Panda! Go Panda!
This strange and lively animated short was the first real collaboration between Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, who together formed Studio Ghibli in 1985. Panda! Go Panda! tells a simple story aimed at young children, but the oddness of the premise also keeps it interesting for older fans of Miyazaki's work. The plot revolves around Mimiko, an orphaned little girl living on her own, who discovers a pair of talking pandas. She takes in the father and his baby son, and together they form a surrogate family. What follows is cute, innocent fun as Mimiko and the pandas get into various comical mishaps, but there is some noteworthy subtext for adult viewers, as well. The "papa" panda can alternately be seen as a proxy father, a husband figure, or even a child for Mimiko, and the cheerfulness with which she deals with being parentless is both inspiring and unsettling. Still, this is first and foremost a bright, cheerful tale that will please the young -- and young at heart -- with its wholesome action and humorous situations. From these modest beginnings, Miyazaki went on to create such masterpieces as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Spirited Away, while Takahata directed the unforgettable Grave of the Fireflies.