The Original Storyline For Spirited Away Would've Been Over 3 Hours Long

Few animated films have as beloved a reputation as Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away," which came out back in 2001. Not only did the Studio Ghibli film hold the spot for the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time for almost two decades (via Time), but it was also lauded by both critics and audiences (via Rotten Tomatoes).

"Spirited Away" follows a spoiled, young girl named Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi/Daveigh Chase) as she is separated from her parents in the spirit realm, so she must learn to save them and fend for herself. The bizarre premise essentially opens the storytelling floodgates for almost anything to happen in the strange, interdimensional bathhouse, the primary setting for "Spirited Away." All the same, according to Miyazaki, the story behind "Spirited Away" was originally more lofty than the finished project that fans got to see, and it had to be cut down considerably as a result of this.

Hayao Miyazaki had to cut his script down big time

Hayao Miyazaki sat down with Animage in 2001 for an interview that has since been translated by, and he had a lot to share about the behind-the-scenes development of "Spirited Away." Surprisingly, the already ambitious film was actually bigger when the writer-director got started on it, and it had to go through some changes due to its length and content.

"As usual, after the production started, I realized that it would be more than three hours long if I made it according to my plot," Miyazaki said. "I had to cut a lot from the story and make a complete change." Though this admission might come as a surprise to fans, it also seems to suggest that other beloved Miyazaki films like "Princess Mononoke" and "My Neighbor Totoro" were also possibly cut down in a similar fashion.

Miyazaki was also clear that he wanted to do something different with his "Spirited Away" protagonist, Chihiro. "I'm also trying to make this film using an ordinary man's eye this time, so I reduced the eye-candy as much as possible and made it simple," he explained. "I didn't want to make the heroine a pretty girl, but even I was frustrated at the beginning of the movie. I thought, 'What a dull girl she is.'" Still, Miyazaki admitted that he came to love Chihiro just as much as fans of the film do. "As the film neared the end, I was a bit relieved to feel, 'Oh, she will be a charming woman," he said.