Mayazaki and Hisaishi: Studio Ghibli’s Eyes and Ears

Words by Eifion Jones

Since the release of the much loved and widely received classic ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Studio Ghibli’ has started to become a name to be reckoned with in the world of animation, easily up there with the likes of ‘Disney’ and ‘Pixar’.

Like Disney (albeit, Disney quite a while ago) ‘Studio Ghibli’ has been telling stories to both young and old alike, with the use of fairytale, allegory etc. But ‘Studio Ghibl’i is as the name suggests, a Studio. So who is responsible for these masterpieces of animation?

Though it was co-founded by two Japanese animators, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, it is arguably the former that is responsible for the Studio’s biggest hits ; ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and ‘Princess Mononoke’.

‘Princess Mononoke’ being my favourite of Studio Ghibli’s in their impressive catalogue, it may seem that my high regard of Miyazaki is slightly biased. But, to his credit, ‘Spirited Away’ is the only film outside of America to ever have won a Best Animated Feature Oscar, so credit where credit is due.

Miyazaki’s unique style of animation is revered by many and his ambiguous portrayal of both genders and morals, persistent message of the fragility, beauty of nature and subtle but poignant symbolism make his films both interesting and entertaining. A combination it seems, only a few can master. It only takes a single viewing of any of Michael Bay’s Transformers series to realise some directors manage neither.

If Miyazaki can be seen as the eyes of ‘Studio Ghibli’, but who is its ears? Anyone who has seen any of Miyazaki’s wonderful films will no doubt remember the epic scores that accompanied their blissful imagery.

Those ears would be Joe Hisaishi’s, a composer who is a frequent collaborator with both Miyazaki and ‘Studio Ghibli’.

His first collaboration with Miyazaki was in ‘Nausicaa of the valley of the wind’ in 1983. Since then he has continued to work with him until Miyazaki’s most recent film, ‘Ponyo’ in 2008. The result of this 25 year partnership has meant some of the finest original film scores not just in animation, but film in general.

Given that film is both an auditory and visual experience, the fact that this partnership works so well is perhaps why their films are so successful. I think they would both agree that the films are theirs given that it is the fusion of Hisaishi’s composing and Miyazaki’s storytelling  help breathe life into the mostly hand drawn motion pictures, which audiences have grown to love.

It seems only fair then, that as time rolls on, this partnership be remembered in the same vein as Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan, Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone, David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti and many more.