I might not agree with the inclusion of some films or the ordering of this list, but they did get a few things right. And it’s interesting to hear what Terry Gilliam says about them.
Perhaps the most right thing they did was put Totoro at #1:
1. My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
A hushed modern masterpiece.
Already an institution in its native Japan and a surefire favourite of anyone faintly familiar with the Ghibli oeuvre, there was a chance in the mid-’80s when it was doubtful that ‘Totoro’ was ever going to see the light of day. At the time, Studio Ghibli was not financially self-sufficient, and thus had to convince independent backers that their upcoming projects were worthy of bankrolling. So when Miyazaki originally proposed the outline for a film about two small girls retreating into their imaginations to come to terms with the responsibilities of the real world, the money men (perhaps understandably) kept their wallets tightly shut. It was only when the studio agreed to simultaneously make ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ (see number 13), directed by Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, that funds were eventually released and Miyazaki was able to start work on this deeply idiosyncratic and personal project.
Effortlessly fusing the delicately forged imagined kingdoms of Lewis Carroll with the lackadaisical whimsy of AA Milne, the eponymous Totoro is revealed as a giant, waddling ball of fur who charmingly ushers the girls through their period of grief. The minimalism of Totoro’s character represents a seam of restraint and sensitivity which runs though all aspects of the film: Instead of using animation to merely recreate the imagination (and unleash a colourful panoply of garish monsters), ‘Totoro’ is a film about imagination, one which feels uniquely attuned to the type of creatures that girls of such a young age would really dream up – the Soot Spirits are little black balls, their mode of transport is a contraption which is half bus, half cat. Indeed, Miyazaki is just as enthralled by real creatures – such as tadpoles – as he is in the fantastical beasts of the forest.