few. In contrast, Studio Ghibli has been doing this with his characters since day one, in a culture often perplexed by such dominating female empowerment.

Another perk is that Studio Ghibli animations provide far more cultural exploration for us Westerners and prove themselves to be culturally apt. Whereas Disney often fails to truly embrace the cultures of their Princesses in their locality.

Often you will hear of Disneyland being the ‘most magical place on earth’, its stories the basis for this magic. I argue that Studio Ghibli offers far more magic, it teaches us to be kind, to not judge, to respect and cherish our environment (nature being of great religious importance to the Japanese), that pacifism can work and childhood transitioning is tough, no one can save you from it but you.

Their stories are creative, with complex and challenging storylines, developed and iconic characters, heartwarming and meaningful messages, embellished with beautiful animation. Studio Ghibli will remain timeless to its audience, holding many an animated heart for a lifetime with their emotion invoking work. The core and important message will stay the same, despite your gender, appearance, size or background, you can achieve anything you want to, and this is why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Does your heart remain with Disney or Studio Ghibli? What is your favourite Ghibli film?

Stephanie xox

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After attacks across the world this past week, many are left in a harrowing and mournful state.

The focal point and centre of attention amidst all this crisis, were the Parisian attacks, in which as many as 129 people were killed and more than 300 injured after three groups of armed men rampaged the French capital last Friday.

In light of this coverage, many are rightfully angered that the Middle East was clearly not represented enough in comparison, a disparity of coverage was quite evident.

Devastation and attacks were seen also with ISIS bombings killing 43 in Beirut and 26 in Baghdad, among countless other cities falling victim to relentless terrorist attacks, igniting the belief that ‘are some tragedies more tragic that others?’

This was illustrated dramatically when Facebook opted not to add a ‘Safety Check‘ to these Middle Eastern locations although its use was prominent in France, the feature enabling those in areas of tragedy to mark themselves as safe, making their family and friends aware.

These actions have led to huge debates online and across the media. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has since promised to enable the Safety Check feature more following these accusations of a ‘Western bias‘, saying: “we care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”

However, despite these selective actions of social conglomerates, this should not mean that the people within Europe (and globally) should be penalised for mourning their losses, or any losses for that matter.

It is ludicrous that in a crisis, people are being shamed for their solidarity and unification in a crisis. This is about death, death close to home and, of course, all lives matter.

Further accusations of ‘Western bias’ and ‘selective grief’ erupted as the social media website offered its users the ability to change their profile picture to a French flag overlay. Most on Facebook inclined, I did so myself.

Many an opinion piece has circulated the internet, with a fair few condemning the changing of profile pictures to represent the French, seen by some as a portrayal of jumping on a bandwagon of ‘corporate white supremacy‘, so to speak.

I am not French of course, I do not claim to be and I do not have family living in France. But, like many other Britons, I holiday in France, a ‘tourist’ within Paris often, and I have a great affection for the city. France is, after all, my neighboring country, I am European.

The atmosphere in my home city of Oxford the following morning after the widespread attacks was somber, with the minute silence yesterday being undeniably and widely respected across the UK.

Of course, I reiterate that all lives are equal, matter and should be represented as such. A degree of ignorance does remain, and we must remain vigilant, respectful and unified to the ongoing terrors worldwide. To all those affected by ongoing global crisis, I offer my deepest sympathy, no one should ever feel unsafe.

Let us hope that the tragedies of the paris attcks last week will continue to unify, and those whose voices reach the furthest will promote a more global and respectful representation in the future.

The recent protests at St Paul’s Cathedral in London have resulted in the resignation of the Dean Graeme Knowles. 


The Rev has struggled with the two week long protest at the Cathedral and claims that his position has become ‘untenable’. This resignation springs from the Deans recent controversial statement that approved the use of legal action against protesters. He steps down so that a new leadership may be exercised and is greatly saddened in doing so.

The protests have been progressing for a number of weeks upon the site of the Cathedral. These protests spring from the beliefs of anti-capitalist protesters which has led to the place of worship being closed for several days.

City of London authorities have now ordered protesters that all tents (in an excess of 200) and additional equipment must be removed from the site within the next 48 hours to avoid any legal action, also stating that this is not an order to remove protesters.

The Planning and Transportation Committee within London have also backed the removal of the encampment as the ground of St Paul’s is an unreasonable use of the highway.

The struggles at St Paul’s continues.

It has recently come to the attention of many that university are considering lowering their staggering university tuition fees. The English government decided that from 2012 higher tuition fees would be paid at a trebled rate of up to £9000, as their White Paper on higher education set out numerous policy changes. The ability to increase was confirmed in July of this year, leaving many prospective students in a state of terror.

However, many universities are now considering a reduction in the monumental price. This is good news for the thousands of students currently preparing their university applications.

Both fees and bursary prices were set in April before the government announced that there would be further change. It may shock many that Scottish students studying within Scotland pay nothing for their university education and that Welsh students costs are subsidised throughout the United Kingdom.

OFFA (The Office for Fair Access) have stated that up to twenty-eight universities are considering cutting their average fees to around £7500 or less and that many are already in the process of doing so. However, there are around 130 universities and places of higher education in the country, and this means uncertainty of fee levels for applicants currently in the process of applying.

Any changes are to be submitted by the university in November and to be confirmed by the end of the month.

In order to raise fees above £6000 and give the more disadvantaged students a chance, OFFA has to be satisfied that the university is offering enough support. However both OFFA and the government are hopeful that more universities will consider lowering their fees and that the maximum will only be charged in extreme circumstances.

Any changes of fees will be sent directly to students applying, enabling them to change their university choices before the UCAS deadline of the 15th January 2012.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires.

A place many wish to visit, study and perhaps even settle down in their lifetime.

However, every city has a darker side to it, and Oxford is not alone.

Within the last few years human trafficking has been gaining a lot of attention.

This attention being particular to Oxford, upon the discovery of a sex trafficking ring in 2010.

Local pimps Anastassios Papas of Iffley Road, East Oxford and Graham Cochrane of Bicester were the first men to be convicted of the crime of human trafficking in the county. The duo forced young and vulnerable Eastern European women into modern day slavery, as they became prostitutes within the city for the ‘Fun Girls Escort Agency’.

Both the police and the judicial system have been praised for their efforts, as both men combined will faced a 12 year jail sentence from the Oxford Crown Court for their actions. The pair will also be placed upon the sex offenders register for life and are banned from any future involvement in the promotion of female personal services.

Local charity OXCAT (Oxford Community Against Trafficking) aims to end trafficking. Campaigning against domestic slavery, forced labour and sexual exploitation, the recent convictions have given the charity the ammunition needed to make a real stand to ensure the problem is known and stopped.

This was demonstrated recently as the community group participated in a shocking, but effective flash mob. Taking their demonstration to the streets of Oxford at 1pm on Tuesday the 18th the group coincided the event with National Anti-Slavery day as they adorned themselves with blindfolds. Holding a silent protest for five minutes before revealing their ‘pretty girls for sale’. Five women stood sorrowfully in cages as the campaigners bellowed to the shocked public.

OXCAT believe that the case may cause further pain by highlighting an industry for sex within Oxford and that opportunists may act upon their victims vulnerability much like Papas and Cochrane. The battle wages on, but the message is clear; adorned across Oxford posters and billboards alike state: The truth isn’t sexy.