Long before Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata founded Studio Ghibli – the production company behind My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Monoke, and Spirited Away among others – they created Panda! Go, Panda!, two ticklish shorts released in 1972 during the height of the Japanese panda craze. The charm, wit, and style that has made Ghibli the world's greatest anime studio is palpable in the adventures of Mimiko, a fearless little redhead, and her two panda companions. But, while fans have suggested traces of Mimiko can be found in Totoro's sibling protagonists (just as the panda's roly-poly visage is not far from that of the forest spirit), these stories are pretty conventional. Inspired, no doubt, by Pippi Longstocking, which Miyazaki and Takahata had tried to turn into a series a year before, Panda! lacks the surreal magical interludes that pervade Miyazaki's later work. Still, it is a fun inauguration for the Roxie Kids series and, given the theater's dedication to innovators, we can doubtless expect more Miyazaki down the road.
Sun., June 29, 2 p.m., 2014