From ‘Ponyo’ to ‘Spirited Away’: Studio Ghibli Fest brings beloved films back to Tinseltown


A magical goldfish journeys to the ocean’s surface to follow her dreams in “Ponyo”. © 2008 Studio Ghibli – NDHDMT

One of the nation’s highly acclaimed annual film festivals has made its return to Chico. Celebrating some of Japan’s most popular animated films in both English and Japanese, Studio Ghibli Fest is underway at Cinemark Chico 14 and XD

Cinemark Chico will host a series of limited-time screenings of the studio’s movies. The latest limited screening is “Ponyo,” which celebrates the 15th anniversary of its premiere. It arrives in theaters on May 8 and 10, with options for Japanese or English audio and subtitles. 

The event is a collaboration between Studio Ghibli, Fathom Events and distributor GKIDS, and was created to bring Ghibli films to theater audiences across the U.S. The festival began screening in Chico in 2017, and has continued as an annual tradition at Tinseltown in recent years.

The 2023 film selections highlight the praised cinematic works of director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki’s award-winning Ghibli films will be screened in theaters until November, and the event will coincide with the anniversaries of fan favorites such as “Ponyo” and “The Wind Rises.” With 9 films set to be screened during the festival, audiences will find a variety of Studio Ghibli’s animations to explore throughout the summer and fall.
Miyazaki’s films are known for their imaginative art style, impactful characters, unique blend of mythology and modernity and ability to transcend geography and culture. For the seventh year of Ghibli Fest, Miyazaki’s work will be showcased in theaters nationwide, while Studio Ghibli currently finalizes its upcoming film “How do You Live.”

The protagonist meets supernatural beings and makes new friends in “Spirited Away.” © 2001 Studio Ghibli – NDDTM

Inspired by “The Little Mermaid,” “Ponyo” tells the magical story of a goldfish who dreams of becoming human. After befriending a young human named Sōsuke and aided by her magical abilities, Ponyo’s transformation into a human comes true, though chaos soon follows. This courageous story of friendship and nature captured filmgoers attention at its premiere and in its years as part of Ghibli Fest.

Ponyo leaps across the water of a stormy sea in “Ponyo.” © 2008 Studio Ghibli – NDHDMT

Future Studio Ghibli Fest screenings this year include films such as “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” “Castle in the Sky,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Porco Rosso,” “The Wind Rises,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away.” 

In English dubbed screenings, several beloved American actors also make appearances, including Mark Hamill in “Castle in the Sky,Christian Bale in “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and Uma Thurman in “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.” 

Films selected for the fest represent Studio Ghibli’s most popular releases from the 1980s to the 2000s and will continue to play on Tinseltown screens until November 1st.

Kristin Moore can be reached at [email protected].