's Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便 Majo no Takkyubin, trans. "Witch's Delivery Service") is a 1989 Studio Ghibli Anime
film, produced, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and it was the fourth theatrical released film from the studio, It was also the second feature film that Miyazaki did not originally write himself. The movie was based on Eiko Kadono's first book of the Majo no Takkyubin series published by Fukuinkan Shoten originally in 1985. But due to the episodic style of the book the film adapted only some of the stories in it, it ends at the end of summer which the book covers an entire year. The animation depicts the gulf that exists between independence and self-reliance in the hopes and spirit of common Japanese teenage girls.
It was the first Studio Ghibli movie released under the Disney/Studio Ghibli deal; the dub was recorded in 1997 and premiered in the United States at the Seattle International Film Festival May 23, 1998. Then released on home video on September 1, 1998.
Kiki is a 13 year-old witch in training, living in a small rural village where her mother is the resident herbalist. By tradition, it is time for Kiki to leave her home to spend a year alone in a new town to establish herself as a full witch. Kiki sets herself on her mother's broom with her closest companion, Jiji
, a loquacious black cat. She flies off to a new life, but unfortunately has not inherited her mother's skills as a healer, nor developed any other magic skills, with the exception of flying -- and she is notoriously unskilled even at that. At her departure from home, she has trouble controlling her newly-inherited broom, and ricochets from the trees in her front yard. Wind bells in the trees chime, and one of the neighbors wistfully comments that he will miss the sound of the bells.
Kiki settles in the beautiful seaside island city of Koriko, and after initially finding it difficult to adjust to the pace of life, starts a delivery service that takes advantage of her ability to fly. Kiki experiences several setbacks such as slow business, misplaced merchandise, rude customers and illness. She also has to deal with her loneliness, worries, and homesickness.
Having caught the eye of Tombo
, a local boy about her age, who has an interest in aviation and in Kiki herself, she at first rebuffs, then befriends him, and they begin to develop a normal boy-girl relationship. Simultaneously, Jiji courts a local cat called Lily, with whom he has several kittens.
Perhaps as a result of neglect, Kiki's powers diminish and ultimately disappear, to her great shame and terror. Kiki learns about overcoming such obstacles with the help of a newfound friend, a young artist who gives some good advice about the kind of inspiration she needs to regain her magic.
Then comes a moment of deadly crisis, when Tombo who is so important to her is accidentally lifted into the air in a dirigible accident. When she is his only hope of rescue, she finds the inspiration to regain her flying ability.
Suddenly famous, she sends home a simple, modest letter to her parents, saying that she is becoming used to her new home, and that things are working out well for her.
The story continues through the end titles, as she flies a high-guard formation with her friend as he flies his human-powered aircraft in a flight sequence obviously inspired by the Gossamer Albatross. Later, she is on the street of her town and notices a little girl walking past, because the little girl has her hair and clothing styled like Kiki's and is even carrying a small broom.
The Kikiís Delivery Service project started spring 1987, when Fudosha productions asked the publishers of Eiko Kadonoís book if they could adapt her book into a featured film directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli. But due to the greenlighting of Miyazakiís film My Neighbor Totoro and Takahata's film Grave of the Fireflies, there was no way that either of them could have taken up the direction for the project at the moment. Osono
and Kiki serving customers at Guchokipanya Bakery. The name of the bakery was joke by Eiko Kadono herself.
So Miyazaki took up the role as producer of the film, while direction was still uncertain. During the start of the project and the nearing of Totoro's completion, members of Studio Ghibli were being recruited for senior staff for the Kikiís Delivery Service project. The character design position was given to Katsuya Kondo, who was currently working with Miyazaki on Totoro. Kazuo Oga, who was part of his crew as well, asked that Hiroshi Ohno, who later would work on works such as Jin-Roh, be considered for art direction and was accepted.
Even after many positions were being filled, no director had been selected yet. Miyazaki, busy with Totoro, looked at many directors himself, but found none he thought fit to direct and articulate the project. Ghibli hired an anonymous script writer, but when Miyazaki was disappointed by the first draft, finding it dry and too divergent from his own vision of the film. Studio Ghibli dropped the screenplay after Miyazaki voiced his disapproval.
Finally, when Totoro was finished and released, Miyazaki began to look more closely at Kikiís Delivery Service. He started by writing a screenplay himself, and since Majo no Takkyubin was based in a fictional country in northern Europe, he and the senior staff went to research landscapes and other background elements. Their main stops were the Swedish island of Visby and the Gamla Stan district of Stockholm, off of which they based Corico, the film's fictional port city. The city's architecture also owes debts to Ireland, Paris, San Francisco and Tokyo's Ginza district.
The time setting for Kiki's Delivery Service was a subject for discussion among the movie's fans for some time: Kiki carries a transistor radio apparently of 1950s vintage, and some characters are seen watching black-and-white television sets; but the cars and some of the aircraft seem to be from an earlier period (specifically, a plane resembling the Handley Page H.P.42 is seen during the opening credits, but in the real world all eight of the H.P.42 aircraft had been decommissioned or destroyed by 1941). The controversy was settled when Miyazaki said the story took place in the 1950s of an alternative universe in which World War II never took place.
Tombo showing Kiki his human-powered aircraft device.
Upon their return to Japan, they worked on conceptual art and character designs. Miyazaki began changing and creating newer ideas for Kikiís Delivery Service in the screenplay. This made Eiko Kadono, author of the original story, unhappy, so much so that the project was in danger of being shelved. After Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki went to her home and then showed her around the studio, she decided then to let the project continue. Miyazaki finished the rough draft of the screenplay June 18, 1988, and then presented it on July 8, 1988. Miyazaki seeing that he had influenced the project so much he decided that he had to direct the film.
The word takkyubin (宅急便, literally home-fast-mail) in the Japanese title is a trademark of Yamato Transport, though it is used today as a synonym for takuhaibin (宅配便, literally home-delivery-mail). The company not only approved the use of the trademark--though its permission was not required under Japanese trademark laws--but also enthusiastically sponsored the film, as the company use a stylized depiction of a black mother cat carrying her kitten as its corporate logo.
While Miyazaki started storyboarding and translating the scripted to it, the movie that was originally not under his direction or writing, a piece that was supposed to be a short special of 60 minutes, expanded into a feature film running 102 minutes.
Coincidentally "Kiki" is the nickname of actress Kirsten Dunst, who voiced the character in the 1998 English dub. The English dub was also Phil Hartman's last voice-acting performance (as Jiji) before he was murdered. At the end of the dubbed version of the film, after the credits there is a remembrance tribute.
Although the plot and much of the script was left intact, Disney's English dub of Kiki's Delivery Service contains some changes. There were occasional additions and embellishments to the musical score overlaying some of the previously silent sequences. The extra pieces of music (provided by Paul Chihara) ranged from soft piano music to a string-plucked rendition of Edvard Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King. In addition, the original opening and ending theme songs were replaced. The new songs, "Soaring" and "I'm Gonna Fly", were written and performed by Sydney Forest.
In terms of plot, the character of the cat Jiji has changed slightly. The Japanese version had Jiji speak in a more female-sounding voice, which is how the Japanese depict cats in their media. The American version had Jiji as a more distinct male voice -- possibly for fear audiences would think him female, until "she" showed interest in the white Persian cat next door -- and gave him more of a wisecracking exterior.
In the original Japanese script, Jiji loses his ability to communicate with Kiki permanently, but in the American version, a line is added that implies he is able to speak (or she to understand him) again.
In the original Japanese, Kiki and Ursula
are voiced by the same actress, reinforcing the idea of Ursula's being on the same journey to self-reliance as Kiki, but a little farther along.Kiki's Father
's name, Okino, is rendered as the family's surname, "O'Keefe", in the dubbed version; thus Kiki's full name is sometimes given as "Kiki O'Keefe".
More minor changes to appeal to the different demographics include Kiki drinking hot chocolate instead of coffee, and a line about disco is changed instead to being about "cute boys". All changes were approved by Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.