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.

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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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Bridget Jones Baby

Bridget Jones Baby Film Review

Who doesn’t love a romantic comedy? Even when you enter the cinema full well knowing that said rom-com is going to be both a charming and chaotic nightmare. You would not expect anything less from Miss Jones.

Bridget Jones (played by Renee Zellweger), first stole our hearts with her relatable and ditzy ways back in 2001 in Bridget Jones Diary, a single woman in her early 30s searching for love in all the wrong places. The first movie beautifully playing out the yearning for the notorious bad boy (Daniel Cleaver, as played by Hugh Grant) versus the oh-so-conservative, Mr. Nice (Mark Darcy, as played by Colin Firth). During which time, the leading lady relentlessly strived towards being the epitome of feminine beauty and health, of course.

After we presumed a happy-ever-after upon the closing scenes of Bridget Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason of 2004, the emotionally-constipated Mark Darcy is no more, the engagement has been called off and he has married another woman. The callous cad!

We’ve skipped forward more than a decade with the belated Bridget Jones Baby, the teenagers, and adults of the noughties filled with wonderful nostalgia and optimism for Bridget as she celebrates her 43rd birthday. The diary is long gone (hello subtle Apple promotion of the iPad), Bridget is a ‘respected’ career woman, still single (WHAT? Yes, you heard it. Single!) and secretly yearning for a future of motherhood. The ‘normality’ she sees in her friends who surround her with busy family schedules is a perpetual reminder of where she should be in life, the heart of a nuclear family.

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On the verge of breaking point, she is tricked into a rambunctious trip to Bestival, meeting a somewhat narcissistic American (Patrick Dempsey as Jack Qwant, a multi-millionaire mogul – where on earth does she meet these men?!) for a night of no-strings-attached fun in an attempt to lessen her woes. This is shortly followed by an intoxicated rendezvous at a baptism after-party with a devilishly handsome (if I do say so myself) old flame (Hello again, Firth). With these fleeting and haphazardous intimate moments, the damage is done.

Obviously, there is a baby involved somewhere in all this madness, and the now pregnant Bridget must determine the father, having got herself in said pickle with some out-of-date vegan condoms (now there is a lesson to play responsibly, kids).

Going through the pregnancy the two men fight for her affection, doing so in a verging on patronising fashion, both desperate to be the father. Unlike the previous films, genuine heart touching moments are plentiful and you really do see the maturity and vulnerability of the characters throughout the film.

‘Sometimes you love a person because of all the reasons they’re not like you. Sometimes you love a person because they feel like home.’

Without risking spoilers, Bridget Jones Baby is a wonderful film in its own right and should be praised as the concluding chapter of the wonderful Miss. Jones life. It was not nearly as Mamma Mia as I presumed and was a touching reflection on the life of a modern day heroine/hot mess. If you are a fan, Bridget Jones Baby is definitely worth a watch.

As a person who loves their literature I could not understand how an adaption of The Great Gatsby could be anything but great.

This romantic drama by Baz Luhhmann captures just about everything I adored in the book, a wonderful and picturesque experience with a stellar soundtrack and impressive cast.

The Great Gatsby 1

The booming 1920’s and the fleeting joy it brought to the glamorous of New York is captured on screen just as quickly as the harrowing reality of prohibition, all night parties and secret loves.

Told as it is in the book by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), cousin and neighbour to lost millionaires. The film recollects  his time with them amidst the materialism and madness, “the restlessness approached hysteria. The parties were bigger. The pace was faster, the shows were broader, the buildings were higher, the morals were looser, and the liquor was cheaper” he comments.

What the critics hate, I adore. This is a film that presents to us the reality of excess, excess to impress. The hauntingly beautiful computer generated imagery, the attention to detail in both fashion and behaviour and the hopeless belief that dreams will come true, are all captured in this two hour long journey of forbidden love and intense drama.

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What of Gatsby you say? Well Leonardo DiCaprio was just perfect for the role, sweet, secretive and sauve, hidden secrets galore and the admirable ambition of the great.

His love interest Daisy (Carey Mulligan) is portrayed wonderfully  also, beautiful and ditzy, the perfect flapper girl thrown into an emotionally charged love triangle with the assistance of her cousin Nick and influential friends.

Her and Gatsby play out their affair through the movie, longingly and hopelessly, as Nick watches and comments on, deceitful husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) becoming more wary with each encounter.

This is an adaption that compliments the original work, charging it with a modern and glitzy twist. Whether a fan or not of the novel, it is worth seeing for the sheer beauty of the production.

What did you think of The Great Gatsby? What is your favourite era?

Stephanie xox

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“All of us harbour dark recesses of violence and horror,” says Anthony Hopkins acting as director Alfred Hitchcock.

The behind-the-scenes biopic is a peek at Hitchcock’s greatest achievement and struggle, the revolutionary classic Psycho.

Hopkins gives a convincing portrayal of the 60-year-olds gentlemanly arrogance; the pursed lips, waddle, well-spoken with a fixation for the younger women.

It is a shame that the voice is a little off, but we can forgive that.

The film is centred on an impressive cast with Scarlett Johansson as the panic-stricken lead Janet Leigh, and Helen Mirren as the hardworking wife Alma Reville.

Hitchcock’s in turmoil with Psycho, desperate to pull it off. His relationship becomes strained. Alma becomes increasingly unappreciated, in the shadows of the “great and glorious Alfred Hitchcock.”

He succumbs to her and they work together, financing the film independently when Paramount Pictures rejects its content of voyeurism, incest and transvestisms.

People appear disgusted by the gore and Hitchcock swears his cast to secrecy and boldly continues.

However, so do the doubts, nightmares and visions a regular occurrence. Alma supports him “unquestionably” as he deteriorates, editing the film for the difficult censors, a daunting task. The duo balances one another, a tale of love as it is of horror.

Oh, but what of the unforgettable knife scene? Well seeing Johansson’s performance proved impressive and convincing. Not just a pretty face but an incredible actress.

The ending would satisfy the “master of suspense”, heartfelt before concluding direct to camera with a clever twist.


The Coen brothers re-adaption of True Grit fails to not impress. The genre (western) would make many want to fall asleep however True Grit proves fun and compassionate. It is a travelling tale of vengeance and proves thrilling throughout.

The movie narrated by the adult Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield),  plays out the story of her childhood. As the eldest child in her family she has come to sort her murdered fathers affairs and bring his killer to justice. She inquires at the undertakers upon who would be the best Marshal to assist her and is given numerous options .  She is a feisty and witty child who presents much control over her elders.Proving a skilled business woman and persuasive, she convinces the local business man to re-purchase and compensate her father’s property, due to the murderer Tom Chaney making off with her father’s horse placed into his care.

Spending her second night in the local boarding house she awakens to Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) with a proposition for her. He proposes that he attempt Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), as he been doing so for numerous months and bring him to justice for a separate murder within Texas. He suggests she still convinces Cogburn to assist her as his local knowledge and brash exterior will prove useful.  Mattie disregards the proposal and wishes Chaney to hang for her father’s murder specifically. With money now in her pocket, Mattie makes a successful attempt of gaining the support of U.S Marshal Reuben J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). On instruction she awaits for him the following morning so that they may depart, on arrival she discovers a note telling her to return home and leave him to his duty.

To her dismay she sets off towards the river and seeks passage on the ferry, on refusal she crosses, clutched to her swimming horse. Safely on the other side she continues with persistence.  On discovery that the two men have arranged an alternative agreement, Mattie threatens to have the Marshal arrested for fraud. After an uneasy scene of disciplining by LaBoeuf the Marshal sends him on his way reluctantly letting Mattie accompany him. The pair come across an isolated shack inhabited by two outlaws and enter. The Marshal begins his tactics and tries to subdue them, eventually turning one against the other and leaving them both wounded and near death. The younger informs the Marshall that the notorious gang led by “Lucky” Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) should be arriving later in the evening. On belief that Chaney accompanies the ruffians Mattie and the Marshall await their arrival.

However, to their disadvantage LaBoeuf rears his head. Upon the gangs arrival he is lassoed and Cogburn opens fire upon the unsuspecting party, killing three members and wounding LaBoeuf. That night the trio rest while Cogburn drowns some non-existent sorrows, offending the Ranger and causing him to depart once more.

Mattie wakes early and begins preparations. As she collects water from a nearby stream she comes across her foe Chaney. She demands her fathers remaining California gold piece and clutching to his pistol takes aim, catching Chaney’s shoulder but misfiring the killing shot. Chaney captures Mattie and returns her to Ned Pepper’s gang, where she is proclaimed as their hostage. He tells Cogburn to depart immediately or Mattie’s life will be cut short, as he leaves hastily Ned does also, leaving Mattie in Chaney’s care. Chaney opposes the plan, as the gang attempt to locate a new hideout but Ned disregards his exclamations, stating there is few horses and he must not harm Mattie.

As they are left alone, Chaney assaults Mattie attempting to silence her. LaBoeuf springs from the cliff-face and knocks Chaney out cold. He explains that on hearing shots, he adamantly returned and came across the Marshal whom he schemed a plan for rescue with. Atop the cliff Mattie and Laboeuf watch the Marshall upon the plain below. The encounter between the gang and the Marshal unfolds rapidly with an impressive shoot out sequence. Two gang members are shot dead and another flees, leaving leader Ned in direct contact with the Marshall. The Marshals horse is shot from under him and as it lands heavily upon him. Ned takes his aim and is shot dead by LaBoeuf from a distance. A crack is heard upon LaBoeuf’s skull and he topples in a slump, Mattie grabs his rifle and takes a finally successful aim. The force sends her flying back into a deep mineshaft, swarmed by rattlesnakes. In her struggle Mattie is bitten, Cogburns rescue attempt is swift and he sucks the poison from her wound.

Knowing she is near death, Cogburn in appreciation dismisses LaBoeuf and assures he will send help. Hastily he makes his way to a doctor. The duo ride through the night in a beautiful and picturesque sequence on horseback. As Matties horse falters, Cogburn makes a paternal attempt to save her. He picks up her weak and dying body and sprints onwards.

We cut to a scene twenty-five years later. Where the narrator is now prominent. The adult Mattie now concludes her story. The ending is unexpected and leaves a saddened audience. The rough U.S Marshall is now admirable and the estranged LaBoeuf is finally at peace on completion of his quest. On reflection this quest explores revenge, love of individuals and the best of the wild west.

The critically acclaimed True Grit is currently in cinemas nationwide. Do not avoid this merely on a genre basis, you will be pleasantly surprised by its individual appeal and suitability.