A scene from Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away."
Have you ever been in an elevator with a giant, sweaty, daikon? Or ridden on a cat bus? Those are just two of the unforgettable images from Studio Ghibli, which you could call the Japanese Disney ... although some would say Disney is the American Ghibli.
The American Cinematheque is screening 14 films from Ghibli, which was founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and has produced "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle" and "My Neighbor Totoro," to name its most famous movies.
But this retrospective at the Egyptian and Aero Theatres also includes movies you probably haven't seen.
"Castle in the Sky" (1986) is about two kids who search for an mysterious floating island inspired by "Gulliver's Travels." Takahata's "My Neighbors the Yamadas" (1999) features a Goop-like family who, according to animation expert Charles Solomon, inspired "Little Miss Sunshine." "Pom Poko" (1994), he says, "is wonderfully quirky" and tells the story of a group of raccoons who band together to fight humans from developing their home.
One of the things that sets Ghibli apart is its respect for kids.
As Solomon says, the studio's attitude, expressed in its films, is that "children are individuals, they're responsible, they grow, they're not bratty know-it-all's, they're not superheroes." Which makes all the films in this retrospective not only safe to take the kids to, but required viewing for adults and kids.
Here are some of the best scenes from twenty years of Studio Ghibli:
The Studio Ghibli film festival runs through February 12 at the American Cinematheque's theaters in Hollywood and Santa Monica, the Egyptian and The Aero.