Spirited Away (2001)

Movie


Spirited Away (2001)
Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (original title)

Chihiro and her parents are moving to a small Japanese town in the countryside, much to Chihiro's dismay. On the way to their new home, Chihiro's father makes a wrong turn and drives down a lonely one-lane road which dead-ends in front of a tunnel. Her parents decide to stop the car and explore the area. They go through the tunnel and find an abandoned amusement park on the other side, with its own little town. When her parents see a restaurant with great-smelling food but no staff, they decide to eat and pay later. However, Chihiro refuses to eat and decides to explore the theme park a bit more. She meets a boy named Haku who tells her that Chihiro and her parents are in danger, and they must leave immediately. She runs to the restaurant and finds that her parents have turned into pigs. In addition, the theme park turns out to be a town inhabited by demons, spirits, and evil gods. At the center of the town is a bathhouse where these creatures go to relax. The owner of the bathhouse ...
Japan
USA
IMDb   8.6 /10
Metacritic   96 %
TheMovieDb    8.5 /10
RottenTomatoes  97 %
FilmAffinity   8.1 /10
Creators
Director Hayao Miyazaki
Writer Hayao Miyazaki
Information
Release Date2001-07-20
Runtime2h 5mins
GenreAnimation, Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Mystery
Content RatingPG (PG)
AwardsTop Rated Movies #28 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 57 wins & 31 nominations.
CompanyTokuma Shoten, Studio Ghibli, Nippon Television Network (NTV)
CountryJapan, USA
LanguageJapanese
Chihiro Ogino / Sen (voice)
Haku (voice)
Yubaba / Zeniba (voice)
Akio Ogino (voice)
Yûko Ogino (voice)
Aogaeru (voice)
Rin (voice)
Bandai-gaeru (voice)
Kawa no Kami (voice)
Chichiyaku (voice)
Aniyaku (voice)
Kamajî (voice)

Spirited Away

Spirited Away (Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し, Hepburn: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, 'Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting Away') is a 2001 Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network, Dentsu, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Tohokushinsha Film, and Mitsubishi. The film features the voices of Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Takeshi Naito, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Tsunehiko Kamijō, Takehiko Ono, and Bunta Sugawara. Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the world of Kami (spirits of Japanese Shinto folklore). After her parents are turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.

Miyazaki wrote the screenplay after he decided the film would be based on the ten-year-old daughter of his friend Seiji Okuda, the film's associate producer, who came to visit his house each summer. At the time, Miyazaki was developing two personal projects, but they were rejected. With a budget of US$19 million, production of Spirited Away began in 2000. Pixar animator John Lasseter, a fan and friend of Miyazaki, convinced Walt Disney Pictures to buy the film's North American distribution rights, and served as executive producer of its English-dubbed version. Lasseter then hired Kirk Wise as director and Donald W. Ernst as producer, while screenwriters Cindy and Donald Hewitt wrote the English-language dialogue to match the characters' original Japanese-language lip movements.

Originally released in Japan on 20 July 2001 by distributor Toho, the film received universal acclaim, grossing $395.8 million at the worldwide box office. It is frequently regarded as one of the best films of the 21st century as well as one of the greatest animated films ever made. Accordingly, it became the most successful and highest-grossing film in Japanese history with a total of ¥31.68 billion ($305 million). It held the record for 19 years until it was surpassed by Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train in 2020.

It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, making it the first, and to date only hand-drawn and non-English-language animated film to win the award. It was the co-recipient of the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (shared with Bloody Sunday), and is within the top ten on the British Film Institute's list of "Top 50 films for children up to the age of 14". In 2016, it was voted the fourth-best film of the 21st century by the BBC, as picked by 177 film critics from around the world, making it the highest-ranking animated film on the list. In 2017, it was also named the second "Best Film...of the 21st Century So Far" by The New York Times.


Plot

Ten-year-old Chihiro and her parents are traveling to their new home. Her father, a man who loves to take shortcuts, ends up in front of a tunnel leading to a dry riverbed and, beyond, what appears to be an abandoned village. He conjectures they have stumbled upon a failed theme park, and insists on exploring it despite his daughter's misgivings. The family soon finds an unattended restaurant stall with a spread of fresh food, which the parents begin to enjoy. Refusing to partake, Chihiro explores on her own and finds an exquisite bathhouse and meets a boy named Haku, who warns her to return across the riverbed before sunset. However, Chihiro discovers too late that her parents have transformed into pigs, and she is unable to cross the now-flooded river.

Haku finds Chihiro and advises her to ask for a job from the bathhouse's boiler-man, Kamaji. While initially dismissive of Chihiro, Kamaji asks Lin, a bathhouse worker, to send Chihiro to Yubaba, the witch who runs the bathhouse. Yubaba tries to frighten Chihiro away, but Chihiro persists, and Yubaba hires her. Yubaba takes away the second kanji of her name, Chihiro (千尋), renaming her Sen (千). Haku later warns her that if she forgets her name like he has forgotten his, she will remain trapped in the spirit world.

Sen is treated poorly by the other bathhouse workers; only Kamaji and Lin show sympathy for her. While working, she invites a silent creature named No-Face inside, believing him to be a customer. A "stink spirit" arrives as Sen's first customer, and she discovers he is the spirit of a polluted river. In gratitude for cleaning him, he gives Sen a magic emetic dumpling. Meanwhile, No-Face, imitating the gold left behind by the stink spirit, tempts a worker with gold and then swallows him. He demands food and begins tipping excessively. He swallows two more workers when they interfere with his conversation with Sen.

Sen sees paper Shikigami attacking a Japanese dragon and recognizes the dragon as Haku. When a grievously injured Haku crashes into Yubaba's penthouse, Sen follows him upstairs. A shikigami that stowed away on her back shapeshifts into Zeniba, Yubaba's twin sister. She transforms Yubaba's son, Boh, into a mouse and mutates Yubaba's harpy into a tiny bird. As a decoy she turns Yubaba's three tsurube-otoshi into Boh. Zeniba tells Sen that Haku has stolen a magic golden seal from her, and warns Sen that it carries a lethal curse. Haku destroys the shikigami, eliminating Zeniba's manifestation. He falls into the boiler room with Sen, Boh, and the harpy, where Sen feeds him part of the dumpling, causing him to vomit both the seal and a black slug, which Sen crushes with her foot.

With Haku unconscious, Sen resolves to return the seal and apologize to Zeniba. Sen confronts No-Face, who is now massive, and feeds him the rest of the dumpling. No-Face follows Sen out of the bathhouse, regurgitating everything and everyone he has eaten. Sen, No-Face, Boh, and the harpy travel by train to meet Zeniba. Yubaba orders that Sen's parents be slaughtered, but Haku reveals that Boh is missing and offers to retrieve him if Yubaba releases Sen and her parents.

Zeniba reveals that Sen's love for Haku broke her curse and that Yubaba used the black slug to take control over Haku. Haku appears at Zeniba's home in his dragon form and flies Sen, Boh, and the harpy to the bathhouse. No-Face decides to remain with Zeniba. In mid-flight, Sen recalls an incident from her early childhood in which she fell in the Kohaku River and nearly drowned before she was safely washed ashore. She correctly deduces that Haku is the spirit of the river, breaking the control that Yubaba has over him.

When they arrive at the bathhouse, Yubaba forces Sen to identify her parents from among a group of pigs in order to break their curse. After Sen answers correctly that none of the pigs are her parents, she is free to go. Haku takes her to the now-dry riverbed and vows to meet her again. Chihiro returns through the tunnel with her parents, who do not remember anything after eating at the restaurant stall. Chihiro looks back at the tunnel, unsure if her adventure really happened. When they reach their car, they find it covered in dust and leaves, but drive off toward their new home.


Cast

Character nameVoice actor
EnglishJapanese (Nihongo)JapaneseEnglish
Chihiro Ogino / SenOgino Chihiro (荻野 千尋) / Sen ()Rumi HiiragiDaveigh Chase
Haku / Spirit of the Kohaku RiverHaku (ハク) / Nigihayami Kohakunushi (饒速水小白主)Miyu IrinoJason Marsden
YubabaYubāba (湯婆婆)Mari NatsukiSuzanne Pleshette
ZenibaZenība (銭婆)
KamajiKamajī (釜爺)Bunta SugawaraDavid Ogden Stiers
LinRin (リン)Yoomi TamaiSusan Egan
ChichiyakuChichiyaku (父役)Tsunehiko KamijōPaul Eiding
Aniyaku (assistant Manager)Aniyaku (兄役)Takehiko OnoJohn Ratzenberger
No-FaceKaonashi (顔無し)Akio NakamuraBob Bergen
AogaeruAogaeru (青蛙)Tatsuya Gashūint
Bandai-gaeru (foreman)Bandai-gaeru (番台蛙)Yō ŌizumiRodger Bumpass
Boh (baby) ()Ryūnosuke KamikiTara Strong
Akio Ogino (Chihiro's father)Ogino Akio (荻野 明夫)Takashi NaitōMichael Chiklis
Yūko Ogino (Chihiro's mother)Ogino Yūko (荻野 悠子)Yasuko SawaguchiLauren Holly
River SpiritKawa no Kami (河の神)Koba HayashiJim Ward
Radish SpiritOshira-sama (お白様)Ken YasudaJack Angel

Production

Development and inspiration

"I created a heroine who is an ordinary girl, someone with whom the audience can sympathize.t's not a story in which the characters grow up, but a story in which they draw on something already inside them, brought out by the particular circumstances. I want my young friends to live like that, and I think they, too, have such a wish."

—Hayao Miyazaki

Every summer, Hayao Miyazaki spent his vacation at a mountain cabin with his family and five girls who were friends of the family. The idea for Spirited Away came about when he wanted to make a film for these friends. Miyazaki had previously directed films for small children and teenagers such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, but he had not created a film for ten-year-old girls. For inspiration, he read shōjo manga magazines like Nakayoshi and Ribon the girls had left at the cabin, but felt they only offered subjects on "crushes" and romance. When looking at his young friends, Miyazaki felt this was not what they "held dear in their hearts" and decided to produce the film about a young heroine whom they could look up to instead.

Miyazaki had wanted to produce a new film for years, but his two previous proposals—one based on the Japanese book Kiri no Mukō no Fushigi na Machi (霧のむこうのふしぎな町) by Sachiko Kashiwaba, and another about a teenage heroine—were rejected. His third proposal, which ended up becoming Sen and Chihiro's Spirited Away, was more successful. The three stories revolved around a bathhouse that was inspired by one in Miyazaki's hometown. He thought the bathhouse was a mysterious place, and there was a small door next to one of the bathtubs in the bath house. Miyazaki was always curious to what was behind it, and he made up several stories about it, one of which inspired the bathhouse setting of Spirited Away.

Production of Spirited Away commenced in 2000 on a budget of ¥1.9 billion (US$15 million). Walt Disney Pictures financed ten percent of the film's production cost for the right of first refusal for American distribution. As with Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli staff experimented with computer animation. With the use of more computers and programs such as Softimage 3D, the staff learned the software, but used the technology carefully so that it enhanced the story, instead of "stealing the show". Each character was mostly hand-drawn, with Miyazaki working alongside his animators to see they were getting it just right. The biggest difficulty in making the film was to reduce its length. When production began, Miyazaki realized it would be more than three hours long if he made it according to his plot. He had to delete many scenes from the story, and tried to reduce the "eye candy" in the film because he wanted it to be simple. Miyazaki did not want to make the hero a "pretty girl". At the beginning, he was frustrated at how she looked "dull" and thought, "She isn't cute. Isn't there something we can do?" As the film neared the end, however, he was relieved to feel "she will be a charming woman."

Miyazaki based some of the buildings in the spirit world on the buildings in the real-life Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Koganei, Tokyo, Japan. He often visited the museum for inspiration while working on the film. Miyazaki had always been interested in the Pseudo-Western style buildings from the Meiji period that were available there. The museum made Miyazaki feel nostalgic, "especially when I stand here alone in the evening, near closing time, and the sun is setting – tears well up in my eyes." Another major inspiration was the Notoya Ryokan (能登谷旅館), a traditional Japanese inn located in Yamagata Prefecture, famous for its exquisite architecture and ornamental features. While some guidebooks and articles claim that the old gold town of Jiufen in Taiwan served as an inspirational model for the film, Miyazaki has denied this. The Dōgo Onsen is also often said to be a key inspiration for the Spirited Away onsen/bathhouse.

Music

The film score of Spirited Away was composed and conducted by Miyazaki's regular collaborator Joe Hisaishi, and performed by the New Japan Philharmonic. The soundtrack received awards at the 56th Mainichi Film Competition Award for Best Music, the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2001 Best Music Award in the Theater Movie category, and the 17th Japan Gold Disk Award for Animation Album of the Year. Later, Hisaishi added lyrics to "One Summer's Day" and named the new version of the song "The Name of Life" (いのちの名前, "Inochi no Namae") which was performed by Ayaka Hirahara.

The closing song, "Always With Me" (いつも何度でも, "Itsumo Nando Demo", lit. 'Always, No Matter How Many Times') was written and performed by Youmi Kimura, a composer and lyre-player from Osaka. The lyrics were written by Kimura's friend Wakako Kaku. The song was intended to be used for Rin the Chimney Painter (煙突描きのリン, Entotsu-kaki no Rin), a different Miyazaki film which was never released. In the special features of the Japanese DVD, Hayao Miyazaki explains how the song in fact inspired him to create Spirited Away. The song itself would be recognized as Gold at the 43rd Japan Record Awards.

Besides the original soundtrack, there is also an image album, titled Spirited Away Image Album (千と千尋の神隠し イメージアルバム, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi Imēji Arubamu), that contains 10 tracks.

English adaptation

John Lasseter, Pixar animator and a fan and friend of Miyazaki, would often sit with his staff and watch Miyazaki's work when encountering story problems. After seeing Spirited Away Lasseter was ecstatic. Upon hearing his reaction to the film, Disney CEO Michael Eisner asked Lasseter if he would be interested in introducing Spirited Away to an American audience. Lasseter obliged by agreeing to serve as the executive producer for the English adaptation. Following this, several others began to join the project: Beauty and the Beast co-director Kirk Wise and Aladdin co-producer Donald W. Ernst joined Lasseter as director and producer of Spirited Away, respectively. Screenwriters Cindy Davis Hewitt and Donald H. Hewitt penned the English-language dialogue, which they wrote in order to match the characters' original Japanese-language lip movements.

The cast of the film consists of Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette (in her final film role before her death in January 2008), Michael Chiklis, Lauren Holly, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers and John Ratzenberger (a Pixar regular). Advertising was limited, with Spirited Away being mentioned in a small scrolling section of the film section of Disney.com; Disney had sidelined their official website for Spirited Away and given the film a comparatively small promotional budget. Marc Hairston argues that this was a justified response to Studio Ghibli's retention of the merchandising rights to the film and characters, which limited Disney's ability to properly market the film.


Themes

Supernaturalism

The major themes of Spirited Away, heavily influenced by Japanese Shinto-Buddhist folklore, centre on the protagonist Chihiro and her liminal journey through the realm of spirits. The central location of the film is a Japanese bathhouse where a great variety of Japanese folklore creatures, including kami, come to bathe. Miyazaki cites the solstice rituals when villagers call forth their local kami and invite them into their baths. Chihiro also encounters kami of animals and plants. Miyazaki says of this:

In my grandparents' time, it was believed that kami existed everywhere – in trees, rivers, insects, wells, anything. My generation does not believe this, but I like the idea that we should all treasure everything because spirits might exist there, and we should treasure everything because there is a kind of life to everything.

Chihiro's archetypal entrance into another world demarcates her status as one somewhere between child and adult. Chihiro also stands outside societal boundaries in the supernatural setting. The use of the word kamikakushi (literally 'hidden by gods') within the Japanese title, and its associated folklore, reinforces this liminal passage: "Kamikakushi is a verdict of 'social death' in this world, and coming back to this world from Kamikakushi meant 'social resurrection.'"

Additional themes are expressed through No-Face, who reflects the characters who surround him, learning by example and taking the traits of whomever he consumes. This nature results in No-Face's monstrous rampage through the bathhouse. After Chihiro saves No-Face with the emetic dumpling, he becomes timid once more. At the end of the film, Zeniba decides to take care of No-Face so he can develop without the negative influence of the bathhouse.

Fantasy

The film has been compared to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, as the stories have some elements in common such as being set in a fantasy world, the plots including a disturbance in logic and stability, and there being motifs such as food having metamorphic qualities; though developments and themes are not shared. Among other stories compared to Spirited Away, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is seen to be more closely linked thematically.

Yubaba has many similarities to the Coachman from the 1940 film Pinocchio, in the sense that she mutates humans into pigs in a similar way that the boys of Pleasure Island were mutated into donkeys. Upon gaining employment at the bathhouse, Yubaba's seizure of Chihiro's true name symbolically kills the child, who must then assume adulthood. She then undergoes a rite of passage according to the monomyth format; to recover continuity with her past, Chihiro must create a new identity.

Traditional Japanese culture

Spirited Away contains critical commentary on modern Japanese society concerning generational conflicts and environmental issues. Chihiro has been seen as a representation of the shōjo, whose roles and ideology had changed dramatically since post-war Japan. Just as Chihiro seeks her past identity, Japan, in its anxiety over the economic downturn occurring during the release of the film in 2001, sought to reconnect to past values. In an interview, Miyazaki has commented on this nostalgic element for an old Japan.

Western consumerism

Accordingly, the film can be partly understood as an exploration of the effect of greediness and Western consumerism on traditional Japanese culture. For instance, Yubaba is stylistically unique within the bathhouse, wearing a Western dress and living among European décor and furnishings, in contrast with the minimalist Japanese style of her employees' quarters, representing the Western capitalist influence over Japan in its Meiji period and beyond. Along with its function within the ostensible coming of age theme, Yubaba's act of taking Chihiro's name and replacing it with Sen (an alternate reading of chi, the first character in Chihiro's name, lit. 'one thousand'), can be thought of as symbolic of capitalism's single-minded concern with value.

The Meiji design of the abandoned theme park is the setting for Chihiro's parents' metamorphosis – the family arrives in an imported Audi car and the father wears a European-styled polo shirt, reassuring Chihiro that he has "credit cards and cash," before their morphing into literal consumerist pigs. Miyazaki has stated:

Chihiro's parents turning into pigs symbolizes how some humans become greedy. At the very moment Chihiro says there is something odd about this town, her parents turn into pigs. There were people that "turned into pigs" during Japan's bubble economy (consumer society) of the 1980s, and these people still haven't realized they’ve become pigs. Once someone becomes a pig, they don’t return to being human but instead gradually start to have the "body and soul of a pig". These people are the ones saying, "We are in a recession and don’t have enough to eat." This doesn't just apply to the fantasy world. Perhaps this isn't a coincidence and the food is actually (an analogy for) "a trap to catch lost humans."

However, the bathhouse of the spirits cannot be seen as a place free of ambiguity and darkness. Many of the employees are rude to Chihiro because she is human, and corruption is ever-present; it is a place of excess and greed, as depicted in the initial appearance of No-Face. In stark contrast to the simplicity of Chihiro's journey and transformation is the constantly chaotic carnival in the background.

Environmentalism

There are two major instances of allusions to environmental issues within the movie. The first is seen when Chihiro is dealing with the "stink spirit". The stink spirit was actually a river spirit, but it was so corrupted with filth that one couldn't tell what it was at first glance. It only became clean again when Chihiro pulled out a huge amount of trash, including car tires, garbage, and a bicycle. This alludes to human pollution of the environment, and how people can carelessly toss away things without thinking of the consequences and of where the trash will go.

The second allusion is seen in Haku himself. Haku does not remember his name and lost his past, which is why he is stuck at the bathhouse. Eventually, Chihiro remembers that he used to be the spirit of the Kohaku River, which was destroyed and replaced with apartments. Because of humans' need for development, they destroyed a part of nature, causing Haku to lose his home and identity. This can be compared to deforestation and desertification; humans tear down nature, cause imbalance in the ecosystem, and demolish animals' homes to satisfy their want for more space (housing, malls, stores, etc.) but do not think about how it can affect other living things.


Release

Box office and theatrical release

Spirited Away was released theatrically in Japan on 20 July 2001 by distributor Toho. It grossed a record ¥1.6 billion ($13.1 million) in its first three days, beating the previous record set by Princess Mononoke. It was number one at the Japanese box office for its first eleven weeks and spent 16 weeks there in total. After 22 weeks of release and after grossing $224 million in Japan, it started its international release, opening in Hong Kong on 13 December 2001. It was the first film that had grossed more than $200 million at the worldwide box office excluding the United States. It went on to gross ¥30.4 billion to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. It also set the all-time attendance record in Japan, surpassing the 16.8 million tickets sold by Titanic. Its gross at the Japanese box office has since increased to ¥31.68 billion, as of 2020.

In February 2002, Wild Bunch, an international sales company that had recently span-off from its former parent StudioCanal, picked up the international sale rights for the film outside of Asia and France. The company would then on-sell it to independent distributors across the world. On April 13, 2002, The Walt Disney Company acquired the Taiwanese, Singapore, Hong Kong, French and North American sale rights to the film, alongside Japanese Home Media rights.

Disney's English dub of the film supervised by Lasseter, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2002 and was later released in the United States on 20 September 2002. The film grossed $450,000 in its opening weekend from 26 theatres. Spirited Away had very little marketing, less than Disney's other B-films, with a maximum of 151 theatres showing the film in 2002. After the 2003 Oscars, it expanded to 714 theatres. It ultimately grossed around $10 million by September 2003. Outside of Japan and the United States, the movie was moderately successful in both South Korea and France where it grossed $11 million and $6 million, respectively. In Argentina, it is in the top 10 anime films with the most tickets sold.

In the United Kingdom, then-independent based film distributor Optimum Releasing acquired the rights to the movie from Wild Bunch in January 2003. The company then released it theatrically on 12 September 2003. The movie grossed $244,437 on its opening weekend from 51 theatres, and by the end of its theatrical run in October, the movie has grossed $1,383,023 in the country.

About 18 years after its original release in Japan, Spirited Away had a theatrical release in China on 21 June 2019. It follows the theatrical China release of My Neighbour Totoro in December 2018. The delayed theatrical release in China was due to long-standing political tensions between China and Japan, but many Chinese became familiar with Miyazaki's films due to rampant video piracy. It topped the Chinese box office with a $28.8-million opening weekend, beating Toy Story 4 in China. In its second weekend, Spirited Away grossed a cumulative $54.8 million in China, and was second only behind Spider-Man: Far From Home that weekend. As of 16 July 2019, the film has grossed $70 million in China, bringing its worldwide total box office to over $346 million as of 8 July 2019.

Spirited Away's worldwide box office total stands at US$395,802,070

Home media

Spirited Away was first released on VHS and DVD formats in Japan by Buena Vista Home Entertainment on 19 July 2002. The Japanese DVD releases include storyboards for the film and the special edition includes a Ghibli DVD player. Spirited Away sold 5.5 million home video units in Japan by 2007, and currently holds the record for most home video copies sold of all-time in the country. The movie was released on Blu-ray by Walt Disney Studios Japan on 14 July 2014, and DVD was also reissued on the same day with a new HD master, alongside several other Studio Ghibli movies.

In North America, the film was released on DVD and VHS formats by Walt Disney Home Entertainment on 15 April 2003. The attention brought by the Oscar win resulted in the film becoming a strong seller. The bonus features include Japanese trailers, a making-of documentary which originally aired on Nippon Television, interviews with the North American voice actors, a select storyboard-to-scene comparison and The Art of Spirited Away, a documentary narrated by actor Jason Marsden. The movie was released on Blu-ray by and North America by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on 16 June 2015. GKIDS and Shout! Factory re-issued the film on Blu-ray and DVD on 17 October 2017 following the expiration of Disney's previous deal with Studio Ghibli in the country. On 12 November 2019, GKIDS and Shout! Factory issued a North-America-exclusive Spirited Away collector's edition, which includes the film on Blu-ray, and the film's soundtrack on CD, as well as a 40-page book with statements by Toshio Suzuki and Hayao Miyazaki, and essays by film critic Kenneth Turan and film historian Leonard Maltin.

In the United Kingdom, the film was released on DVD and VHS as a rental release through independent distributor High Fliers Films PLC following the film's limited theatrical release. It was later officially released on DVD in the UK on 29 March 2004, with the distribution being done by Optimum Releasing themselves. In 2006, the DVD was reissued as a single-disc release (without the second one) with packaging matching other releases in Optimum's "The Studio Ghibli Collection" range. The then-renamed StudioCanal UK released the movie on Blu-ray on 24 November 2014, A British 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition, similar to other Studio Ghibli anniversary editions released in the UK, was released on 25 October 2021.

Along with the rest of the Studio Ghibli films, Spirited Away was released on digital markets in the United States for the first time, on 17 December 2019.


Reception

Critical response

Spirited Away has received significant critical success on a broad scale. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 97% approval rating based on 190 reviews, with an average rating of 8.60/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Spirited Away is a dazzling, enchanting, and gorgeously drawn fairy tale that will leave viewers a little more curious and fascinated by the world around them." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 96 out of 100 based on 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a full four stars, praising the work and Miyazaki's direction. Ebert also said that Spirited Away was one of "the year's best films", as well as adding it to his "Great Movies" list. Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times positively reviewed the film and praised the animation sequences. Mitchell also drew a favorable comparison to Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, as well as saying that Miyazaki's movies are about "moodiness as mood" and the characters "heightens the tension." Derek Elley of Variety said that Spirited Away "can be enjoyed by sprigs and adults alike" and praised the animation and music. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times praised Miyazaki's direction and the voice acting, as well as saying that the film is the "product of a fierce and fearless imagination whose creations are unlike anything a person has seen before." Orlando Sentinel's critic Jay Boyar also praised Miyazaki's direction and said the film is "the perfect choice for a child who has moved into a new home."

In 2004, Cinefantastique listed the film as one of the "10 Essential Animations". In 2005, Spirited Away was ranked by IGN as the 12th-best animated film of all time. The film is also ranked number 9 of the highest-rated movies of all time on Metacritic, being the highest rated traditionally animated film on the site. The film ranked number 10 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010. In 2010, Rotten Tomatoes ranked it as the 13th-best animated film on the site, and in 2012 as the 17th. In 2019, the site considered the film to be #1 among 140 essential animated movies to watch. In 2021 the film was ranked at number 46 on Time Out magazine's list of "The 100 Best Movies of All Time".

In his book Otaku, Hiroki Azuma observed: "Between 2001 and 2007, the otaku forms and markets quite rapidly won social recognition in Japan," and cites Miyazaki's win at the Academy Awards for Spirited Away among his examples.

Accolades

YearAwardCategoryRecipientResult
2001Animation KobeTheatrical Film AwardSpirited AwayWon
Blue Ribbon AwardsBest FilmSpirited AwayWon
Mainichi Film AwardsBest FilmSpirited AwayWon
Best Animated FilmSpirited AwayWon
Best DirectorHayao MiyazakiWon
200225th Japan Academy AwardBest FilmSpirited AwayWon
Best SongYoumi KimuraWon
52nd Berlin International Film FestivalGolden BearSpirited AwayWon
(together with Bloody Sunday)
Cinekid FestivalCinekid Film AwardSpirited AwayWon
(together with The Little Bird Boy)
21st Hong Kong Film AwardsBest Asian FilmSpirited AwayWon
Tokyo Anime AwardAnimation of the YearSpirited AwayWon
Best Art DirectionYôji Takeshige Won
Best Character DesignHayao MiyazakiWon
Best DirectorHayao MiyazakiWon
Best MusicJoe HisaishiWon
Best ScreenplayHayao MiyazakiWon
Best Voice ActorRumi Hiiragi as ChihiroWon
Notable EntryHayao MiyazakiWon
Utah Film Critics Association AwardsBest PictureSpirited AwayWon
Best DirectorHayao Miyazaki
Kirk Wise (English version)
Won
Best ScreenplayHayao Miyazaki
Cindy Davis Hewitt (English adaptation)
Donald H. Hewitt (English adaptation)
Won
Best Non-English Language FilmJapanWon
National Board of ReviewNational Board of Review Award for Best Animated FilmSpirited AwayWon
New York Film Critics OnlineBest Animated FeatureSpirited AwayWon
200375th Academy AwardsBest Animated FeatureSpirited AwayWon
30th Annie AwardsAnnie Award for Best Animated FeatureSpirited AwayWon
Directing in an Animated Feature ProductionHayao MiyazakiWon
Annie Award for Writing in a Feature ProductionHayao MiyazakiWon
Annie Award for Music in a Feature ProductionJoe HisaishiWon
8th Critics' Choice AwardsBest Animated FeatureSpirited AwayWon
29th Saturn AwardsBest Animated FilmSpirited AwayWon
Saturn Award for Best WritingHayao Miyazaki
Cindy Davis Hewitt (English adaptation)
Donald H. Hewitt (English adaptation)
Nominated
Saturn Award for Best MusicJoe HisaishiNominated
7th Golden Satellite AwardsBest Animated or Mixed Media FeatureSpirited AwayWon
Amsterdam Fantastic Film FestivalSilver Scream AwardSpirited AwayWon
Christopher AwardsFeature FilmSpirited AwayWon
200457th British Academy Film AwardsBest Film Not in the English LanguageSpirited AwayNominated

Stage production

A stage production of Spirited Away was announced in February 2021 with a world premiere planned in Tokyo in 2022. The adaption will be written and directed by John Caird, with Toho as the production company, with Studio Ghibli's blessing. The role of Chihiro will be played by both Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi.

Main Cast
Character nameActor (Double Cast)
Chihiro (千尋)Kanna HashimotoMone Kamishiraishi
Haku (ハク)Kotarou DaigoHiroki Miura
Kaonashi (顔無し)Koharu SugawaraTomohiko Tsujimoto
Rin (リン)Miyu SakihiFuu Hinami
Kamajī (釜爺)Tomorowo TaguchiSatoshi Hashimoto
Yubāba (湯婆婆) / Zenība (銭婆)Mari NatsukiRomi Park