Miyazaki Mondays: Kiki’s Delivery Service

For this week’s “Miyazaki Monday”, the focus will be on another classic film from Hayao Miyazaki.  That film is Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is based on the 1985 novel of the same name written by Eiko Kadono.  It focuses on the character of Kiki, a young teenage witch.  As part of her training to be a witch, Kiki has to move to a city and live on her own for a year.  So when she turned 13, she headed off to the big city along with her talking cat Jiji.  The two ended up in Koriko.  She settles in and finds a job at Gütiokipänja Bakery making deliveries (hence the title of the novel and the film).  She has one power as a witch and that is her ability to fly a broom….although she’s still trying to get the hang of it.

Kiki has to handle dealing with issues of being an adolescent and growing up along with living in a new city and her witch training.  She also has a young boy who has strong feeling for her named Tombo.  He is big into aviation as well.  The film is in some ways a coming of age story for Kiki as she has to learn and grow up and find herself.

The film was released in Japan on July 22, 1989.  It ended up being the highest grossing film in Japan that year which speaks to the continued growth of influence by Miyazaki in Japan.  The first English dubbing was done by Streamline Pictures in the early 1990s mainly for international flights for Japan Airlines (similar to what happened with My Neighbor Totoro).  Kiki’s Delivery Service was the first Studio Ghibli film that Disney received distribution rights for in the States.  They recorded the English dub in 1997 and got it’s theatrical debut at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 23, 1998 and debuted on home video on March 16, 1999.  The voice actors included Kirsten Dunst, Matthew Lawrence, Brad Garrett, Debbie Reynolds, Janeane Garofalo and Phil Hartman.  This film was the last voice acting performance of Hartman.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is the only Hayao Miyazaki film that he wrote, produced and directed.  It is at this time unfortunately one of several of his films that has not been released on Blu-Ray (it is available on DVD).  It’s another film in the long line of successful films that Miyazaki has made in his illustrious career.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 9:46-48

An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.  But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his sideand said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”  Luke 9:46-48

Jesus took any opportunity to teach the disciples a lesson and would use any simple action or event to do it.  The disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest.  Jesus saw a child that was nearby and brought him to his side.  He pointed out the child to the disciples to make a point.  Those that received a child such as this in Jesus’ name receive Jesus.  There is a humbleness that comes with this.  And that was Jesus’ point.  We need to have humility and that comes from God.  When we serve one another, we should do it in love.  We should do it because we know what has been done for us through Jesus.

When we remember the cross and what Jesus has done this week, let us receive it with humility and share it with boldness.

Thursday Quote Day: Fozzie Bear

Sometimes you just need a fun quote.  This is a week for a fun quote…or at least I think it’s a good week for a fun quote.  So for this week’s “Thursday Quote Day”, here’s a quote from a famous Muppet from a great Muppet movie:

“A bear in his natural habitat…a Studebaker.” (Fozzie Bear The Muppet Movie)

Choosing One’s Fights

I was reading an article this morning from Relevant Magazine’s website (if you don’t know who they are, they’re a magazine that talks about faith and culture).  The article was “5 Arguments Not To Have on Facebook” (here is the article).  It was a good reminder of what social media is good for and what it is not good for.  Social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is not really the place to have long discussions.  Mainly because the format of these places (Twitter being 140 characters, not being interacting face to face) does not lend itself to such discussions.

As I’ve gotten older and the longer I’ve been on social media, I’ve seen more and more how other people on my feeds can get into heated discussions over hot button issues.  And while I may agree (or disagree) with some posts and tweets I’ve seen, I’ve come to see that it’s much better to address someone face to face about it then make comment after comment on a Facebook post or tweet after tweet on Twitter.

And sometimes some issues that are fought over on social media aren’t worth fighting to begin with.  They tend to be issues that aren’t relevant or not worth it.  In the end, it’s important to choose fights that are worth fighting for.  For me, the most important thing is Jesus and following Him.  I can’t make people follow Jesus, only He can do that.  But I can love on people and share the truth of the Gospel.  To some that’s offensive but Jesus said himself that to some it would be but to others it would be life.

So the next time you see a post on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter, take a moment and think.  Is this worth fighting for?  And is this the right environment to do it?

Miyazaki Mondays: My Neighbor Totoro

This week’s “Miyazaki Monday”focuses on one of the most memorable films by Miyazaki because it features one of the most memorable characters in all of animation.  That character is Totoro and the film is My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro is set in 1958 Japan.  It features the Kusakabe family.  Tatsuo Kusakabe is a university professor.  His wife Yasuko is in the hospital receiving long term care.  So Tatsuo takes his two daughters Satsuki and Mei and move into an old house closer to the hospital.  Satsuki and Mei encounter dust creatures that turn out to be house spirits called susuwatari that inhabit abandoned houses.  Once the creatures realize that the family is living in the house, they move on to another abandoned house.

This turns out to only be the beginning for the magical creatures that Satsuki and Mei encounter.  One day, Mei finds two small rabbit looking creatures coming out from under the house.  She follows them through a briar patch into a large hollow tree.  There Mei meets a larger version of the smaller creatures.  Mei calls the creature Totoro because that’s the sound he makes when she asks who he is.  Later, Satsuki meets Totoro when she and Mei are waiting in the rain at a bus stop.

It’s a fun magical adventure these two sisters take as well as dealing with the reality of a mother who is sick.  Miyazaki does a great job of balancing the fantastical with the reality.  Many of his films balance this well and My Neighbor Totoro.  This was the first of his films to be set in Japan, so there is more roots in reality than Nausicaa and Castle in the Sky but there are definite elements of fantasy.

When this film was released in Japan in April 16, 1988, it was released on the same day as another Studio Ghibli film Grave of the Fireflies that was directed by the other co-founder of Studio Ghibli Isao Takahata.  These two films in and of themselves are some of the most influential films but to be on the same bill is extraordinary.  My Neighbor Totoro first got an English dubbing in 1993 under the title My Friend Totoro.  Once Disney got the rights to distribute the film in 2005, it released its own English dubbing.  The voice actors for that dubbing include Dakota and Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, Frank Welker and Pat Carroll.

The character of Totoro has become synonymous with Studio Ghibli.  It is featured in every intro to a Studio Ghibli film and has even crossed over into another beloved film series here in the United State.  Totoro made a cameo in Toy Story 3 as a plush doll who lives in Bonnie’s room.

To close out, here a clip featuring Pixar honcho John Lasseter introducing the film during the month long celebration of Miyazaki films on Turner Classic Movies back in 2006.  When it aired on TV during this celebration, it was the television premiere of the Disney English dubbing.  They aired both this version and the original Japanese version with English subtitles.  My Neighbor Totoro is one of the most memorable Miyazaki films and has left an indelible mark in cinema.

Sunday Devotional: Psalm 8

“O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
     Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!”  Psalm 8:1-9

Psalm 8 is a great psalm that captures a musical heart as well as a theological heart.  Several praise and worship songs borrow lines from this psalm.  If you know those songs, you tend to begin to sing the lines if you recognize them (I know I do).  It also has deep theological roots in speaking about creation, and about Jesus’ rule & dominion over the Earth.  The beauty of the Psalms are that they speak and sing to the glory of God.  This Psalm is a great example of that.  This week, may your heart be able to sing “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

New Peanuts Movie Trailer

So I stumbled across this news.  Apparently there is going to be a new Peanuts movie.  Yes indeed, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and the gang will be back on the big screen in 2015.  It will be the first new Peanuts movie since 1980’s Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!).  I remember when I was in grade school I watched a Peanuts film in theater but it was a re-release of Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown so this will be the first time seeing a new Peanuts movie.  Today a teaser trailer was released.  Check it out:

Miyazaki Mondays: Castle in the Sky

For this week’s “Miyazaki Monday”, I want to look at the first feature film that was produced and released by the production company he co-founded (Studio Ghibli).  That film is the 1986 classic Castle in the Sky.

Castle in the Sky is the story of a young girl trying to protect a secret power from falling into the wrong hands and a young boy who is trying to prove the reality of a forgotten flying city and how their lives become connected.  Sheeta is a young girl who’s heritage is connected to the last flying city Laputa.  She is in fact royalty and she possesses a very special crystal which is what would keep the flying cities aloft.

She is chased by air pirates who want money (of course) and by the government led by a secret agent named Muska.  Muska also has his own reasons for wanting Sheeta and her connections to Laputa.  While feeling from the pirates and Muska, Sheeta runs into Pazu, a young boy who works in the mines.  His father believed the flying city of Laputa existed but no one believed him.  Pazu wants to prove his father right and visit the city himself.  When he runs into Sheeta, he finds out her connection and stays by her side to protect her.

The film, like it’s predecessor Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, was a hit in Japan.  It did receive an English dubbing in the late 1980s that was received a little better than the first English version that Nausicaa (but given what happened with that, anything would’ve been an improvement).  However, it was not released in the U.S. as it wasn’t seen as being good enough.  Disney did produce a dubbed version in the late 90s but didn’t release it until 2005 after the success of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.  The English cast included James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Mark Hamill, Cloris Leachman, Jim Cummings and Mandy Patinkin.

With Castle in the Sky, Miyazaki was beginning to build a track record of amazing films.  For his first film at Studio Ghibli, he hit a home run and would only continue to get better.  To close, here’s the intro from 2006 on Turner Classic Movies that featured John Lasseter hosting a month long celebration of Miyazaki films which included Castle in the Sky.