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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hayao Miyazaki's magical adventure Spirited Away is widely considered an animated masterpiece, but it can be a creepy and frightening experience for younger viewers. There are dozens of freaky-looking creatures that threaten each other or the protagonist, who is trying to save her parents. Many, many scenes involve these strange beings, and younger children used to more sanitized characters may find them disturbing. One particularly scary scene involves a beloved character in the shape of a dragon who returns from a journey injured, bloody, and on the verge of death. One character smokes and in a dinner scene someone is offered sake. Older children ready for a more sophisticated animated tale will be mature enough to enjoy this story of a brave young female protagonist.
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What's the story?
In SPIRITED AWAY, Chihiro is a sullen 10-year-old girl who wanders into a world ruled by witches and monsters, where humans are changed into animals. When her parents gorge themselves on enchanted food, they turn into pigs and Chihiro must overcome her whiny self in order to enter the spirit world and win them back. To do this, she must appeal to Yubaba, the scary old witch who runs the spirit bath-house. Chihiro is aided by Haku, Yubaba's right hand helper and our heroine's friend.
Is it any good?
This is a thrilling, spectacularly beautiful movie, though it's not for little kids who get scared. Despite the animation similarities, Spirited Away is not Totoro, the beloved "feel-good" classic, but an edgy portrayal of what a young girl needs to do to grow up and take responsibility for more than herself. She fights Yubaba, she rescues Haku and aids a wounded spirit, triumphing where others do not because she is not sidetracked by greed.
Excellent voice-overs are provided by Davleigh Chase as Chihiro, Jason Marsden as Haku, Suzanne Pleshette as Yubaba, Michael Chiklis as Chihiro's father, Lauren Holly as Chihiro's mother, and John Ratzenberger as the Assistant Manager. John Lasseter of Toy Story fame directed the English voices.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Spirited Away compares to mainstream American animated films. What's different? What's similar?
What parts of the movie did you find frightening and/or creepy? Why? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
What other movies have you seen with girl main characters? Is there anything different about Chihiro compared to other movie girls? Does this movie challenge or reinforce any stereotypes?
Why do you think this movie is considered an anime classic? How is it different from the majority of Hollywood animated movies?
- In theaters: April 20, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: April 15, 2003
- Cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette
- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character strengths: Courage, Gratitude, Humility, Perseverance
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some scary supernatural scenes
- Last updated: November 7, 2019
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