I'm waiting in unbelievable anticipation of Studio Ghibli's latest feature film, "The Secret World of Arrietty." The film is based upon a book (which I will be studying as part of my children's literature classes at university this year) called The Borrowers by Mary Norton-- a well-known fantasy book originally released in 1952, about little people who live in the walls and beneath the floorboards of regular human houses. (Click here for an LA Times review on Arrietty.)
This book only just recently found it's way onto my bookshelf -- mostly because of the fact that I will have to be studying it later in the year. I remember many years ago watching the 1997 film starring starring John Goodman, but it never made much of an impression. When Charles De Lint released his own rendition of the original tale, titled Little (Grrl) Lost, I took a bit more interest. It was a bit more modern and edgy compared to the older stories, and I loved the mythology about how borrowers/little people were all originally birds who forget how to fly.
Studio Ghibli is well known for its animated fairy tale and fantasy films, such as Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo. With Studio Ghibli, and in particular the films directed by Hayao Miyazaki, I found everything that I missed in Disney fairy tale movies: drama, beauty, and heart. While Disney tried to make a commercial product, Ghibli made art. Looking back, it was probably Studio Ghibli that provided some of my earliest influences in fantasy -- namely, the 1985 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. It was released in the same year I was born, but I didn't see the film until perhaps 10 years later. It set the gold standard, in my mind, for animated films, fantasy stories and storytelling. Fantastically, ever since Studio Ghibli has never failed to inspire.