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Letter From Studio Ghibli Explains the Mysteries of Spirited Away

No matter how many times you re-watch Spirited Away (2001), some aspects of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated classic will always remain a mystery. Twitter user @0910noncha wasn’t content with accepting this as part of the film’s fantastical charm. So the Spirited Away fan wrote to animation house Studio Ghibli with some questions, and received a detailed letter back addressing each one, Rocket News 24 reports.

Three big questions were posed in the initial letter: Why did Chihiro’s parents turn into pigs? What was the food they ate that made it happen? And how was Chihiro able to pass her final test?

A Studio Ghibli employee wrote back saying that the transformation of Chihiro’s parents was meant to symbolize greed. Miyazaki reportedly cited the greed he witnessed during Japan’s recession in the 1980s as his inspiration for the metaphor. As the letter details, when someone becomes a pig in the film, he or she eventually develops the “body and soul of a pig” instead of turning back into a human. The respondent explained that this applies to greed in the real world as well as in the fantasy realm.

One of the movie’s greatest mysteries comes at the end, when Chihiro guesses correctly that none of the pigs she’s presented with are her parents. According to the letter, she was able to do so using “special abilities” obtained in the spirit world:

“Chihiro, as a 10-year-old girl, could understand the difference because she had overcome difficulties and had managed to acquire the ‘energy to live’ – which is something everyone can do naturally.”

The writer explains that Chihiro’s journey to harness this so-called “energy to live” by confronting her fears makes up the core of the film.

The remaining question about what food turned Chihiro’s parents into pigs still remains a bit of a mystery. The employee writes: “It’s not actually made clear what the food is—it’s just ‘very delicious,’” then goes on to hint that the feast was possibly laid out on purpose as a trick to lure humans who had lost their way.

While some filmmakers are hesitant to explain their work after it has been released, Miyazaki and the rest of Studio Ghibli have been especially generous to fans. Earlier this year, the director confirmed a long-held fan theory about his 1997 film, Princess Mononoke. Hopefully these tidbits will be enough to sustain fans on the off-chance that Miyazaki ever retires for good.

[h/t Rocket News 24]

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The World’s First Totoro-Themed Restaurant Is Coming to Thailand
StudioCanal
StudioCanal

Japan’s upcoming Studio Ghibli theme park will not open for another few years, but animation fans in Asia will soon have another destination where they can get their Hayao Miyazaki fix. Thailand will soon be home to a Totoro-themed restaurant, SoraNews24 reports.

May’s Garden House Restaurant in Bangkok is the first officially licensed restaurant inspired by Miyazaki’s classic film My Neighbor Totoro. The restaurant features Miyazaki-themed decor, like a giant Totoro figure that sits in the dining room, as well as menu items inspired by the characters, such as steamed buns shaped like Mini Totoros. The tables are adorned with figurines of Totoro, Mei, Sootballs, the Catbus, and other characters from the movie. While they aren't completed yet, the restaurant plans on adding a children’s playground, an orchid greenhouse, and various other elements before the grand opening.

Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki helped develop the concept for the restaurant, and he personally designed its sign. He also designed two exclusive new Studio Ghibli characters for the restaurant, Colko and Peeko (who you can see above).

While it has been open on a trial basis since mid-April, May’s Garden House is set to officially open at the end of May. Until then, Miyazaki uber-fans will have to content themselves with dining at the Straw Hat Cafe, the more general Studio Ghibli-themed restaurant at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.

[h/t SoraNews24]

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Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight
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9 The Shining References Buried in Pixar Films
Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight
Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Not the most kid-friendly movie! But, as circumstance would have it, it’s a favorite film of Pixar regular Lee Unkrich, who has directed or co-directed five Pixar features—including Toy Story 2 and 3; Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo; and Coco—in addition to doing editing work on several others. As such, it’s no surprise (or maybe it is) that several references to The Shining, from the obvious to the obscure, have snuck into Pixar’s lineup over the years. Here are nine of them.

1. SID'S DISTINCTIVE CARPET // TOY STORY (1995)

One of the most iconic images from Stanley Kubrick’s filmography is of Danny (Danny Lloyd) cycling through the halls of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. That same iconic carpet can be found in Toy Story, where it adorns the home of the toy-torturer Sid. Unkrich, who was one of the editors on the film, credits that particular Easter Egg to production designer Ralph Eggleston.

2. THE NUMBER 237 // TOY STORY 3 (2010)

The number 237 makes an appearance in 'Toy Story 3' (2010)
Pixar

Unkrich worked several references to the number 237—the room in the Overlook Hotel where some particularly trippy things go down for Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson)—into Toy Story 3, which he directed. The license plate on a garbage truck in one scene reads RM237; Woody instant messages a toy whose code name is Velocistar237; and the model number of a security camera in Sunnyside Daycare is Overlook R237.

3. THE SUNNYSIDE INTERCOM // TOY STORY 3 (2010)

Speaking of Sunnyside Daycare’s security system: It features an intercom that’s an exact (albeit animated) duplicate of the one used by Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) in The Shining. Several feet away from the intercom is a tissue box, the pattern of which resembles that aforementioned carpet pattern in the Overlook Hotel.

4. THE "KALINGA" TECHNIQUE // FINDING NEMO (2003) & TOY STORY 3 (2010)

For both Toy Story 3 and Finding Nemo, Unkrich asked his composers—Randy Newman and Thomas Newman, respectively—to utilize the “kalinga” technique at particular moments where the audience was meant to feel unsettled. Favored by Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, whose music was featured in The Shining, the “kalinga,” per Unkrich, “is when the violin players tap their bows against the strings rather than strumming. It's almost a plucky sound. If everybody does that throughout the orchestra you get a crazy, almost insecty sound, it's so unsettling.”

5. “HEEEEERE’S JOHNNY!” // FINDING NEMO (2003)

This one’s easy: In Finding Nemo, Bruce the shark echoes Jack Nicholson’s most famous line from The Shining when he snarls “Heeeere’s Brucey!”

6. JACK TORRANCE’S AXE // COCO (2017)

    Early in Coco, there’s a scene where Dante the dog abruptly wakes up from a nap. In the background, we see a normal-looking axe stuck into a tree trunk. An axe could just be an axe ... were Unkrich not sitting in the director's chair. Earlier this year, in an interview with Cinema Blend, he confirmed that the axe is in fact modeled after “one of the axes from The Shining.”

    7. REDRUM // COCO (2017)

    There are two 'The Shining' references in this one scene from 'Coco' (2017)
    Disney/Pixar

      In that same shot, right behind the axe, is a red metal storage drum, a reference to REDRUM, Danny Torrance’s favorite phrase and (er, spoilers for The Shining?) “murder” spelled backwards.

      8. THE GRADY TWINS // COCO (2017)

        As Coco’s Miguel runs through Frida Kahlo’s underworld art studio, he passes a painting of two girls who, per Unkrich, represent a “Día de los Muertos-inspired version of the twin girls from The Shining.”

        9. APOLLO 11 // TOY STORY (1995)

          Stick with us for a moment on this one, as it's not as straightforward as the other ones: Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear was named after Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man to set foot on the moon. Apollo 11 looms large as part of the mythology of The Shining, as there are famously some conspiracy theorists who believe that Kubrick faked the moon landing and used The Shining as a quasi-confession. (At one point Danny Torrance wears an Apollo 11 sweater, which Lee Unkrich now owns.) This is very likely a coincidence, not an outright nod to The Shining, but given the level of The Shining appreciation in the halls of Pixar, it’s not a stretch to believe that someone at least got a chuckle out of it.

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