Hayao Miyazaki is a director of animated films for Studio Ghibli in Japan. His career began in 1961, when he joined Toei Animation as an in-betweener. After making his way through various positions, he directed his first feature film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, and after the success of this film and his next film, he founded Studio Ghibli. He is most noted for Spirited Away, which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002. All of his films are different in content, but they all have similar underlying themes – one in particular is his recurring references to the negative impact that humankind has had on the environment. Hayao Miyazaki repeatedly incorporates the idea that human urbanization has put nature off-balance and features worlds where the environment has been overcome with toxic wastes. In the worlds of the movies Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the land has become threatened by mankind’s wars and the land attempts to fight back to reclaim what it has lost to the recklessness and selfishness of humans.

Even when the major theme of the movie is not centered around the idea of the land taking back what is rightfully it’s from humans, Hayao Miyazaki tends to hint subtly towards his interest in environmentalism. In the film Spirited Away, a stink spirit comes to the bathhouse to get cleansed and be cured from his sickness. Sen discovers something stuck in the spirit that seems to be injuring the stink spirit, and gets the help of all the workers at the bathhouse to pull this out. As they pull and pull, contents such as old rusted bikes, fishing poles, and rusted barrels surface, and the audience discovers that the stink spirit is actually a river god that has been polluted by mankind and needs cleansing. In this little sequence of the film, Hayao Miyazaki subtly hints at the truth that humans have been contaminating the rivers and waters of this planet and that the consequences have become obvious.

Contents pulled out of the Stink Spirit, aka the River Spirit

Being a Computer Animation Major here at Ringling College, I give credit of much of my inspiration to become involved in the animation industry to Hayao Miyazaki and his wonderful films. I remember watching Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro and being completely inspired by his wonderful sense of story and character development. His films are very deep and complex in content and I love that he includes underlying themes such as environmentalism, however obvious or subtly he mentions it in his films. I feel like this quality makes his films that much more meaningful to watch.

In this video, Hayao Miyazaki is interviewed by John Lasseter for the Oscars. He discusses his recurring theme of environmentalism in his movies and what he intended for others to gain from this:


Hayao Miyazaki’s films can be found internationally in stores or online and are very entertaining to watch!

-Elaine Wu


5 responses »

  1. Oh yeah hes the fucking man I love that guy he makes the best films that’s for sure and its great that hes out trying to teach others about environmental problems as well which are really obvious Princess Mononoke.

  2. Bianca Pol says:

    Definitely deep and complex. Brilliant way of teaching people of all ages about environmental issues.

  3. Daniel Hanks says:

    I’m a huge fan of Miyazaki, and I think his films always do a good job of showing the impact that humans have on the world we live in…

  4. I’m not a huge Miyazaki fan, but one of the films I really love that he’s made is Totoro! Even though it’s made for kids, there are a lot of environmental themes in that movie, such as respecting nature and loving the earth. the scene where totoro makes the plants grow is so lovely! 🙂

  5. Ryan Schnee says:

    Miyazaki Truly does have an environmental message in mind, and you can see that it pretty much every film he has made. Even in Howl’s Moving Castle, Miyazaki shows the effects of prolonged war both on ourselves and our environment. He studiously gives his thoughts on our impact in all of his work, which shows he will not give up his own way of telling everybody “wake up, already!”

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