July 12, 2009


My favourite movie on the planet, I mean the absolute best film ever made, in my eyes is Tonari No Totoro (My Neighbour Totoro) by Hayao Miyazaki. Damn near cinematic perfection in animation. And Miyazaki's best work, by far. Even compared to his wonderful, most recent film, Ponyo, which has just been released on DVD in Japan.

How can you get Ponyo or Totoro on Blu-ray? Well, you can't. Not yet anyway.

Read more after the jump:


Studio Ghibli is Miyazaki and his partner Isao Takahata. They've each produced a ton of films since the studio's debut in the mid 80s, with most having been released on DVD here in North America and in Europe since Ghibli's distribution deal with Disney/Buena Vista some years back. To date, however none of these films have been released on Blu-ray. But don't fret. There's hope!

ponyo dvd bluray

Gake no ue no Ponyo, though released on DVD last week in Japan (region coded to work in Japanese players only, of course) has been announced for a December release on Blu-ray! No details of the disc itself are available yet but this bodes well for those of us outside of the land of the rising sun. You see, with the film opening in theatres here on August 14, and North America sharing a region code with Japan, I think this is Disney's sneaky little way of letting us know that we'll be seeing Ponyo on Blu-ray in North America at the same time. No point releasing it in one place alone when the disc is programmed to work in the other. So, my best guess is that Ponyo will hit the USA and Canada on Blu-ray in December, to be followed slowly in the coming months by the rest of the Ghibli catalogue. Mark my words!

One thing we sadly won't see on our shores is Ponyo wa Kousite Umareta (This Is How Ponyo Was Born), the recently delayed 2-disc, 12 hour long Making-of-Ponyo release (pushed back to December to clear music rights, according to Studio Ghibli executive producer Suzuki Toshio). Even when it does hit the shops, this Blu-ray won't feature an English dub or any subtitles whatsoever. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we might see a fan-sub pop up on the internets.



In the meantime, to sate your Ghibli pallet, there are a handful of related releases on Blu (Hint - Snap up the Hisaishi in Budokan disc to see a bonus feature of music videos with Miyazaki's animation set to music. The first Ghibli animation available for home video consumption in HD!):

Joe Hisaishi in Budokan - Miyazaki Anime to Tomo ni Ayunda 25 Nenkan Blu-ray

Joe Hisaishi in Budokan - Miyazaki Anime to Tomo ni Ayunda 25 Nenkan: "To commemorate the release of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, master composer and Miyazaki's longtime collaborator Hisaishi Joe held special concerts at the Budokan on August 4 and 5, 2008. Joe Hisaishi in Budokan - Miyazaki Anime to Tomo ni Ayunda 25 Nenkan fondly revisits the award-winning composer's 25 years of musical collaboration with Miyazaki. Featuring a 200-person orchestra, an 800-person choir, and guest appearances from vocalists Hirahara Ayaka, Masako Hayashi, Fujioka Fujimaki, and Ohashi Nozumi, this concert DVD captures a night filled with music from Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, Laputa, Princess Mononoke, and other beloved Ghibli classics. Comes with making of and screen animation footage."

Oga Kazuo Exhibition: Ghibli No Eshokunin - The One Who Painted Totoro's Forest Blu-ray + DVD

Oga Kazuo Exhibition: Ghibli No Eshokunin - The One Who Painted Totoro's Forest (English Subs): "From July 21 through September 10th, 2007, the Museum for Contemporary Art Tokyo held an exhibition honoring Oga Kazuo, the art director and background artist for many famed works from Japan's Studio Ghibli. Over 600 works from the artist were on display, and numerous fans flocked to the one-of-a-kind exhibition celebrating the lush, gorgeous background artwork typifying many a work from Miyazaki Hayao and other Ghibli filmmakers. International fans of Oga and Studio Ghibli have not been left out, however. The Oga Kazuo Exhibition: Ghibli No Eshokunin - The One Who Painted Totoro's Forest (Blu-ray + DVD) allows fans the opportunity to attend the exhibition, as well as watch interviews and testimonials with Oga's contemporaries and collaborators, all subtitled in English."

The Scenery In Ghibli : Japan in Miyazaki's Work / European Journey To Meet Miyazaki's Work  Blu-ray

The Scenery In Ghibli : Japan in Miyazaki's Work / European Journey To Meet Miyazaki's Work : "With the use of Miyazaki's ekonte (storyboards) 3 travellers, actress Tsuruta Mayu, Natsukawa Yui and actor Sugimoto Tetsuta, visit the places and towns related to the images from Miyazaki's animated works. BS-Nippon re-edited the European part that aired on their TV channel back in 2006, as well as the Japanese part which aired in 2008 on BS-Nittere. In The Japan Miyazaki depicted (95 minutes), Tsuruta Mayu visits the places of "good old Japan" and discovers profound attractions like Totoro and Spirited Away and also shows the charm of Ponyo. In A Trip of the Europe Encountered in Miyazaki's Works (85 minutes) Natsukawa Yui visits Stockholm and Gotland to seek Koriko town from Kiki's Delivery Service. Sugimoto Tetsuta visits Alsace region to seek the town where Sophie lives in in Howl's Moving Castle." (via GhibliWorld.com)

Hayao Miyazaki will be making a rare appearance and speaking at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 24, in Hollywood for the US premiere of Ponyo on the 27 and in Beverly Hills, Calif., to be honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the following evening, July 28.

Read more about Blu-ray at The Blu-ray Blog.com

Read about the new Studio Ghibli DVDs: Studio Ghibli Collection

And play those discs on the PS3, the best Blu-ray player on the market today!

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November 18, 2008

On Day 2 of the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, we got to see a screening of an original 35mm print of Grave of the Fireflies. This is an Isao Takahata, 1988 Studio Ghibli film, based on a short story about a 14-year-old boy who tries to care for his sister after their ailing mother is killed during a raid in the 1945 Kobe bombings. He and his sister experience the fear-inspired selfishness of an aunt and he must find a way to take care of himself and his sister on his own.

There was a panel discussion following the film lead by Fred Schodt, author of Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics; John O'Donnell, founder of Central Park Media (the publishers who license the film for North America); and Fred Ruh, author of Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii.

The conversation between the panelists and the audience covered debates as to whether the film was anti-American or rather just anti-war generally, given that the American bombers were barely referred to directly except by the subtle display of some American signage a couple of times on the bomber planes. Another point was raised about the divide between the themes considered culturally sensitive in western animation versus the plain-speaking storytelling of Japanese anime. As a nod to the animated film genre, it was agreed that this socially important, and poignant story couldn't be told the same way in a live-action film (a live-action version was made in 2005), given the youth of the actors required to play the parts and the fact that they couldn't be represented as realistically in the unhealthy conditions in which they were portrayed for the anime version.

This screening was also presented by UrbanEx and their Out Of The Cold programme.

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August 8, 2008


I'm not ashamed to admit some movies have made me cry, and one film that's guaranteed to get me at least a little misty no matter how often I've seen it is Grave of the Fireflies. Directed by Isao Takahata—who people tend to forget co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki—Grave of the Fireflies is an adaptation of Akiyuki Nosaka's memoir of surviving the Allied firebombings of Kobe during World War II.

It's no great secret that Seita and Setsuko, the analogues to the author and his younger sister, eventually die; it's established right at the beginning of the movie, and the rest of the film acts as a flashback to explain what brought them to that point. It's a powerful story of familial love during the worst of ordeals, bringing with it a reminder that war affects more than just the soldiers on the battlefield.

Central Park Media released two versions of Grave of the Fireflies on DVD in 2002 and 2004 (they had the rights before the 1996 deal between Disney and Tokuma Shoten), but it's languished in out-of-print limbo for years. Just this Wednesday a new two-disc version of Grave of the Fireflies appeared in Japanese stores; at first blush, the only real difference is an essay by Nosaka, and (maybe) some more pre-production artwork.

Is this a precursor to a new Disney release in North America? I'd like to think so, but I'm not holding my breath. Disney's never seemed too sure what do with Takahata's movies; while they released the perhaps more accessible Pom Poko and My Neighbors the Yamadas three years ago, it was with minimal fanfare. The sombre Grave of the Fireflies might be trickier from their perspective, as would be Takahata's only remaining Ghibli film, the wistful Only Yesterday. A lot of lip service is given to the notion of animation that adults can watch, but there might be the fear that North America isn't ready for an animated film as powerful as Grave. Given that the U.S. and Canada are currently fighting wars on foreign soil, I'd say there isn't a better moment than right now.

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July 18, 2008


I guess it's Ghibli Day, here at fps. Aptly so, on the eve of Ponyo's release to Japanese cinemas.

If you've ever dreamed of working side-by-side with Miyazki-San and Takahata-San, this may turn out to be a dream come true! Details are up on Ghibli.jp (in Japanese, of course) of a recruitment drive for the studio.

Translation from the GhibliWiki:

* Duty place is Toyota City, Aichi prefecture not Tokyo.
* Term of the contract is from April 1 2009 to March 31 2011.
* The deadline for document submission is September 17

* Presentation documents:
* A resume with photograph
* Two pieces of artwork (the subject is open)
* Excessive documentation will be ignored by the selection committee
* The entry works will not be returned
* Primary selection: End of September. Notified by letter.
* Second selection: By the end of October. Practical examination and interview at Studio Ghibli.
* Third selection: From October 24 to November 3.
* A training examination of 10 days. Ghibli will supply housing.

Apparently, you also need to know a reasonable amount of Japanese to get the job. Can't say I'm at all surprised.

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July 17, 2008


On the eve of Ponyo's premiere in Japan, Studio Ghibli president Hoshino Koji let's slip plans for their next release - a new Isao Takahata film!

"Ever since Hohokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun (ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん, My Neighbors the Yamadas) in 1999, Takahata hasn't produced anymore films. In fact, his new movie is now being prepared. We can’t tell the details, though it has been more crystallized than it was some years ago. He hasn't produced movie in these 10 years, but was busy on writing or lecturing. If Miyazaki is the one who gathers attention under the sun, Takahata is the type who quietly cruises underwater. If they have any common point, then they both have amazingly deep fountain of creation. Takahata is now very fine. Please, expect his next film. Goro is also preparing his new film."

Via GhibliWorld.com

Previously on fps:
Studio Ghibli: The Art of Miyazaki's Ponyo
Ghibli by Pixar: Totoro Forest Project

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