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Culture

Studio Ghibli Takes a bow at Cannes with an Honorary Palme d’Or

CANNES, France  — Studio Ghibli, the Japanese anime factory of surreal ecological wonders that has for 39 years spirited away moviegoers with tales of Totoros, magical jellyfish and floating castles, was celebrated Monday by the Cannes Film Festival with an honorary Palme d’Or.

In the 22 years that Cannes has been handing out honorary Palmes, the award for Ghibli was the first for anything but an individual filmmaker or actor. (This year’s other recipients are George Lucas and Meryl Streep.) Hayao Miyazaki, the 83-year-old animation master who founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 with Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki, didn’t attend the ceremony, but he spoke in a video message taped in Japan.

“I don’t understand any of this,” said Miyazaki. “But thank you.”

At Cannes, where standing ovations can stretch on end, the fervor that greeted Ghibli’s emissaries — Goro Miyazaki (son of Hayao) and Kenichi Yoda — was nevertheless among the most thunderous receptions at the festival. Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’ artistic director, walked across the stage of the Grand Théâtre Lumière filming the long ovation, he said, for a video to send to Miyazaki.

“With this Palme d’Or, we’d like to thank you for all the magic you’ve brought to cinema,” said Iris Knobloch, the president of the festival, presenting the award.

Goro Miyazaki, left, and Kenichi Yoda pose for photographers at the Studio Ghibli honorary Palme d’Or photo call at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 20, 2024. (Photo by Andreea Alexandru/Invision/AP)

The occasion wasn’t marked by any new Ghibli film but four earlier shorts that hadn’t previously been shown outside Japan. “Mei and the Baby Cat Bus,” a brief follow-up to Miyazaki’s 1989 “My Neighbor Totoro,” expands the Cat Bus of that classic to a whole fleet of cat conveyances, most notably the mini Baby Cat Bus.

The shorts, all of which were made for the Studio Ghibli Museum outside Tokyo, included “Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess,” a culinary-themed desert for Miyazaki’s 2001 film “Spirited Away.” The other two — “House Hunting” and “Boro the Caterpillar” — make musical mini-adventures for forest creatures.

The Studio Ghibli celebration came on the heels of Miyazaki’s long-awaited “The Boy and the Heron” winning the Academy Award in March for best animated film. (A documentary on its making, “Hayao Miyazaki and the Heron,” also played in Cannes.)

Miyazaki sat out that ceremony, too. Goro Miyazaki, whose own films include “From Up on Poppy Hill” and “Tales From Earthsea,” said they had to use a hotel towel to wrap the Oscar to bring home to his father. On Monday, he was relieved by the portability of the Cannes prize.

“I’m reassured seeing the Palme d’Or was in a box,” he said, grinning.

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