Kiki’s Delivery Service: Special Edition
March 11, 2010
Witches are traditionally presented as evil ugly hags in films and television. Sure, there are the notable exceptions but for every Charmed or Practical Magic (1998), there are countless negative portrayals, like Suspiria (1977) or Drag Me to Hell (2009). So, it’s great to see a film like Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) portraying witches in a positive light.
Kiki is a 13-year-old girl who is a witch. At this age, she must leave home by the first full moon and train for a year by finding the right town in which to live by herself. So, she says goodbye to her family and friends and departs on her mother’s broom with her black cat Jiji. Kiki heads for the ocean and finds a city that is not occupied by any other witches. She befriends Osono, a kind pregnant lady who runs a bakery and accepts the girl for who she is. This becomes the deciding factor for Kiki staying in the city where most people really don’t know what to make of her. Osono has Kiki work part-time in the bakery and allows her to use the phone for the delivery service she starts. Kiki also finds herself drawn to and annoyed by Tombo, a boy her age that she shares a common love of flying, she with her broom and he with a bicycle that he’s converting into a flying machine.
Like many of his films, Miyazaki presents the countryside as an idyllic setting. In Kiki’s Delivery Service, we meet then film’s protagonist living out in the country with her loving and supporting parents. Clearly, he sees nature as being a nurturing force. The city is a busy, impersonal place where a police officer chastises Kiki for disrupting traffic with her flying and a group of noisy girls her age walk past her without even acknowledging her presence.
Like any good fable, Kiki’s Delivery Service has a timeless quality to it. The city where most of the film takes place doesn’t resemble one specific place but rather an intriguing pastiche of several European cities and even one from America. One of the great things about Miyazaki’s films is that he doesn’t forget what it was like to be a kid – how they talk and act – and I think that is what about his films that appeals to both adults and kids. By running her own business, Kiki learns to be responsible and independent as well as the value of working for a living. These are values that seem in short supply nowadays which makes this film even more relevant than when it was released in 1989.
The first disc includes an “Introduction by John Lasseter,” the head of Pixar. He offers his brief thoughts on what Kiki’s Delivery Service is about and what he thinks of it.
The second disc contains the bulk of the extra material starting with the “Original Japanese Storyboards,” allowing you to watch the entire film in storyboard form.
“Behind the Studio” consists of six brief featurettes that explore various aspects of the film. We learn that Miyazaki wasn’t even supposed to direct Kiki’s Delivery Service but a problem arose that threatened the project and so he stepped in and took charge. It was suggested by his producer that the protagonist be an adolescent girl but Miyazaki had no experience with them and asked one of his collaborators to use his young daughter as the basis for Kiki. Miyazaki talks about the challenge of animating the flying sequences. The film’s producer talks about working with Miyazaki. There is a 28-minute featurette that takes a look at the real-life locations that inspired the ones in the film. Miyazaki’s long-time composer Joe Hisaishi talks about his approach to scoring these films and how he tries to enhance the imagery with music.
Also included are 10 minutes of Japanese trailers for the film.
“Behind the Microphone” takes a look at the dubbing for the American version of the film with interviews with some of the voice actors like Kirsten Dunst and Phil Hartman.
“Enter the Lands” is an interactive map of key locations from various Miyazaki films. By clicking on them you can take a character quiz and view clips from the film that briefly examine significant characters.