Would you believe Spirited Away is 20 years old this month? The record-setting film, about a girl working at the bathhouse of the gods to buy her parents’ freedom, is one of Studio Ghibli’s most memorable stories. One of the most memorable things about it is the voice acting — regardless of language — and the cast itself is pretty fascinating!
Here are some of our favorite bits of intel about the Spirited Away cast.
In Japan, as in the U.S., kids don’t always voice kids in cartoons. You’re more likely to hear a trained adult voice actor than a child of the character’s age. There are exceptions, of course — but for prominent roles, older actors are the go-to. That was the way with Studio Ghibli, too, until Spirited Away.
Chihiro became the first child in a Ghibli movie to be voiced by a child… in particular, Rumi Hiiragi. Hiiragi has gone on to appear in Ponyo and From Up on Poppy Hill as well. In the U.S., Daveigh Chase — already known for her role as Lilo in Lilo and Stitch — provided Chihiro’s voice.
Suzanne Pleshette’s Last Role(s)
Actress Suzanne Pleshette has a storied career. From a supporting role in The Birds to a starring role in The Bob Newhart Show, you’ve seen her whether you know it or not. Sadly, she passed in 2008 — making the dual role of Yubaba and Zeniba in Spirited Away six years prior her last.
Pleshette noted that she made choices about the characters’ voices before hearing Mari Natsuki’s take on them. The pair made different (opposite, in fact!) choices about how the twins would sound. But it seems to have worked out just right for each of them. And it’s fun to hear the actress take on such a dynamic, demanding role.
Chihiro’s Dad is a Ghibli Fan
Is there anything cooler than getting to work with your heroes? Film and TV actor Takashi Naito got that experience when he appeared as Chihiro’s father in Spirited Away. Mom and Dad didn’t get much screen time, as they spent most of the film literally pigging out. Even so, he got every fan’s wish!
Naito has long been a huge fan of Miyazaki’s work. This worked out especially well for him, as he has appeared in two further Ghibli titles: From Up on Poppy Hill and Tales from Earthsea.
Spirited Away was released in Japan on July 20, 2001. While it may have gotten steamrolled by Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, it still remains an impressive record holder.