Spirited Away - literally Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting Away (千と千尋の神隠し, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) is a 2001 film by the Japanese anime studio Studio Ghibli, written and directed by famed animator Hayao Miyazaki.
Pixar director John Lasseter, a fan of Miyazaki, was approached by Walt Disney Pictures to supervise an English-language translation for the film's North American release. Lasseter hired Kirk Wise as director and Donald W. Ernst as producer of the adaptation.
The original film received many awards, including the second Oscar ever awarded for Best Animated Feature, the first anime film to win an Academy Award, and the only winner of that award to win among five nominees. The film also won the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (tied with Bloody Sunday).
The movie begins by introducing Chihiro, a whiny, pessimistic child, who is annoyed about having to move to a new town. While driving to their new house, Chihiro's father attempts a shortcut; they subsequently lose their way and come across a mysterious tunnel which leads to what appears to be an abandoned theme park, lined with seemingly empty restaurants. Finding a restaurant fully-stocked with unattended food, both parents eat the food they find there and, as a result, transform into pigs.
Chihiro's distress at losing her parents is compounded by the discoveries that the world around her has changed and that her body seems to be dissolving. A mysterious boy named Haku appears, comforts Chihiro, and gives her some pills to eat, which makes her solid again. He smuggles her into a large bathhouse owned and operated by the witch Yubaba, where thousands of spirits come to refresh themselves. Haku tells Chihiro that the only way she can remain in the spirit-world long enough to rescue her parents is by gaining employment in Yubaba's bathhouse. When Chihiro asks Haku how he seems to know her so well, Haku replies that he has known Chihiro since she was very small.
At first she tries to get work with Kamajii, the boiler man, but is rejected. Kamajii instead hands Chihiro off to Lin to take her to Yubaba. In Yubaba's penthouse suite, Chihiro repeatedly asks for a job, overriding the monstrous witch's refusals. Yubaba ultimately consents, on condition that Chihiro give up her name. Yubaba literally takes possession of Chihiro's name by grasping the kanji characters from Chihiro's signed contract, leaving Chihiro with one part of one character of her original two-character name, in isolation pronounced "Sen". Taking a person's name gives Yubaba power to keep its owner in her service forever; it is revealed that Haku is also in Yubaba's service, and remains so because she has taken part of his full name.
While at work, Sen gives admittance to a wraithlike spirit called No Face, who returns the favor by helping her obtain water needed to bathe a "stink sigil " whom no one else will help. After bathing, the stink spirit is revealed to be a powerful river spirit who rewards Sen with a strong emetic. Subsequently, Sen sees Haku in the form of a white dragon, and later on helps save him from attacking paper birds. Searching for the injured Haku, Sen encounters Yubaba's big infant son, Boh. Sen finds Haku, who was attacked by Zeniba, Yubaba's twin sister, because Haku had stolen her sigil. When Boh distracts Zeniba, she transforms Boh into a mouse, and Yubaba's crow into a hummingbird. Haku then rips up the remaining paper bird, causing Zeniba to disappear. Using the river spirit's emetic, Sen causes Haku to spit out the stolen sigil, which he had swallowed. He also chokes up a black slug, which Sen squishes yet Haku remains drunk. Hoping to lift Zeniba's curse and save Haku from a coma, Sen decides to set out to return the sigil to Zeniba.
Meanwhile, No Face has become intoxicated with the greedy atmosphere of the bathhouse and swells into a huge monster, giving illusory gold to the bathhouse workers in exchange for food. When the workers do not comply with his demands, he kills several of them; this causes a panic and the entire bathhouse is thrown into pandemonium. Sen manages to solve the problem by feeding No Face the remaining emetic, making him regurgitate several million tons of black poison, and then leading him out of the bathhouse. No Face reverts to his former size and demure personality, and along with Sen and Boh, travel by train to Zeniba's faraway cottage. At Zeniba's home, Sen gives the sigil back to Zeniba, apologizing for having squished the black slug. An amused Zeniba reveals that the slug had been one of Yubaba's means of controlling Haku, and that the curse put on the seal has already been broken by Sen's friendship.
In the bathhouse, Yubaba discovers Boh's absence and is enraged. Haku, now revived and restored to his human form, offers Boh's safe return in exchange for Sen and her parents to be freed and restored to normal. Yubaba accepts, but promises to set Sen one final task. Along with Boh and the hummingbird, Haku and Sen fly back to the bathhouse, leaving No Face to live with Zeniba as her assistant. En route to the bathhouse, Chihiro remembers a previously suggested meeting with Haku: some time ago, she had fallen into a river and was rescued by the river's spirit. She then realizes that the spirit of this river, called Kohaku River, and her friend Haku are one and the same. At this realization, Haku's dragon form is molted away, and he is delivered permanently from Yubaba's control. Yubaba and a large crowd have gathered to witness Chihiro's final task: to pick out her cursed parents from a group of pigs. Chihiro correctly states that none of the pigs displayed by Yubaba are her parents, and thus wins back both her parents' humanity and her own freedom from the bathhouse. Afterward, Haku takes Chihiro to rejoin her restored parents. He bids her farewell and promises that he will come see her again. As Chihiro and her parents return to Earth, her parents lose all memory of their visit to the spirit world. The family then gets back in their car and resume their journey to their new home.