By Tarik Khaldi,

Founded and made famous by Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary Studio Ghibli was awarded an honorary Palme d’or today at the Grand Théâtre Lumière, where film-maker and Ghibli head of creative development Gorō Miyazaki collected the trophy from Feature Film Jury member and Ghibli admirer Juan Antonia Bayona.

The atmosphere at the Grand Théâtre Lumière was electric this afternoon, the audience on fire and younger than usual to shower the Studio Ghibli representatives led by Gorō Miyazaki with applause.

“We’re all here because we’re besotted with this Japanese animation,” enthused Thierry Frémaux in his opening speech. “For the very first time, Iris Knobloch and I decided to awarded the honorary Palme d’or to a studio, rather than a single creative. And what a studio! Represented by Gorō Miyazaki, I give you the Studio Ghibli!”

Before the trophy was handed over, a selection of the studio’s movie highlights was screened in a compendium of all its poetic artistry and ingenuity. The nine-minute whirlwind whisked through Castle in the Sky (1986), The Boy and the Heron, the depths of Ponyo and the heights of Porco Rosso, a patchwork of fragile landscapes shot through with high emotion and inhabited by fantastical creatures.

Ghibli cofounder (alongside Isao Takahata and Tokuma Shotenet) Hayao Miyazaki was unable to travel to Cannes, but thanked the Festival and fans via video. His son Gorō, the talented director behind From Up on Poppy Hill and Tales from Earthsea, had the honour of collecting the award on behalf of the studio, museum and park.

The festival invited Juan Antonia Bayona to hand over the award. A member of  Greta Gerwig’s jury with a love of Hayao Miyazaki’s work, he took to the stage, sharing how: “I remember the emotions I felt while watching all these films, especially  The Wind Rises and its core message: “You have to keep on keeping on”. Thank you for opening up your world to us and making our lives a little bit better, a little more colourful.”

Receiving the award, Gorō Miyazaki quipped: “When we won the Oscar for The Boy and the Heron, the Ghibli representatives came home with a statue, but it wasn’t in a box, they had to wrap it in a hotel towel to transport it back. So I’m very glad to see this Palme is nicely packaged!”

The director noted that the award belonged to the teams and public, too: “Ghibli was launched 40 years ago by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Tokuma Shoten. They may be the studio’s biggest contributors, but I want to extend this award to all the hard-working teams.

This is an honour owed to all those who have loved our films, too: I’d like to thank all Ghibli fans.”

As if offering up a thank-you gift in return, Gorō Miyazaki treated the audience to four Hayao Miyazaki shorts, three of which had never been screened outside of Japan: Mei and the Kittenbus, Looking for a Home, Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess and Boro the Caterpillar.