Studio Ghibli Fest is coming back for a return engagement in select theaters — and this time you might be able to catch some of the more obscure and fantastical creations to come out of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s operation.
First up is Ponyo, dubbed in English on March 25 and 28 and in the original Japanese with English subtitles on March 26. Miyazaki’s indirect adaptation of Hans Christen Andersen’s classical Little Mermaid fairy tale, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, stars the voices of Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Lily Tomlin and Liam Neeson in the English version.
2002’s The Cat Returns is next, April 22-23 and 25. The English cast of this whimsical tale includes Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle, Elliot Gould, Tim Curry and Andy Richter.
Up next is 1991’s high-flying Porco Rosso, May 20-21 and 23, about an ace pilot and bounty hunter who has been cursed with the features of a pig (a recurring theme in Studio Ghibli anime — see Spirited Away, below). English voices include Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes and David Ogden Stiers.
1994’s Pom Poko comes June 17-18 and 20, starring the voices of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Clancy Brown, Tress MacNeille, J.K. Simmons and more in an anatomically correct, raccoon-filled riff on Japanese folk tales. (Google it — or don’t.)
Princess Mononoke will screen July 22-23 and 25. This epic 1997 tale of wild gods and nature spirits clashing with the iron fist of human ingenuity in feudal Japan is what introduced me to the work of Miyazaki’s studio. Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Gillian Anderson, Billy Bob Thornton and Keith David are among the amazing English voice cast.
In 1988’s Grave of the Fireflies, Aug. 12-13 and 15, two siblings struggle to survive World War II’s fiery final months in what the late Roger Ebert called one of the most powerful films about war.
My Neighbor Totoro, also from 1988, screens on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and 3. This iconic family favorite also deals with siblings and their encounters with friendly forest spirits in rural postwar Japan during their mother’s illness.
2001’s Academy Award-winning Spirited Away returns to the big screen Oct. 28-30. Its English version includes performances from Suzanne Pleshette, Daveigh Chase, David Ogden Stiers and Michael Chiklis.
The festival wraps up Nov. 18-20 with 1986’s Castle in the Sky, the story of a young girl who falls out of the sky and into the arms of a boy who helps her search for a floating island where a long-dead civilization promises fantastic secrets. English voices include James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill, Mandy Patinkin and Andy Dick.