By Lindsay Wong (@flimsyylindsayy)
Disney and Studio Ghibli are more than just film studios and entertainment to me. They are sources of comfort and nostalgia to me because of the memories I associate with these two studios. Growing up in Tokyo, I was surrounded by Disney and Ghibli. Not only were Disney and Ghibli prevalent in the media and popular culture, but I made frequent trips to Tokyo Disney Resort. I would look forward to going to Disneyland or DisneySea a few times a year, either with my friends or family. Because of this, Disney and Ghibli hold a very special place in my heart as they remind me of simpler times, when I didn’t have to worry about adulting.
Most kids grew up with Disney, with girls idolizing Disney princesses or shamelessly crushing on the princes. Disney was truly magical to me as it entertained me with compelling movies that kept me glued to my screen and offered merchandise that I could show off when I went to elementary school. I wanted to be like Disney princesses, who symbolized beauty and grace – I had multiple Halloween costumes. I wanted to end up with someone like a Disney prince – handsome gentlemen who would treat me right. I loved learning about classic fairytales and legends from Disney movies. I was especially fascinated by the Renaissance era (the 1990s), when some Disney princesses were people of color and I was witnessing diversity on screen for the first time. I was biased towards Mulan because she was East Asian just like me, and representation in Western media was a new concept I was trying to grasp as a child. I absorbed the messages conveyed in Disney movies – I learned that hard work pays off and it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Disney taught me life lessons I never learned in school and allowed me to dream and yearn for a happy ever after.
I’ve loved the work of Studio Ghibli before I even knew what it was. I moved to Tokyo when I was six years old and became exposed to Japanese animation. When I was in the third grade, Ponyo exploded in popularity across the country. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve watched it, but I do fondly remember singing the main theme song from Ponyo with my entire cohort in elementary school during Japanese Culture Day. I’m not fluent in Japanese, but I remember every word to that song to this day. The Ghibli classic My Neighbor Totoro was also a favorite of mine. I was used to seeing Disney princesses and their cute sidekicks, so seeing fantastical creatures in Ghibli films was particularly fascinating to me. One thing that Ghibli succeeds in doing that Disney doesn’t is allowing me to connect to my Asian heritage. The food in movies were dishes I was used to eating regularly and as I grew older, I realized that the messages were more complex and thought-provoking. Because I spent my formative years in Japan (I lived there for 10 years), I love seeing the depiction of Japanese culture as I can relate to it more. Growing up, I was most familiar with Japanese culture and traditions, despite not being of Japanese descent. Watching Ghibli films now as an adult reminds me of my life in Japan, which I miss dearly.
As such, both Disney and Studio Ghibli are sources of comfort and nostalgia for me. When I’m stressed, I enjoy indulging in a good film to remind me of the fond memories I associate with these studios. I miss being a child and not having to stress about studies or my future career or what I’m going to cook for dinner tomorrow. Furthermore, living in Tokyo meant that I made frequent trips to Disneyland and DisneySea, where I could forget all about my worries and just relax in such a jovial atmosphere. I loved riding roller coasters, exploring the different lands, eating delicious treats, buying different flavored popcorn in my themed popcorn bucket, lining up for rides, shopping for cute merchandise and watching parades and fireworks. I’ve also been to the Studio Ghibli theme park twice when I was older. Making a trip out of the city to attend the museum was an exhilarating experience, where I could marvel about the beautiful animation from Studio Ghibli and learn more about the production process. It also made for a fun day trip when I needed to get away from the bustling cosmopolitan city. These are some of my best worries and favorite ways of escapism from the real world.
I’m 21 now but I still get excited about new releases by Disney and Ghibli and buy merchandise. Watching a Disney or Studio Ghibli film allows me to take a deep breath for a few hours and just relax while I immerse myself in a fantasy world where I can let go of my stress and my struggles. No matter how old I am, I’ll always love Disney and Studio Ghibli because of the comfort they provide me as I’m reminded of my childhood.