Saturday, April 13, 2002

It's about time
I know there are plenty more ardent Hayao Miyazaki fans than myself, but I also know what they are thinking.

Miyazaki, a writer-director-animator, is one of the most famous filmmakers in Japan. His Mononoke Hime (in English, "Princess Mononoke") was the highest-grossing picture ever in that country, until the record was overtaken by "Titanic". He has retaken the Japanese record with his newest release, Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (in English, "Spirited Away"). Yet for years the only (legal) American release of his films was "My Neighbor Totoro."

Fans had mixed emotions when English-language distribution rights to nine of Miyazaki's films were obtained by the Disney organization. On the one hand, at least these masterpieces (and they are that) would be widely available. On the other hand, no true anime fan really trusts anyone other than himself to get the translations right. In particular, they assumed Disney would dumb-down the story and dialog as much as possible to appeal to the "Little Mermaid" crowd. (Miyazaki's films, while animated, are intended for an adult audience.)

Instead, we encountered a third, unexpected possibility: Disney just sat on most of the catalog.

Eventually they released "Kiki's Delivery Service", a charming film about an adolescent witch finding her way in the world. Video sales were rewarding. "Princess Mononoke" achieved an American theatrical release through Disney subsidiary Miramax. It spent some weeks at "art houses" and secondary screens, returning respectable but not spectacular grosses. (Miyazaki insisted that Disney not publicize the films as Disney films, and although this has probably hurt sales, Disney has not done so.)

Purists argue that Disney's translations didn't capture all of the nuances of the original voice work. I can't argue the point, since I don't understand Japanese. It seems to me that these films work pretty darned well in English.

Finally, Disney has announced another release: The English-dubbed "Spirited Away", still in first-run release in Japan, will see American theatrical release sometime this fall.

More, the article promises that "Disney also is preparing several of the director's other titles for release on video and DVD later this year." The press release doesn't speculate on which ones, but it's known that a Disney English dub exists for "Castle in the Sky".

Ok, it's out of my system now.

LATER: I forgot to point you at, which compliles information about Miyazaki releases. (It's not the official Studio Ghibli website, but it is in English.)

STILL LATER: Having nothing to do with Miyazaki, another producer has optioned Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars. If Hollywood can create hobbits, can tharks be far behind?

And can I hang around while you audition actresses for Dejah Thoris?

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