It’s no secret that a lot of time goes into making timeless films.

For Hayao Miyazaki, attaining classic status with his environmentalist fantasy epic Princess Mononoke required a 20-year odyssey, from the late-’70s daydream of its creator to the transcendent animated feature it would become in 1997. As is true of the bulk of his canon, Princess Mononoke‘s vision is one informed by animism—the notion that plant life and other elements of nature possess spiritual or supernatural dimensions. Initially a series of sketches of its titular princess and a beast who dwell deep in the woods of Japan, the film would finally grow from its roots when, in 1995, Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli animator Masashi Ando and several crew members visited the ancient forests of Yakushima in Kyushu and the mountains of Shirakami-Sanchi in northern Honshu to location scout and inform the film’s lush visual design.

This January, to celebrate the 76th and 20th birthdays of Miyazaki and Princess Mononoke, respectively, the film has returned to cinemas nationwide for a short time. Whether or not you plan on going (and really, why wouldn’t you?), it would do you well to delve into this slice of film history from The Film Theorists, entitled Princess Mononoke: Decades of Struggle.” Watch the video below for an exhaustive and enlightening look at the many phases of Princess Mononoke‘s development, from early storyboards, to the screen, to localization by way of iconic author Neil Gaiman’s nuanced English-language adaptation of the film’s dialogue and more.

Haven’t had enough to satisfy your appetite for Studio Ghibli? Chow down on “Breakfast at Howl’s Moving Castle,” an installment of our food-in-film-centric series, Feast for the Eyes. MM