Blu-ray Review: Spirited Away

While Hollywood had passed out Oscars for Best Animated Shorts since the 1930s, feature length animation was left out of the party unless it received a special award or a rare Best Picture nomination. To a degree it made sense since so few feature length animation were released by studios outside of Disney. As more and more studios got heavily involved in animated films that weren’t aimed at 5 year olds, the Academy changed things up. An animator such as Hayao Miyazaki was neglected since his focus was on big pictures. In 2002, the second Oscar for feature length rightfully went to Miyazaki for his epic Spirited Away about a young girl doing her best to escape a ghostly community.

Ten-year-old Chihiro in the backseat as her parents drive to their new house. Dad takes a wrong turn and think he can make a cross country shortcut to get back to their new suburban community. Except they end up in what appears to be an abandoned amusement park. Mom and Dad take advantage of an unattended restaurant to partake in a pig out that has an unexpected consequence. Turns out the place is a spirit trap. Chihiro must rescue her transformed folks from becoming the next round of dinner. Her adventure takes her in a realm of magic, dragons and witches with enormous heads. She finds herself having to take strange jobs in order to earn her way up and out of the mysterious land. Things remain constantly weird for her as she ends up at bath house cleaning up the muddiest of monsters. Is she ever going to get her folks free before they end up at a rib joint?

Spirited Away is an animated masterpiece full of intrigue and beauty. Miyazaki and his animation crew go beyond the norm in creating a world where nothing is real yet so much seems grounded. A lot of this is owed to the creation of Chihiro who proves to be a girl who can handle the stress of never losing touch with her desire to save her family. She lives in pure fear of being fully exposed as she struggles against the weirdness of this new world that is next to her new home. There’s such a beauty to the art. Spirited Away has maintained its magical spell after all these years.

The American voice actors are top notch especially Suzanne Pleshette (The Bob Newhart Show) as Yubabab, the giant head woman that runs the bath house. If you listen closely, your ears shall spot John Ratzenberger (Cliff on Cheers). Oddly enough on of the films Spirited Away beat was Disney’s Lilo & Stitch. Daveigh Chase (Big Love) was the voice of Lilo as well as Chihiro so she got to enjoy the night either way.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p is breathtaking. The art pops. The animation flows. This is how to watch the film. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 versions of both the original Japanese cast and the English dub. There’s also a French dub. All sound amazing since the sound adds so much to the fantasy world. The movie is subtitled in English and French.

DVD with the film.

Original Japanese Storyboards lets you watch the entire film based on the storyboards. You can access the various audio tracks.

Behind the Microphone (5:43) has the American voice cast talk about their work. The all stars include James Marsden, Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers and John Ratzenberger.
Nippon Television Special (41:52) takes viewers inside Studio Ghibli to see what Miyazaki has done. You get to see how Spirited Away was created. It is in Japanese with English subtitles.

Original Japanese Trailers & Original Japanese TV Spots shows how the movie was sold to Tokyo.

8-page Booklet with Producer’s and Director’s Statements.

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present Spirited Away. Directed and Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers and John Ratzenberger. Running Time: 125 minutes. Released: October 17, 2017.

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