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Arts & Life

HBO Max Will Stream Content From Japanese Animation House Studio Ghibli


Watching a film by the Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki means immersing yourself in these colorful, animated worlds with magical characters and always a beautiful soundtrack.


GREENE: The director, Miyazaki, is one of the founding members of Japan's beloved Studio Ghibli, which has created massive hits in his home country and also an Oscar-winning classic right here in Hollywood. And now, for the first time ever, all of Studio Ghibli's films are being streamed together in one place for American audiences. They're on HBO's new streaming service, HBO Max. And film critic Kenneth Turan is excited to start streaming them. And he's here to talk about them with us. Hi, Kenny.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Hey, David. How are you doing?

GREENE: I'm OK. Thanks for joining us in these strange times.

TURAN: Well, you know, to talk about Miyazaki - I would trudge through a blizzard to talk about Miyazaki.

GREENE: (Laughter) That's good to hear. Well, for people who don't know him, I mean, can you describe his style of animation?

TURAN: Well, it's very magical is the key thing. It's very imaginative. But it's very culturally specific. A lot of the imagery and the visuals come from Japanese folklore, Japanese mythology. But it's also - the emotions are universal. I mean, everyone connects to them. So these films do a lot of things that you wouldn't think one film could do. But these films manage to do it.

GREENE: So one of Miyazaki's better-known films is about - I mean, let's just say it - a really big, fluffy, creature, right?

TURAN: (Laughter) Yes. That's "My Neighbor Totoro." That is probably his most beloved film. And Totoro is this giant forest spirit - very benign, but very huge - who appears to these two little girls. These are creatures who live deep in the forest. They've lived there, we feel, for eons. And these two little girls kind of start to experience them.

The other great creature in "Totoro" is the cat bus. There is a bus that appears - everyone's waiting at a a bus stop. A bus appears, but it's an enormous, like, Cheshire Cat with kind of windows along its side and a great, big grin. It's just - I mean, as I'm starting to think about it, I'm starting to feel all the emotions you feel when you watch it. The whole film just is so warm and has got such a great sense of wonder. You're just going, wow, all the time.

GREENE: Oh, it sounds like the kind of world I would love to just hang out in for a couple hours. So you actually got to meet the director at one point, right? Did you talk to him about this film or some of his other movies?

TURAN: Yeah, you know, in fact, I did. It was one of these Hollywood events where you only have, like, a couple of minutes with the person. And he doesn't speak English. He was there with an interpreter. And, you know, first thing you say, I love your films. And he just kind of looks at you and nods. And then I said the first thing that came to my mind.

I said, you know, I showed your films to my grandchildren, and they really loved them. And he just looked at me and gave me this enormous grin. And he shook my hand. It was wonderful to see how much that meant to him, to see how much the fact that his films reached audiences, especially younger audiences, was so paramount in his mind.

GREENE: Kenny, what about these films in this moment that we're all in? How would you draw that connection in some way?

TURAN: Well, you know, for me, one of the things I love about them is, you know, I want to be taken out of my current reality. I don't want to be sitting around watching something that is not holding my attention so that I can worry in the back of my mind. When you watch these films, you're in them completely. And that's what I'm looking for. And I think that's what a lot of people are looking for now.

GREENE: Talking to MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan about Studio Ghibli and the films of Hayao Miyazaki, now streaming on HBO Max. Kenny, great to talk to you.

TURAN: It's been a pleasure, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.