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Why Spirited Away's Hayao Miyazaki Thinks Children Should Watch Fewer Cartoons

There's no denying that the films of Hayao Miyazaki stand out from your typical family-friendly fare. For nearly 40 years, Miyazaki and his company Studio Ghibli have changed the animation game, creating films that have touched children and adults alike from all over the world. Through his beloved films such as "Castle in the Sky," "My Neighbor Totoro," "Princess Mononoke" and "Howl's Moving Castle," Miyazaki has pushed what kind of stories and subject matter can be included in family entertainment. His exploration of themes such as feminism, good and evil, and environmentalism permeates throughout his filmography in varying ways. Possibly the greatest amalgamation of these ideas comes in Miyazaki's 2001 fantasy "Spirited Away."

The film, which follows a young girl who must take a job at a fantastical bathhouse to save her parents from being fully transformed into pigs, became a game changer for both family entertainment and Japanese animation. "Spirited Away" became the first film to earn $200 million before being shown in the United States (via SF Gate) and would go on to be the first, and so far only, foreign film to win the Academy Award for best animated feature (via The Hollywood Reporter). Additionally, the film has been cited as an influence on many great filmmakers, from Steven Spielberg to the filmmakers at Pixar. As the creator of a film with such rich and thoughtful influences and messages, it should come as no surprise that Miyazaki is not all that impressed with the way in which kids are raised nowadays. 

There's too much money being made off children

Writer/director Hayao Miyazaki has strong feelings about the way we raise our kids nowadays. In an interview about his 2001 film "Spirited Away," Miyazaki was asked how he believes children can regain the energy to approach things in the real world. "If you let me have my own way, I'd first reduce the amount of manga, video games, and weekly magazines," the director comments. "I would drastically reduce the number of businesses that target children. Our work is part of them, but I think we should let our children watch animation only once or twice a year, and ban cram school as well." He says that art should be accessible to kids but not necessarily targeted at them. Miyazaki goes on to describe how he feels it is ultimately up to adults to stop the practice of making money off of kids. 

As ironic as it might sound for an animated film director to believe that children should watch less animation, Studio Ghibli's approach to their work has always taken a different direction than your typical cartoon. In an interview with Roger Ebert, the director explains, "What my friends and I have been trying to do since the 1970s is to try and quiet things down a little bit; don't just bombard them with noise and distraction. And to follow the path of children's emotions and feelings as we make a film. If you stay true to joy and astonishment and empathy you don't have to have violence and you don't have to have action. They'll follow you. This is our principle."