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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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British Film Institute
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Where to Watch Over 300 British Animated Films for Free Online
British Film Institute
British Film Institute

The history of animation doesn’t begin and end with studios in Japan and the U.S. Artists in the UK have been drawing and sculpting cartoons for over a century, and now some of the best examples of the medium to come out of the country are available to view for free online.

As It’s Nice That reports, the British Film Institute has uploaded over 300 films to the new archive on BFI player. Dubbed "Animated Britain," the expansive collection includes hand-drawn and stop motion animation and many distinct styles in between. Viewers will find ads, documentaries, films for children, and films for adults dating from 1904 to the 21st century. Episodes of classic cartoons like SuperTed and Clangers as well as obscure clips that are hard to find elsewhere are represented.

The archive description reads:

“Through its own weird alchemy, animation can bring our wildest imaginings to life, and yet it can also be a powerful tool for exploring our everyday reality. Silly, surreal, sweet or caustic, this dizzyingly diverse selection showcases British animation's unique contribution to the art form, and offers a history ripe for rediscovery.”

This institution’s project marks their start of a whole year dedicated to animation. UK residents can stream the selected films for free at BFI player, or check out their rental offerings for more British animated classics.

[h/t It’s Nice That]

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Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
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You Can Still Visit This Forgotten Flintstones Theme Park in Arizona
Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Like many pop culture institutions of the 20th century, Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones hasn’t been relegated to just one medium. The animated cast of America's favorite modern Stone Age family sold cigarettes, starred in a live-action 1994 film, and inspired all sorts of merchandise, including video games and lunchboxes. In 1972, it also got the theme park treatment.

Bedrock City, located 30 minutes from the Grand Canyon in Williams, Arizona, was the brainchild of Linda and Francis Speckels, a married couple who bought the property and turned it into a 6-acre tourist attraction. Concrete houses were built to resemble the Flintstone and Rubble residences and are furnished with props; a large metal slide resembles a brontosaurus, so kids can mimic the show’s famous title credits sequence; and statues of the characters are spread all over the premises. The site also doubles as an RV campground and parking site.

A Flintstones theme park house
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A statue of Bam-Bam at the Flintstones park in Arizona
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A statue of Wilma Flintstone at Bedrock City in Arizona
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When it first opened, Bedrock City employed actors to stay in character, but the remote location proved challenging to retain both employees and visitors. Over the past four decades, it's had a steady stream of tourists, but not enough to turn a huge profit. Atlas Obscura reports the attractions are in various stages of disrepair.

Linda Speckels put the property up for sale in 2015 with an asking price of $2 million, but it has yet to sell. One possible hold-up: The new owner would have to negotiate a fresh licensing deal with Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. for the right to continue using the show’s trademarks. (A separate Flintstones park in South Dakota, owned by another member of the Speckels family, was sold and closed in 2015.) With its proximity to the Canyon, the 30 total acres could be converted into almost anything, from a mall to a golf course. For Flintstones enthusiasts, the hope is that the park’s unique attractions won’t be reduced to rubble.

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