Gedo Senki (Tales From Earthsea) R2 DVD

In the comments on the previous post, a reader asked about the Gedo Senki DVD and whether or not it was legit. I can't say for certain since I wasn't given any links, but I thought I should clear things up for everyone who's interested in importing the movie.

The Region 2 DVD for Gedo Senki should be easily recognizable for any Ghibli fan, as the packaging follows in the same vein as their other DVD's. You have the familiar logos, and layouts are the same, and the usual plethora of extras and bonuses are included (the e-konte storyboards, for example). Tales From Earthsea also follows on the heels of Howl's Moving Castle (Ghibli's previous feature film, duh) by including a standard and deluxe DVD package. The deluxe versions include more discs containing extras, more behind-the-scenes features and such.

Strangely enough, the only Ghibli DVD from Japan to feature any audio commentary is Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Surely, that was such an important landmark film, for anime and Miyazaki's career (Nausicaa's success at the box office led to the founding of Studio Ghibli a year later). I'm a bit surprised that commentaries have not been included on any of the later DVD's. Perhaps this is more of a Western concept.

Back to Gedo Senki. The most notable inclusion for the R2 DVD is the English dubbed soundtrack. This is, in fact, the official Disney-produced dub, and fully intended for the eventual North American release. We are reminded, in case anyone forgot, that the Sci-Fi Channel owns the rights to Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea saga due to their made-for-tv movie a few years back. Those rights will expire in 2009, and this has prevented Goro Miyazaki's movie from being released here, either in theatres or on DVD.

It's pretty good timing, in any event, since 2009 should see the American theatrical release of Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea. I would expect Disney to release at least a couple new DVD's to coincide with the latest Hayao Miyazaki classic. So I would fully expect to see, sigh, Goro's film, complete with the Disney soundtrack ready to go.

As for any other DVD's that could be released, I dunno. No clue. I'm only guessing here.


Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea - The Full Trailer

This just looks magnificent. It's going to be a fantastic movie, and no doubt it's all gangbusters in Japan, where Ponyo has finally arrived.

I know this will be a common refrain from animation fans the world over, but Ponyo is entirely hand-drawn. There isn't a single frame of CGI in the entire movie, and nothing has been xeroxed or photoshopped. 180,000 drawing. And when you consider the shockingly short production times for the Studio Ghibli movies, the mind boggles. Do these artists ever sleep?

Ponyo is going to be fantastic.


Wall-E Already Surpasses $100 Million

This is very good news for Pixar fans. Wall-E has already rushed past the $100M mark after a little more than a week. This is a movie nearly everyone seems to love, so I'd expect a lot of repeated viewings during the summer. I know I want to see it again. Hmm....maybe I should be doing that right now...

Wall-E's success at the box office will prove excellent news if it reverses the downward trend of Pixar's last several features. After reaching a peak with Finding Nemo, each film has earned less and less money. Mind you, this is using the mindset of the Hollywood suits, where your movie can makes gobs and gobs of money, only to be declared a "failure" because it didn't reach the imaginary numbers the suits pulled out of the ground.

But in this game, expectations rule, and success means clout. It means more power to Steve Jobs and John Lasseter and the fine artists at Pixar. Which means greater freedom, greater leeway, to take more daring risks, stretch animation into newer directions, and - yippie - more leeway in promoting movies like Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea. I'd like to see that movie shown on more than 200 screens. Wouldn't you?

Ghibli's Ponyo Website Updated

If you pay a visit to Studio Ghibli's official site for Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea, you'll find a number of fine surprises. True, it's harder if you don't know Japanese, which means reading is out. But if you click on the left-hand links to the main sections, you'll find the press section. It's actually the third link, with a series of sub-links below.

This is a great addition to the Ponyo site, because it includes many new screenshots from the movie. These are some really spectacular shots; that Miyazaki genius shines through yet again. Perhaps it's better if we can't read the text; it's best to avoid spoiling any surprises, and this way we can just admire the great skill of the Ghibli artists. I can't believe we have to wait until next summer to see this movie. I feel like a kid sitting on Santa's lap.

I just happened to visit the Ponyo site after reading Michael Sporn's weekend rants against the state of contemporary animation. He fears that classical animation - the kind that inspired him to create and inspires him today - has been lost to the CGI boom that has swallowed up most major Hollywood pictures. It's true that so many of these blockbuster movies rely so heavily on computer animation that they only barely qualify as "live-action." It's true that a creeping sameness has pervaded most CGI. There's a cold mechanic feel to so much of it, like everything's been designed for consumption as videogames.

Art, true artistic talent, remains in low supply. If it weren't for Pixar, I don't know where America would be with animation. Michael Sporn disagrees with me on Wall-E (I loved it, he didn't), but I think he's spot on with his fears and creeping "old man rants." Heck, I do that enough myself. But hasn't it always been that way? The old saying, "90% of everything is crud?" We remember The Beatles, and forget the countless copycats and wannabees. Heck, I remember one of my favorite '90s catchphrases, "Nirvana-wannabees."

So my prescription to everyone who's worried about the great cartoons and animated features of their youth, the kind of magical illusion that captured their hearts, go over and pay a visit to Ponyo. I think you'll find your mood and imagination improving quickly. This movie is going to be great. Really, really great.


Jarinko Chie - Fansub Link Now Available

As promised, I've finally added the direct link to the fansub for Jarinko Chie. This is a great announcement, and long overdue. Now you can enjoy this great Isao Takahata comedy without having to learn Japanese.

I'm thrilled to be able to see this movie with subtitles; however, I'm still a bit disappointed that none are included on the Japanese DVD. Which I happen to own, of course. When you're a dedicated enough fan, you don't let something as silly as language get in the way.

The Pixar Blog

I'm always looking for good animation blogs to link to, so I've added The Pixar Blog to the rolodex. Pay 'em a visit and say hello when you get the chance.

Sherlock Hound - Blu-Ray DVD

Since I'm mentioning Jarinko Chie, I should also mention this Blu-Ray DVD which should be released on the same day, July 25. Sherlock Hound is a personal favorite of mine, one of the best examples of Hayao Miyazaki's classic adventure serial style. That only six episodes were created is such a shame, a lost opportunity, but what a great run.

I should point out, however, that this BR release contains only two episodes. Baffling, to say the least. But these two episodes were shown as the opening shorts to Nausicaa in 1984; in fact, this was the first time that Sherlock Hound (or "Meitantei Holmes" - "Famous Detective Holmes" - in Japanese) was ever shown. Of course, the wise decision would be to include all six original Miyazaki-directed episodes. Heaven knows this isn't breaking the bank on the BR format. Who in their right mind would shell out money for one measely hour? What cheapskate genius made that decision? Is it just me, or does it seem like corporate executives everywhere are melting down? This isn't as bad as selling SUV's while peak oil strikes, but it's pretty lame.

Given this, I really couldn't recommend this for a purchase. If we had all six episodes, then I'd definitely give the green light. Perhaps someone will import this series for the North American market and fix this problem. Considering that Pioneer's Sherlock Hound DVD's are now out-of-print, there's a large Miyazaki-sized hole that needs to be filled.

For everyone else, my best advice is to scour the internet merchants or ebay for the old Pioneer discs. You'll only need volumes 1-3; those contain the original six shows, and the rest are from the revived series later. Those later episodes are.....ehhh, no thanks. Don't bother. Just stick with the Miyazaki's.

Jarinko Chie - Blu-Ray DVD

I think I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Isao Takahata's 1981 movie Jarinko Chie will be released on Blu-Ray DVD in Japan on July 25. I don't know whether or not this version will include English-language subtitles, but I'm assuming it won't, since the standard DVD release didn't. The film was likely perceived as too Japanese, and too heavily dependent on Japanese culture, to make much sense to Westerners. It's as much a story about Osaka as anything else, depicted lovingly in that Takahata documentary style. It also happens to be wildly funny, even delving into the "blue" humor here and there.

I think this is a wonderful movie, and it deserves to be seen in North America, like everything else. But it's not very likely. If you thought Disney would be squeamish about Tanuki body parts from Pom Poko, Jarinko Chie's gross-out humor would leave them reeling. What would we tell the children? Ohhh, my! I feel faint! My lace hankerchief!

Ahem. Fortunately, Chie is now fansubbed, and as soon as I can remember to do so, I'll add the direct link for you to share. Not that you couldn't figure this out with a simple Google search, mind you. Wink, wink.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how clear and sharp the picture will be. Blu-Ray is a great boon for animation, and there are already a number of top releases that attest to this. Best yet, Japan and North America share the same "region" for Blu-Ray (the format uses three regions, instead of standard DVD's six), which means no fiddling around with easter egg codes or hacks to watch on your system.

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