History of Chuck Berry for Kids

Imagine you are inside of a music hall.  The room is dark and a stage light is projecting down onto a red curtain.  As you sit looking at the stage, a drum beat starts up.  It’s loud and it’s fast and has a rhythm and blues beat.  Next you hear an electric guitar start in with some rocking chords.  Finally the curtain bursts open and a man in a blue suit whips around and grabs the microphone.  He starts singing the lyrics to one of the most famous rock n’ roll songs in history, “Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans, Way back up in the woods amongst the evergreens…”  The singer is Chuck Berry.

Chuck Berry was one of the most famous rock ‘n’ roll performers in music history. He is known for his upbeat songs including “Johnny B. Goode” and “Maybellene.”  Chuck’s music was so good that it had an influence, or impacted the behaviour, on many future musicians.  He was even given the nickname the “father of rock ‘n’ roll.”  But how did Chuck Berry become such a good musician and songwriter?

Chuck Berry was born in 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri.  His name when he was born was Charles Edward Anderson Berry.  But everyone started calling him “Chuck.”  Chuck’s parents, Martha and Henry Berry, were the grandchildren of enslaved people, which means that they used to be slaves.

Martha and Henry were some of the many African Americans who moved from the Southern United States to St. Louis to look for work during World War I. Martha was one of the few Black women of that time to go to college and earn a degree.  Henry was a carpenter, which means someone who buildings things out of wood.  Henry was also a deacon, or pastor, at a local Baptist Church.

When Chuck was born, St. Louis was a very segregated city.  Segregated means that Black and white people lived apart in different neighbourhoods from each other.  Chuck grew up in a neighbourhood in northern St. Louis that was mainly where middle-class Black people lived.  Middle-class means the group of people in society that aren’t rich but also aren’t poor.  The neighbourhood was so segregated that Chuck had never actually met a white person in real life until he was three years old. 

Chuck grew up in a big family with six children.  He was one of the youngest and he enjoyed being part of a lively crew of kids.  Chuck had a lot of interests and hobbies as a kid.  He liked helping with his dad’s carpentry work and learning how to take photographs with his uncle, who was a professional photographer.  Chuck also showed an early interest in music and was quite talented.  Talented means to have a special ability or gift.  Chuck began singing in his church choir when he was only six years old. 

When he was a teenager, Chuck applied and got into a very good private high school.   When he was in high school, Chuck continued to grow his music and performance skills.  He entered his school’s talent show and sang a song while his friend played guitar.  The performance was a huge hit with all of the students that were there listening.  The cheers and applause that they got inspired Chuck to continue with music.  He decided that he wanted to learn to play guitar himself and so he asked his parents if he could take lessons.  They said yes, and soon after that, Chuck started taking guitar lessons with a famous local jazz musician named Ira Harris.

In high school, Chuck was more interested in playing music than studying and learning.  He felt like his classes were boring and his teachers were too strict. When Chuck was only 17 years old, he and two of his friends dropped out of high school.  They decided that they were going to drive together across the country to visit California.

Unfortunately Chuck and his friends got into trouble. They robbed some stores for money and were arrested [Breck: he and his friends found a gun and robbed a couple stores before getting caught.  I didn’t think we needed to set out those details, but obviously edit as you see fit.] Chuck ended up in a prison for young men in Missouri where he spent 3 years.  He was released for good behaviour in October 1947 on his 21st birthday. 

Chuck’s parents picked him up and he headed back home to St. Louis to live with them.  Chuck got a job working at his dad’s construction business.  He helped his dad build things and he also worked part time as  a photographer and part time as a janitor, or someone who cleans up things, at a local car-making factory.

In 1948, when Chuck was 22 years old, he married Themetta Suggs, whose nickname was “Toddy”.  Chuck and Toddy were happy together and had four children.  Chuck also started playing guitar again.  In 1951, when Chuck was 25, his old school classmate Tommy Stevens asked him to join his band.  They played at local nightclubs in St. Louis that Black people visited.  Chuck said yes and he started playing in the band in the evenings. 

Chuck was very lively on stage and people liked the way he sang, danced and played music.  Every time he performed, Chuck brought a lot of energy to the stage and people just wanted to get up and dance. 

About a year later, Chuck met a local jazz pianist, Jonnie Jackson.  The two hit it off and Chuck left his first band to join Jonnie’s band, called the Sir John’s Trio.  The group played at a fancy Black nightclub in East St. Louis.  The music was so good that it started attracting, or drawing in, white customers. 

Chuck started writing some of his own songs around this time.  He knew that if he wanted to make it big, he was going to have to come up with his own material. Chuck also started taking road trips to Chicago fairly regularly.  Chicago was the main city that Black music was recorded in back then.  Chuck went up trying to meet with recording executives, or business people, in the hopes that one of them would want to make a contract to buy his music.  

In 1955, Chuck met a well-known blues musician named Muddy Waters.  Muddy heard some of Chuck’s music and thought he had a lot of talent.  He told Chuck that he should go meet with a company called Chess Records.  On Muddy’s recommendation, Chuck was able to meet with the businessmen at Chess Records.  He had quickly written and recorded a new song and played it for the Chess Records people.  The song was called “Maybellene” which is now a very famous rock and roll song.  The Chess executives loved the song and signed a contract with Chuck.  They helped the song get played on the radio stations and within a couple of months, “Maybellene” was one of the top songs in the country!

“Maybellene” was a mix of a bunch of different types of music, including a rhythm and blues drum beat and country guitar sounds as well as some blues chords and storytelling.  Because this was the first time that anyone had ever recorded this blend of sounds together, many people who study music history believe that “Maybellene” is the first true rock n’ roll song.

Chuck continued to write many famous rock n’ roll songs that you have heard before, including “Roll Over, Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Sweet Little Sixteen”.  Chuck was one of the first Black artists to have white and Black fans because of his mix of sounds and the storytelling in his songs that talked about things that all teenagers felt.  Many of Chuck’s songs recorded throughout the 1950s became top songs in the country. 

Chuck continued to write and record music all the way to the 1970s.  Even his late albums are quite good, though he is always remembered for his early music in the 1950s which really changed the type of music that everyone in the country listened to. 

In 1985, Chuck was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and he was the first person to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it first opened in 1986.  One of the main ways that you can tell how important Chuck’s music was is that so many other famous musicians have said that they were influenced by his music.  Famous bands that have said they loved Chuck’s music and it influenced theirs include the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

When Chuck was 90 years old, he announced that he was going to write and release a new album of music dedicated to his wife Toddy, whom he had been married to for 68 years.  Chuck died on March 18, 2017 at the age of 90.  

What are some things that we can learn from Chuck Berry?  He was inspired at a young age to sing through his involvement at church.  And once he had the chance to perform, he loved it.  He followed his passion and realized that if he wanted to keep performing, he needed to learn to play guitar.  Chuck showed courage in learning a new instrument as well as patience and perseverance.  This means to carry on trying at something even if it is difficult. 

Chuck also showed resilience, or the courage to continue with something even when you experience difficulties.  His years performing were tiring at times and he likely faced racism due to being Black at a time when society was not as accepting.  But Chuck carried on with his dreams and worked hard to make them a reality.  

Chuck also showed love and loyalty, to his wife Toddy, whom he was married to for 68 years, and to his music which he loved. 

Is there something that you enjoy doing and would like to get better at?  Have you ever thought of learning to write some of your own songs?  Like most things in life, it can be done with learning and practice and dedication.  

When you have some time this week, listen to some Chuck Berry songs.  You will find that there are many that you have probably heard before that will have you tapping your feet to the beat.  One of Chuck’s main messages through his songs is that it’s good to have fun and to have passion for life.  

The Shirley Temple Story for Kids

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a movie star?  Many people around the world dream of being famous and acting in blockbuster movies.  Lots of actors work hard to build their careers and spend years trying to get even small parts on movies. But imagine if you were just a young child and suddenly became a star before you even started kindergarten.

This is what happened to Shirley Temple.  Shirley Temple became the most famous child actress of her time during the Great Depression in America.  The Great Depression was a time when the country was very poor and most American families did not have enough money to live well.  Many people were sad about their money situation and they needed something to make them happy.  And Shirley Temple became just what they needed.

Shirley was born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California.  Her father was a banker and her mother was a housewife and she had two older brothers.  Although the country was quite poor at the time, Shirley’s family had enough money that they did not struggle.  

When she was young, Shirley’s family moved to Brentwood, Los Angeles and it was there that Shirley’s acting career started.  Her mother encouraged her to sing and and act and when she was three years old, she enrolled her in a dance school in Los Angeles.

Around this time, Shirley’s mother also began styling Shirley’s hair into corkscrew ringlets.  This cute hairstyle became her signature look and when she became famous, parents around the world started putting ringlets in their daughters’ hair so that they would look like Shirley Temple.

Getting her hair to look just right was not easy.  Every night before bed, Shirley’s mother had to roll her hair into 56 pin curls.  Shirley Temple did not like having her hair done, and she wished that she could just wear a short haircut like her hero, Amelia Earhart.

While Shirley was at the dance school, she was spotted by Charles Lamont, who was a casting director for Educational Pictures at the time. A casting director is someone who decides which actors and actresses will be put into movies.  When Mr. Lamont met Shirley, she was shy and hid behind a piano. But Mr. Lamont thought she was very cute and funny and he asked her parents if she could be in his movies.  She was just three years old.

Shirley Temple starred in many movies from the time she was three until she was six years old and became very famous.  She spent long days on set working very hard on the movies.  “Being on set” means spending time where the movie is being filmed and it usually involves spending long days filming and waiting for your turn to act.  When Shirley was not working on films, she attended the Westlake School for Girls.

Shirley starred in a number of feature films between 1932 and 1934, including Bright Eyes, Curly Top and Heidi and she became a worldwide star. In the movie Bright Eyes, Shirley sang a song called “On a Good Ship Lollipop”.  Everyone thought that she was so cute and so talented that she won a special Academy Award for the part.

Everyone around the world loved the curly haired girl.  Companies made dolls and dishes and clothing with her picture on them.  Everyone wanted to look like Shirley Temple and many girls dressed like her and curled their hair the same way. It became a very popular look.  

Someone even named a drink after her, called “The Shirley Temple”.  It was flavoured with cherry, lemon and lime and had a cherry in it.  It became a very popular drink and still is today.

Shirley became a sign of hope and optimism during the difficult years of the Great Depression.  Many people found Shirley’s attitude and energy in her movies made them very happy and optimistic. Optimistic means having a positive outlook on life and believing that the future will be positive and happy.

The President of the United States at the time was named Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Roosevelt called Shirley Temple “Little Miss Miracle” for making people happy during such a difficult time for the country.  He said in a speech to the country that, “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” 

By the time Shirley was 12 years old, she had made 43 films. However, as Shirley Temple got older, her movies became less and less popular.  Everyone wanted Shirley to stay the cute child star she was at first, but she was growing up.  Shirley was sad about this, but instead of wallowing, she decided to shift her focus to other things in life.

In 1945, Shirley married an actor named John Agar Jr., when she was only 17 years old. They had a daughter together but they got divorced in 1949.  The next year, Shirley Temple got married again and this time her marriage lasted for the rest of their lives.  Her new husband was a businessman named Charles Alden Black and together they had two children: a son, Charles, and a daughter, Lori.

In 1948, Shirley appeared in her last big movie, a Western movie also starring with John Wayne. Her career as a popular film star had ended at an earlier age than most actors’ had begun and she retired from acting in films in 1950 at the age of 22.

While Shirley Temple may have been sad about her movie career ending, she decided to refocus her efforts on other activities, including activities that would help others.  She sat on the boards of companies and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte Foods, and the National Wildlife Federation.

She also decided to get involved in politics and from 1969 to 1970. She was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She later became the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia.  She found a way to give back to the world again through her political work instead of her movies.

In 1988, Shirley Temple published her autobiography, Child Star.  An autobiography is a book that someone writes to tell the story of their life. 

She received many awards and honors throughout her life, including the Kennedy Center Honors and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2005, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

Shirley Temple died on February 10, 2014, at her home near San Francisco, California. She was 85 years old. Following her death, Shirley’s family said that: “We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife of 55 years.”

Shirley showed a great deal of charisma at a young age, which first got her noticed to be in the movies.  But it was ultimately her dedication to being a good actress and working hard that helped her build success.  Shirley also demonstrated resilience throughout her life.  Resilience means the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.  Shirley was able to shift her focus to new activities allowed her to continue to give back to the world in a positive way, even after her movie career ended. 

All of us can learn from Shirley about the power of being positive and spreading happiness and joy.  We can also learn about how to look forward to what we can do next in life when something stops working out for us.  By focusing on the positive things in life, we can continue to build happiness and meaning for ourselves and others. 

Fred Rogers Story for Kids

Can you hear that?

“Ding, ding.”

It’s the Neighborhood Trolley making its way back from King Friday’s castle to the Neighborhood Of Make Believe. It’s here to deliver a message to all of you about the man known as Mr. Rogers.

Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. His father’s name was James and his mother Nancy. His love of music started early in life as he began to play the piano at the age of five. 

Before we go any further, I know that you’re all dying to know about Fred’s middle name, McFeely. Yes, that is actually his middle name. McFeely was his grandfather’s last name. Fred Brooks McFeely.  Fred’s grandfather was a local entrepreneur and the man that they named Fred.

Now that we have that interesting fact out of the way, let’s learn some more about Mr. Rogers.

Childhood wasn’t the easiest for the man who would become known as one of the nicest, happiest men on TV. He was very shy and overweight. He spent a lot of time stuck at home suffering from bouts of asthma.

Fred was picked on a lot as a child because of his weight. Some kids even called him “Fat Freddy”. Fred had a very lonely childhood which forced him to make up imaginary friends. He spent a lot of time playing alone with his toys in his bedroom, making up imaginary worlds for them to explore.

In High School, Fred finally overcame his shyness and made a couple of good friends. Fred served as president of the student council. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and editor-in-chief of the school yearbook. 

Fred got into television because he hated the shows that were on TV. In an interview, he said, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of 

using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen”. His first job in the TV business was working for NBC in New York as a floor director on several shows.

Fred worked for NBC until 1963 when he moved back to Pitsburg. He took a job as a program developer at the public television station WQED. Together with Josie Carey, he developed a children’s show called The Children’s Corner. While Josie was the host of the show, Fred made puppets, characters, and music for the show. Many of the puppets and characters that he developed for The Children’s Corner were used on his later shows. 

It was while working on The Children’s Corner in 1963 that Fred became an ordained minister. Rather than becoming a pastor, he turned his focus to ministering to children and their families through television. He would appear before church officials regularly to keep up his ordination.  

It was during this time that he met Margaret McFarland. Margaret became his key advisor, collaborator, and child-education guru. Most of Fred’s appreciation for children came from his work with Margaret. Margaret helpd with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood scripts and songs for 30 years.  

The original Mr. Rogers show ran from 1963 to 1967 on the CBC in Toronto. It was a black and white 15 minute long show and was the first time that Fred appeared on TV as Mr. Rogers. In 1967 Fred headed back home to Pittsburg with his wife and two young sons.

In 1968 the real magic happened. Fred began filming the show Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers filmed 895 magical episodes of the show between 1968 and 2001.

Oh, can’t you hear it? I hear it. 

The shows about to start.

[Verse 1]

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood

A beautiful day for a neighbor

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

[Verse 2]

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood

A neighborly day for a beauty

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

[Bridge]

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

[Verse 3]

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day

Since we’re together, we might as well say

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please

Won’t you please

Please, won’t you be my neighbor?

Every show started this same way. Mr. Rogers would sing this song, greeting everyone while changing from his jacket to a cardigan sweater and his dress shoes to sneakers. He was now ready for the show’s adventures to begin.

He always welcomed everyone with open arms into his world. He would share stories of make-believe. He took everyone on amazing journeys outside his home to see how different things worked in the world. But most of all, he taught many lessons about life.

The show ran the same way for the entire time it was on the air. Mr. Rogers would introduce the show’s theme. Then he would leave his home to visit another location. He would let everyone see how different things were made or built.

Once he finished his visit, Mr. Rogers left and returned home. Now we knew it was now time to visit the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mr. Rogers headed to the window seat by the trolley track and tells the viewers about the story they were about to see as the Trolley comes out. The camera follows it down a tunnel in the back wall of the house as it enters the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Each story and lesson would take place over a week’s worth of episodes. Each involved puppet and human characters. The end of the visit occurs when the Trolley returns to the same tunnel from which it emerged, reappearing in Mr. Rogers’ home. Mr. Rogers always had the last talk with the viewers before the ending of the episode.

Unlike the show Sesame Street, which focused on teaching kids numbers and letters, Mr. Rogers’ show focused on often things like developing feelings and having good morals. There was no other show quite like it. 

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood stopped filming for 4 years between 1975 and 1979. Mr. Rogers focused on adult programming to the shock of many of his coworkers. When he returned to making the show in 1979 until it ended in 2001 the show was better than ever.  

In 1969 Fred went before the U.S. Senate to help get more money for PBS. Fred wasn’t well known but he had the ability to be very convincing. He was able to connect emotionally with everyone he spoke to. His words helped get money for the television station for many years afterward. It was also considered some of the most powerful words spoken before Congress. In 1970, President Nixon appointed Rogers as chair of the White House Conference on Children and Youth.

Not bad for a guy who was so shy as a child that he only played with toys! Now he was using his talents to not only help children everywhere but also to make sure the TV station, PBS, had enough money to keep making Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for years to come. 

Over the years, Mr. Rogers did many interviews and over 150 speeches to college graduates. His speeches were all about children, television, education, his views on making the world a better place, and how he never wanted to stop learning.

Though Mr. Rogers always spoke with a soft voice, everyone always listened to what he had to say. During some speeches, he would ask the audience to be silent. He asked them to think about someone in their lives who helped them. This is something Fred always encouraged. He always appreciated others for all they have done. 

Mr. Rogers won a Lifetime Achievement, Emmy award, in 1997. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.

Have you heard of the show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This kid’s TV show is based on characters from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.

We can all learn some very important lessons from Mr. Rogers. Even though he started out shy and unhappy as a child, he didn’t let that stop him from having an enormous impact on the world around him. He focused his life on helping children grow and learn to be the best they could be. He taught kindness, compassion, and caring to everyone he ever met.

Mr. Rogers treated everyone like they were his friend and neighbor and only asked the same in return. The world would be a much better place if more people had this same attitude.

Each day please be kind to a stranger and do something nice for your friends and family. Even these simple acts of kindness can make a big impact on the world. Love and happiness are contagious!

As Mr. Rogers once said;

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connect us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

Thanks for listening to this episode about Fred Rogers. Be sure to tune in next Monday for a new episode!

History of Hayao Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli for Kids

Do you like animated movies? Have you ever seen Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro? These are beautiful, hand-drawn, animated films made by Studio Ghibli and it’s brilliant artist and director Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki has become one of the most celebrated film animators and directors of our day, but his beginnings were small and simple and as you’ll learn sometimes fraught with danger during the years of World War 2.

Hayao Miyazaki was born in Tokyo Japan on January 5, 1941. Japan is an island across the Pacific Ocean from the United States and located in East Asia. The same year Hayao was born, Japan and the United States went to war. Hayao’s worked in a factory that built airplane parts for Japan’s air force, specifically for the fast and agile Zero fighter planes. For the rest of his life Hayao was fascinated by airplanes and the wonder of flight.

Over time Japan began to lose the war against the United States and her Allies. Soon American bombers were flying over Japan and dropping bombs on its people to try and end the war. Hayao remembered seeing the bombers and hearing bombs drop nearby. His family left the city for safety until the war ended. He would forever remember the horrible days of World War 2 and what it did to his own country. 

Young Hayao loved to draw. He wanted to become a manga artist. In Japan cartoons and comics are called manga. Hayao spent his free time practicing, but he always struggled to draw people. So instead he practiced drawing his favorite subjects like planes, tanks and battleships. He also liked to copy the drawings of his favorite manga artists. While in Junior High he saw an animated movie called Panda and the Magic Serpent. He loved the art and animation and it made him want to animate his own movies.

In college he studied politics and economics, but in his free time joined an art club and spent time drawing and getting to know other artists. 

In 1963 Hayao got his first animation job at Toei Animation and helped as an artist. His first film was called Doggie March and he also worked on a television series called Wolf Boy Ken. He continued to learn and grow as an animator, and was mentored by many other great animators. A mentor is someone who is a master at a craft and teaches someone who is an apprentice and still learning. Hayao and his mentor Yasuo Ōtsuka worked on a film called “The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun” that won them many awards. 

At Toei Animation Hayao worked alongside a woman named Ōta Akemi. They shared many of the same interests and a year after meeting, they got married. Ota would continue to work with Hayao in animation and his future businesses. 

Hayao Miyazaki continued to work on many animated films and many of his own comics, continually improving his craft. Often when you see amazing works of art or animation you may think “Wow, that artist must be really good because she was just born to be a very good artist.” But this is not the case. Great artists are not born they are made. They are passionate about a subject and continually practice and practice, usually every day, until they are much better. Like Hayao, they often find a mentor and find projects, and improve little by little until they are very good at what they do. This is the path Hayao took.

In 1979 Miyazaki moved to Telecom Animation Film, where he directed his first film. A director may work on the art, but often their job is to help bring all the different workers together to make the film happen. Also, a director may write the story themselves, or find someone to help them. They often have the idea first and recruit artists to help draw all of the animations. If you’ve ever seen an orchestra, they are like the orchestra director who isn’t playing the music, but brings everyone together to make the magic happen! This is what Hayao Miyazaki did for the film The Castle of Cagliostro, which became a hit in Japan and in the United States. John Lassetter, who later became a director at Pixar, has said that The Castle of Cagliostro was one of the first films that influenced him.

Hayao’s next big idea was to create an animated film about a princess named Naussica and her battle to save her homeland. But because movies usually weren’t made until the comic was successful, Hayao began to work on the manga about Naussica first. It ended up becoming a seven-volume manga totaling over 1000 pages and was called “Naussica and the Valley of the Wind.” Next, Hayao started work on the animated film. Audiences loved the film! In it Naussica has a fox-squirrel pet named Teto and uses her small glider to fly about. Her world is polluted and poisoned, but with the help of her friends fights to restore it to its natural beauty. Like many of Hayao’s later films, this one featured a strong heroine and themes about the dangers of pollution and war, both very important to Hayao. You’ll also notice it includes flying, which fascinated Hayao from a young age.

In 1985, Hayao with his friends Takahata, Tokuma and Suzuki founded Studio Ghibli (Jib-lee) and the next year created their first film “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” about a orphan girl named Sheeta and a boy named Pazu from a mining town. Together they go on an adventure that involves a gigantic city in the sky called Laputa. “Castle in the Sky” became the highest-grossing Japanese film that year. Studio Ghibli’s next films were “My Neighbor Totoro,” which is one my kids’ all time favorites, and Grave of the Fireflies. Later came Kiki’s Delivery Service about a friendly witch, a few others in between, and then Princess Mononoke, which became another high-grossing Japanese film year. In 2001 came Spirited Away, which won awards in Japan and the U.S. Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Even though all of Studio Ghibli’s films were originally in Japanese, most of them were translated into other languages like English so others could enjoy them as well. 

A few other popular films by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and The Wind Rises. The Wind Rises tells the story of the engineer who built the Zero, a Japanese fighter plane, the same one his father helped build when Hayao was a child in Japan. The Wind Rises, like many of Hayao’s other films, is a warning about the devastating effects of war, especially on the innocents, like he and his family during World War 2. 

In September 2013 Hayao announced he would be retiring and instead focus his time on creating artwork for a Studio Ghibli museum. But everyone knew Hayao knew he wouldn’t rest for long. He began to learn how to use computers to animate and even at his age, when most people think they can no longer learn new skills, Hayao struggled through the process and created his first computer animation called Boro the Caterpillar. Instead of retiring, he has continued working on a new film called How Do You Live? 

My children and I have watched most of the Studio Ghibli films and love them for many reasons. First of all, we love the adventure stories and the wild, exotic places they take us. We also appreciate the hand-drawn animation. Because most films use computer graphics now, it’s impressive to see animations that are sketched and colored by hand. We also love the music, which is often played by classical instruments and is relaxing. While some of the movies have violence, they are often less noisy and over-stimulating than most computer-animated movies. If you’re looking for Studio Ghibli movies that are appropriate for younger kids, our family recommends My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns and Ponyo.

Something else I love about his films is that they remind us that people are imperfect. His characters don’t always make the right decisions and make mistakes. Also, his villains aren’t always completely bad. Often they are someone who is misunderstood and once the main characters come to know the villain, they end up becoming friends. 

Watching the colorful portrayed in his films also reminds us that we live in a beautiful world and need to do everything we can to keep it that way. Life is precious and problems such as pollution and war only harm it. 

Hayao once said, “I get inspiration from my everyday life.”

He also said: “You may not like what’s happening, but just accept it, and let’s try to live together. Even if you feel angry, let’s be patient and endure, let’s try to live together. I’ve realized that this is the only way forward.”

And “Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.”