Studio Ghibli Breaks Convention with Honorary Palme d’Or at Cannes


In the glimmering heart of Cannes, France, a prestigious honor took place that acknowledged not a singular talent, but an entire institution that has touched and transcended the realm of animation for nearly four decades. Studio Ghibli, Japan’s esteemed animation house, famed for its surreal narrative landscapes steeped in ecological themes, received the honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival. For 39 years, Studio Ghibli has charmed and enchanted audiences with tales of Totoros, magical jellyfish, and gravity-defying castles.

In the festival’s twenty-two year history, never has the honorary Palme been awarded to anything except individual filmmakers or actors. Thus, the recognition of Ghibli marked a significant departure from tradition. This year, the other honorary Palmes were bestowed upon individuals, namely legendary filmmaker George Lucas and prolific actress Meryl Streep.

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Studio Ghibli’s esteemed founder Hayao Miyazaki, now 83 and revered as an animation titan, was notably absent from the ceremony. Instead, Miyazaki shared his gratitude from Japan through a somewhat bemused video message, expressing a sincere “thank you.”

Despite the absence of Miyazaki, the enthusiasm that met Studio Ghibli’s representatives—Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s son, and Kenichi Yoda—was among the most passionate and thunderous reactions witnessed at the festival. Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’ artistic director, captured the sustained applause on his cellphone, intending to send the footage to Miyazaki as a testament to the reception.

Festival President Iris Knobloch, presenting the award, thanked Studio Ghibli for “all the magic you’ve brought to cinema.”

The gala event did not feature any new Ghibli release but introduced four previously unreleased shorts that had been confined to Japanese audiences. Among them, “Mei and the Baby Cat Bus,” an expansion on Miyazaki’s 1989 film “My Neighbor Totoro,” evolves the Cat Bus storyline by introducing a fleet of feline vehicles, most notably the Baby Cat Bus.

These shorts, originally created for the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, also showcased “Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess,” a dessert-themed spinoff rooted in Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”, along with “House Hunting” and “Boro the Caterpillar,” musical journeys involving forest creatures.

The celebration at Cannes occurred months after Miyazaki’s film “The Boy and the Heron” earned an Academy Award for best animated film, an honor that the reserved Miyazaki had also accepted remotely. Goro Miyazaki, a filmmaker in his own right known for “From Up on Poppy Hill” and “Tales From Earthsea,” confessed that they used a hotel towel to safely transport the Oscar back to his father. Grinning, Goro Miyazaki expressed relief that the Cannes honor was delivered in a more transport-friendly box.