Spirited Away, or Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (千と千尋の神隠し; "The spiriting away of Sen and Chihiro") is a movie (2001) by Japanese anime director and manga artist Miyazaki Hayao created at Studio Ghibli.
The movie won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film at the 75th Annual Academy Awards ceremony in 2003 and the best animation awards from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures[?], the Los Angeles Film Critics Association[?] and the New York Film Critics Circle[?].
Spirited Away was released in Japan in July 2001, drawing an audience of around 23 million and revenues of 30 billion yen (approx. $250 million), and it became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history (beating Titanic), and it is said that a sixth of the Japanese population (as of 2002) has seen it. The movie was subsequently released in the United States in September 20, 2002 and made $9.6 million as of April 13, 2003. IT was dubbed into English by Disney and was released in North America by its Buena Vista distributing arm. It was released in the US in DVD format on April 15, 2003 where the attention brought by the Oscar win made the title a strong seller.
It is often commented that the film constitutes an allegory on the progression from childhood to maturity, and the risk of losing one's nature in the process. There are perhaps also veiled references to competing political ideologies.
Miyazaki Hayao, the film director of "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988) and "Princess Mononoke" (1997) as well, came out of retirement to make this film after meeting the daughter of a friend, on whom the main character is based.
Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers!
In the movie, we meet Chihiro, a little girl who moves to the country with her parents. As they wander off to explore a tunnel in the woods, they are magically transported into another world, a kind of mythological Japanese spirit world (drawn from the Shinto religious tradition). By mysterious circumstances, they are trapped, and Chihiro has to save herself and her parents.
The small family enter what is apparently an abandoned village street, lined with restaurants, where the father finds a place to eat and digs in. Chihiro hesitates outside, watching her parents eat like pigs - and in fact they do turn into pigs!
When Chihiro's distress at losing her parents is compounded by discovering that she's turning transparent, a mysterious boy or young man named Haku comforts her and gives her something to eat which turns her solid again. He escorts her into the spirit world palace of Yubaaba and admonishes her that the only way she can remain safely is to find work there.
Chihiro follows Haku's advice, descending a long outdoor staircase to the boiler room where she asks the janitor for work. He rebuffs her, until one of the coal-carrying sprites (reminiscent of My Neighbor Totoro's soot sprites) collapses under an extra-heavy lump. Chihiro takes the sprite's place and feeds the boiler, which opens the door to work in the bath house.
A young woman named Lin helps Chihiro find her way through the labyrinthine palace undetected, diverting a fellow servant by tantalizing him with food while Chihiro squeezes into an elevator behind a gross but benign radish spirit.
Pulled into Yubaaba's penthouse suite, Chihiro discovers a regal but monstrous lady reminiscent of the Ugly Duchess in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, who dotes on an equally monstrous (and unfeasibly large) baby. Chihiro repeatedly and stubbornly asks for a job, and finally Yubaaba consents, on condition that she give up her name (somewhat like the lady octopus monster demanding Ariel's voice in The Little Mermaid[?]). Yubaaba literally takes possession of Chihiro's name, grasping the Chinese characters from the contract in her hand and giving Chihiro the first character of her original 2-character name: Sen.