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Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli Films That Kids Will Love

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Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese filmmaker whose animated movies are famous for the beautiful imagery and intriguing storylines. Kids are especially captivated by his films, and the unique plots allow for a lot of thought-provoking discussions about his movies and the differences between his anime style and other more familiar styles. The movies also contain interesting cultural components and complex points of view that are great to discuss as a family. Please check the recommended age ranges or preview the movies if you have any concerns, as some Miyazaki films contain content that may not be appropriate for young kids.

1. Ponyo

Ponyo
Photo © WDSHE. All Rights Reserved.

Much more young child-oriented than some of Hayao Miyazaki's other films, Ponyo gives us an extraordinary new take on the tale of "The Little Mermaid" that will fascinate and entertain children and adults alike. This little adventure does have a couple of perilous situations that may be scary to young kids, mostly due to violent weather. The story is a little bit strange and has a few scenes that really make kids giggle. (Rated G, ages 3+)

2. My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.

Featuring the voices of Dakota and Elle Fanning, this animated Miyazaki film tells a mystical story of sadness and adventure. Satsuki and her 4-year-old sister Mei movie with their father into a new home in the country. They are both intruigued by Soot Sprites and a mysterious forest fairy named Totoro. All of these distractions are good, because the girls' mother is ill and has been in the hospital. The situation can be quite difficult for two little girls, but they have a loving father, and when help is really needed, Totoro is there. The movie contains some sad scenes that may be troubling for young children. Also, families may be surprised by a scene which shows the family all in the bath tub together. (Rated G, Ages 6+)

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3. The Secret World of Arrietty

The Secret World of Arrietty
Photo © Disney
Based on the classic book The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty tells a beautiful and enchanting story about a 14-year-old girl who is very unique. Arrietty and her family are borrowers. They are tiny people who live under a house and borrow the things they need from the human beings that live there. Arrietty's life changes forever when she meets Sean, a boy who comes to stay at the house for a while, and Arrietty's strength and determination changes Sean's life as well. This is a fabulous film for kids of any age, but very young children may be slightly frightened by a couple of perilous scenes.(Rated G, Recommended for ages 6+)

4. Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.

Kiki is 13 years old, and in her world, that is the age when a young witch must leave her home and venture off on her own to become a witch-in-training. Kiki flies away to a new city, with her best friend Jiji the cat, and the movie chronicles her adventures there, as she makes new friends and uses her talents to provide for herself and Jiji. Full of humor and adventure, this coming-of-age story set in a quaint and simple time is told through the beautiful animation of Hayao Miyazaki. (Rated G, Recommended for ages 7+)

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5. Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart
Photo © Disney
John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" seems a funny song to introduce this animated movie set in Tokyo, Japan. The theme unfolds, however, through the tale of a high school girl named Shizuku, who is led down a new path by a mysterious cat. As fate would have it, Shizuku meets a boy named Seiji who has some similar interests to her and is very talented at making violins. Meeting Seiji inspires Shizuku to ponder her own hopes and dreams in life, and she begins to explore her own talents and map out the road her future will take. This slowly paced coming-of-age story is rated G, which is really delightful considering it's not a movie made for young children, who will likely not be too interested in it. (G, recommended for ages 9+)
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6. Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.

Enter a world of wizards and witches as you see the strange and intriguing tale of young Sophie. Innocently working in her hat shop, Sophie ventures out one day and happens to meet the mysterious Wizard Howl. Not pleased with the meeting, the Witch of the Waste curses Sophie, turning her into an old woman. Sophie runs away and somehow locates Howl's infamous moving castle, which is powered by a fire demon. After moving into the castle as the cleaning lady, Sophie finds herself in the middle of an explosive situation, but her courage and heart win her many friends and are the key to avoiding a war and helping others. (Rated PG, for frightening images and brief mild language. Ages 9+)

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7. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.
1000 years after the "Seven Days of Fire" which destroyed most of earth, a few small human kingdoms survive within a jungle wasteland that is toxic to humans and filled with giant insects. While another kingdom invades her home in the "Valley of the Wind" and plans to use a great warrior to destroy the wasteland, Princess Nausicaa believes that people must try to understand the jungle and should not destroy it. When she uncovers some of the secrets to the jungle mysteries, Nausicaa resolves to stop those who would destroy it. This environmentally focused movie contains scenes of violence that might frighten young children. (Rated PG for violence. Ages 10+)
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8. Castle in the Sky

An adventure begins when Pazu, a hard-working boy, sees a young girl floating down though the sky as a glowing pendant keeps her from plummeting to the ground. Pazu befriends the young girl, Sheeta, and they find that they have a common goal in searching for Laputa - a floating island in the sky. When pirates come after her on one side and goverment agents on another, Pazu tries to keep Sheeta safe. With all of those powerful people against them, can Pazu and Sheeta ever hope to find Laputa and uncover her ancient mysteries? This film contains a considerable amount of violence for an animated movie, and frequent scenes of peril may be frightening for young children. (Rated PG, for fantasy action violence and peril. Ages 9+)

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9. Spirited Away

Spirited Away
Photo © Disney. All rights reserved.

<i>Spirited Away</i>, winner of the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, tells the story of ten-year-old Chihiro, who is not pleased that her family is moving. On the way to their new destination, the family finds a peculiar park, where Chihiro's parents are turned into pigs, and Chihiro is forced to work in a bathhouse filled with spirits as she attempts to free her parents. Her friend Haku and others along the way help Chihiro as she tries to uncover the mysteries of the strange world and find away to free herself, her parents, and Haku. The movie is strange and will feel very unfamiliar to kids. Older kids may be fascinated by it, but young kids might possibly be terrified. (Rated PG, for some scary moments. Ages 10+)

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10. Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke
Photo © Miramax

This astounding Miyazaki film was on Roger Ebert's top 1o films list in 1999 and was called the "Star Wars of Animated Feature" by the New York Post. The animated adventure follows a young warrior named Ashitaka who is cursed and sets out in search of a cure. On his journey, he finds himself in the middle of a battle between Princess Mononoke and the forset gods and a group of humans living in Irontown. The battle between man and nature carries a high price. This movie contains  considerable violence and is rated PG-13, for images of violence and gore. (Ages 13+)

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