Many BYU students anticipate the release of Studio Ghibli’s upcoming film, ‘The Boy and the Heron’

Movie poster for “The Boy and the Heron,” the latest film being released by Studio Ghibli. The film comes to theaters Dec. 8, 2023. (IMDB)

Many BYU students are excited about Studio Ghibli’s upcoming film “The Boy and the Heron.” It will be the first film the studio has put out in 10 years and it is set to release to U.S. theaters on Dec. 8.

Studio Ghibli films have long been regarded as cinematic masterpieces, both in animation and film scores. Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation film studio based in Tokyo. The studio was established in 1985 by animators and directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki.

BYU’s International Cinema Program, a foreign film series shown on campus, has been around since the 1950s. Its aim is to not only display movies in other languages but also to help students appreciate diverse cultures and historic cinematic works. Among the ICS film schedule every semester, Studio Ghibli films are frequently shown.

In September, ICS screened the film “Princess Mononoke.” During Winter 2023, ICS screened “Castle in the Sky,” the first animated film produced by Studio Ghibli. 

One of the studio’s most acclaimed films, “Spirited Away“ won the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival and the 2003 Academy Award for best animated feature. 

“They just speak to me … I’ve seen ‘Spirited Away’ probably four or five times. Every time I rewatch it, it seems like I get something new out of it,” Riley Tustison, a technology and engineering major, said.

Tustison has noticed recurring themes in Studio Ghibli films such as colonization and globalization, and why it is good and potentially bad. He said he really enjoys “Spirited Away” because it is focused less on political themes and more on an individual’s journey of overcoming fear and self-discovery.

Scene from “Howl’s Moving Castle” of the castle in motion. Studio Ghibli is commonly praised for its vivid animation and fantasy worlds. (IMDB)

“I used to watch them a lot with kids I babysat because they were huge fans. And so I’ve watched quite a few, but I feel like it was really good showing them … themes from real life and how … life is hard, but you can learn to grow and learn to become a better person … despite your challenges,” Rebekah Olsen, a sophomore studying international relations said. “We can find comfort in other people and other things.”  

Noah Nielson, a freshman at BYU studying accounting, recalled watching Studio Ghibli films in elementary school in Korea, where he lived for five years. Nielson remembers watching “Howl’s Moving Castle” best, and how impactful the music and scenes of the house in motion were. He said Studio Ghibli was very well-known in Korea, and whenever he hears the music, he gets nostalgic for those early, positive memories. 

“The Boy and the Heron” is described as a “semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation, in tribute to friendship, from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki” on the film’s website. The soundtrack for the film was produced by Miyazaki’s long time collaborator Joe Hisaishi, who also created the theme songs for “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

While the film was already released in Japan with a distinguished Japanese voice cast, the English version coming to the U.S. is similarly star-studded with actors such as Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Florence Pugh, Robert Pattinson, Dave Bautista and more.

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