Maria Clara Melo Fontoura grew up with the wonder of Studio Ghibli films, the vibrant colors as Ponyo discovered the underwater world or Kiki soaring through the sky on a broomstick. Now in tenth grade, Fontoura has deeply studied their work and incorporated their techniques into her own art.
Her elementary school in Brazil first allowed her a space for art, where the students would have drawing competitions during class. Fontoura’s fellow students began to ask her to draw simple pieces for them, such as dragons. During this time she was introduced to her first Studio Ghibli film.
“One afternoon I came back to school and on the public broadcasting service for kids they were running this new movie all the way from Asia,” Fontoura said. “I went home and ran to turn on the TV and it was the movie “Ponyo” from studio Ghibli. So many colors and shapes were moving, I didn’t think people could animate that way. The water, fish, people, story, were all wonderful.”
The movie inspired Fontoura to put more of her heart into her own drawings. She used to think the epitome of art lay in cave paintings and Renaissance art, she said, and realized that art could go further.
“I started drawing anything and everything and trying to put the magic into the drawing, rather than make it look pretty,” Fontoura said.
Fontoura moved to the United States when she was in sixth grade and enrolled at Pine View in eighth. Given her course load, she did not have an abundance of time to dedicate to her art outside the classroom. In Louis Miller’s 2D Art Class, though, she was given enough creative freedom to inspire her. When she took the class last year, she was asked to create a piece of art that was simultaneously three-dimensional and two-dimensional. This consisted of drawing the background on one paper and the characters on another. She came across the work of Studio Ghibli in her research and decided to recreate a scene from “Kiki’s Delivery Service” where the main character was flying on a broom.
This project kickstarted her deep dive into the studio. She began to research it on her own and watch more of their creations. She spotted the differences in Studio Ghibli’s work compared to those of Disney and Pixar. It taught her the importance of color and background, she said, how the objects fit into space. Just like in real life, the world is not made around the character, but the character is made around the world.
“In “Ponyo,” there’s a scene where she eats hot porridge, and she spits it out immediately,” Fontoura said. “She does what a real kid would do. [Ghibli animators] capture that essence. The kids in Disney, to me, act like little adults.”
This article is linked to a QR code that appears in print on Dec. 17, 2021, Entertainment, Page 8, of The Torch with the headline: The Magic Of Studio Ghibli.