I have loved Studio Ghibli’s movies for many years. I have loved them for their artistry, their creativity and imagination, their thoughtfulness, and their deep humanity. Therefore, now’s a very bittersweet time for me: earlier this month, Hayao Miyazaki expressed some doubts about the future of Studio Ghibli (and traditional animation in general). Which means that while I would certainly be interested in The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness at any phase of my Studio Ghibli fandom, the studio’s (apparently) impending twilight makes me doubly interested and driven to watch Mami Sunada’s documentary.
Granted near-unfettered access to the notoriously insular Studio Ghibli, director Mami Sunada follows the three men who are the lifeblood of Ghibli — the eminent director Hayao Miyazaki, the producer Toshio Suzuki, and the elusive and influential “other director” Isao Takahata — over the course of a year as the studio rushes to complete two films, Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Takahata’s The Tale of The Princess Kaguya. The result is a rare “fly on the wall” glimpse of the inner workings of one of the world’s most celebrated animation studios, and an insight into the dreams, passion and singular dedication of these remarkable creators.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I got a little misty-eyed watching the trailer below.
Some reviews have been floating around — the film screened earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival — and I’ve listed a couple below.
- Sam Byford: “I’ve often found that Miyazaki and Takahata’s films have the capability to move me more than just about any others, and it’s fascinating to get insight into the sometimes torturous process with which they achieve that.”
- Peter Debruge: “The atmosphere inside Studio Ghibli may suggest a zen-like idyll, but animation is a painstaking — and sometimes painful — process, and though shaggy and somewhat ordinary in places, Sunada’s tour of the ‘Kingdom’ makes us appreciate the magic all the more.”
- Mike McCahill: “With news that Studio Ghibli is winding down production, this intimate, all-access study of the animation giant’s tranquil inner sanctum assumes an additional charge: future generations may be as grateful for its footage of Hayao Miyazaki sketching as we now are of early Beatles Super 8 films.”
According to Twitch, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness will have a theatrical run later this month in New York. It will then be available as a digital download on December 9 and released on DVD and Video On Demand on January 27.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.