Disney and Studio Ghibli are both award winning animation houses on opposite sides of the world. One resides in the United States and is run by Mr John Lasseter. The other is in Japan and is headed by Mr Hayao Miyazaki. Both are award winning kings in their respective realms. Both find clever ways to pay homage to one another in the movies out of mutual respect. Both continue to produce quality child-friendly entertainment. But is one actually “better” than the other? I feel like this question cannot be answered by anything as tacky as money or box office numbers. I’ll leave it to my children to decide!
Why would I trust the outcome of such a contest, titan vs titan, Disney vs Ghibli, in the hands of my children you ask? Well… Allow me to answer. First of all, cartoons are meant for children, so it is children who should decide which ones they like the best. Second: The only real test one passes or fails in life is the one they never knew they were taking; so my young ones will be observed rather than cornered and questioned. Third: my rascals are of varying ages: 18, 4 & 3 and, in regards to why they’re perfect to judge such a contest, are also of varying mentalities. The elder sister works at Hot Topic and is obviously, therefore, a trendster who rules the planet and has no time for anything “uncool.” The 4 year old is very popular with her classmates but has a learning disability in regards to speech. My darling 3 year old is Autistic, semi-withdrawn and, though she can’t yet understandably vocalize, she knows exactly what she likes and sticks to whatever those things are. So they are the judges in my Disney vs Ghibli poll.
FINALLY: I’m completely unbiased. If you look on my laptop you’ll see an equal amount of stickers from both houses in question. Is this on purpose? No. It just happened that way, the result of what was available vs what I could afford at the time. It makes absolutely no difference which house, Disney or Ghibli, they prefer their repeat watching to come from since both animation studios constantly produce quality material that is suitable for all ages. I genuinely love whatever makes my little ones happiest.
It should be mentioned that my children are exposed to cartoons from many children’s animated movie houses besides just Disney and Studio Ghibli.
They adore Chihiro and Ponyo just as much as they like Roger Rabbit or Tom & Jerry. They love Kubo and Mavis just as much as they love Boovs and Boss Baby. They adore Up, Ferdinand and Captain Underpants in equal measure to Secret Life of Pets and Book of Life. They cheer for Megamind and Coraline with equal enthusiasm as they do Escape from Planet Earth: and 9. They bounce around to the music of Trolls just as much as they do for the many fantastic songs featured in the movie SING.
Lava, Minions, Hoodwinked, Chicken Little, Titan A.E. and Spongebob are some their favorites. My little beauties have seen them all.
So why Disney vs Ghibli? The answer is simple: This contest isn’t about what they watch; it’s about what they re-watch. According to which cartoons they demand daily the ruling animated features in our home are produced by John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki.
So here we go! DISNEY VS GHIBLI!!!
Since their beginning my children have been shown different animations and shows suitable to their age. They watched the Sesame Street, Paw Patrol, Pokoyo, Peppa Pig and every learning show one would imagine. Once they got older we decided they could get into the big shows, animated films. These are especially useful on long car rides. I hooked up an old iPad I was given to a radar detector mount and my phone’s personal hotspot. Then we used Vudu and *Disney Movies Anywhere (*while they existed) and watched Movies On The Go! This works great since we tend to drive a lot. It stood to reason that, over the course of the 2 years since my girls have been watching movies, we would watch Disney Films in the car, especially considering we own digital copies of most things Disney. At home we would watch the Ghibli films since we own the dvds and there are no digital copies available.
Let’s discuss Disney first since they’re an older studio with many more titles. My girls, the real judges of this pseudo-contest, both still dance like giddy little bobble-heads to the songs featured in The Frog Princess. We went through a major “Let It Go” phase from Frozen for a long time. They still sing The Rock’s “You’re Welcome” from Moana whenever we sing Thank You to them. They didn’t quite get into the Little Mermaid, much to my dismay, but they sing the songs from The Lion King and A Nightmare Before Christmas whenever they want to watch them. Are you sensing a pattern here? Music draws them in. My youngest, my angel with Autism, is especially drawn to music. She’ll run around the house in excited circles while trying her best to sing the songs as they play on the screen. It’s the same with my 4 year old, but with slightly better pronunciation. The point is this: My children are absolutely crazy about the songs featured in Disney movies.
Now Studio Ghibli is amazing but one would think they’d be at a distinct disadvantage in this “contest” since they’re not known for showcasing big musical numbers, right? Wrong!
My girls chew up everything the main characters do, I suspect because the protagonists are around the same age as they. Every time Chihiro is on the screen in the movie Spirited Away my girls recognize her and say her name, same with Haku and No-Face. When Ponyo has tea and noodles, my daughters want and often demand tea and noodles.
Although it is quite violent the girls watch and rewatch Princess Mononoke. They love Howl’s Moving Castle to the degree that they fully emotionally invest in every aspect of the story. They want to ooh and ah whenever Howl or Calcifer perform a miraculous feet of magic. They want to eat when Howl hosts his guests at the table. And they want to jump for joy at the end when all turns out as hoped.
Now we come to one of their top two. My Neighbor Totoro. This is the movie that seems to be teaching my children how to speak despite their learning disabilities. When Mei and Satsuke run around their now sprouted plants screaming, “I thought it was a dream!” both of my girls do exactly that! They try to mimic every word these young girls say. They can say things “acorn” and “I want (random object) too!” It’s truly amazing how much English my Violette and Aurora are learning from these Japanese cartoons considering they’re both in *special classes for speech and don’t learn as much! (*I’m not knocking the speech classes, merely pointing out how much more they’re learning from Ponyo, Totoro and other cartoons.)
Now they’ve learned a ton from Disney and other animated features as well. Violette likes to try to walk against the wind just like Moana does. Aurora tries to sing “What’s This?” with Jack Skellington. They both try to drive their little car around as fast as Lightning McQueen. Both girls try to sing every single song in Trolls and in the Rio movies. And the pair have become experts at Minionese which is quite amusing when they try to communicate with strangers using it!
So we’re back to our contest: Disney vs Ghibli. Studio Ghibli vs Walt Disney Entertainment. John Lasseter vs Hayao Miyazaki. Which do my little girls prefer? Because that’s really what this boils down to. There’s no new movie every single day for them to discover. If there were I’d be sorely behind because who can afford that!? So it’s about the repeat viewings. What do they want to watch over and over again? It’s become quite apparent that the top five they come back to are:
5: Big Hero 6, which they ask for by the word BAYMAX,
4: Howl’s Moving Castle, which they refer to as HOWL n SOPHIE,
3: Spirited Away, which is of course asked for by the name, CHIHIRO,
2: My Neighbor Totoro, which, in their little minds could only be called, TOTORO,
and their number 1 pick, and also one of the only animated features they actually call by it’s title, is PONYO!
It’s to the degree that I have to convince them daily to give something else a try just so I can have a break! But for the past 6 months they always seem to come back to these top 5. I took a tally of every time they watched a movie for the past 6 months. So that my contest was completely unbiased I also put movies from many different animation houses in front of them to daily pick from. So there you have it! In the vicious battle of Disney vs Ghibli, Studio Ghibli wins the short list! To be fair, if this were a longer list, say a top 10 movies they prefer to watch and rewatch, Disney vs Ghibli, it is Disney that comes out on top. 5 movies to 4!
10: Frozen, which they refer to by ELSA,
9: Wreck it Ralph, which is simply RALPH in toddler speak,
8: A Nightmare before Christmas, which they call JACK-SALLY,
7: Turbo, which is called by its proper title, just like Ponyo, but must be shouted repeatedly, TURBO-TURBO-TURBO!,
6: and just missing the top 5 slot by 2 viewings we have The Frog Princess, which they call TIANA.
So I guess from a certain perspective my Disney vs Ghibli contest could be seen as a tie in my house in reference to which my children prefer. One studio won the top 5. One studio won most out of 10. John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki may shake hands and continue to be good friends.
From another point of view this completely unbiased Disney vs Ghibli tally has a winner by sheer volume of Disney films repeatedly viewed viewed, 5 out of 10!
But from my perspective the contest of what animation house my daughters prefer, Disney vs Ghibli, has a clear winner in the timeless Studio Ghibli. This is judging by the number of times they view the Ghibli films as compared to how many times they wished to view the Disney films in the allotted time frame. The amount of times my daughters watched Howl’s Moving Castle in 6 months, number 4 on the list, is 49. Number 5 on the list is Big Hero 6, which they’ve watched 17 times in 6 months.
So here’s my winner! Miyazaki-san has raised his sword high and honorably beheaded Mr Lasseter! His movies have had a profound affect upon my daughters, all of my daughters. Even my “too cool for school” eldest daughter, Angelique, has fallen under the spell of Studio Ghibli films; she carries a Totoro thermos to school and work!
By Lord Veil