Why Did Disney Scrub the Titles From the Ghibli DVDs?

Can somebody in the know please explain this to me? These are the main menu screens from Disney's Region-1 DVDs for Whisper of the Heart (Mimi wo Sumaseba) and My Neighbors the Yamadas. Where are the main titles? There is no title on the main screen.

I've never seen anything like this; even the crummiest low-budget DVD release still remembers to put the title on the main menu screen. This is about as basic an issue as you can get.

The really strange thing is that My Neighbor Totoro does have a main title. It's the same font as on the cover, and it's animated, too. So, clearly, this was not a goof-up or some bizarre creative decision. Somebody in charge deliberately chose to scrub the movie titles from the main menus for these movies.

I'm not bringing this up to grind an axe. This is just something that has bugged me for years, and I've never been given a reason for why this happened. The more cynical-minded could just chalk this up as one more instance of Disney burying the Ghibli library in the back yard, only doing the bare minimum as required by the distribution contract. I know this irritated me to no end, and many Ghibli Freaks have felt the same way, no doubt.

The second and third wave of DVDs were a definite improvement over Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, and Kiki. The more unified design was a welcome change, even if the color scheme (dark heavy red at the top) is a bit off. So there clearly was more effort put into promoting the Ghibli catalog. But no titles? What is this all about? Such a gesture smacks of disrespect. Was that deliberate or not? I honestly don't know, and I would prefer to think it all boils down to a creative decision (let's show an animated clip from the movie).

The relationship between Studio Ghibli and Disney has been rocky since the start, and most of it points back to the Mononoke fiasco in the States. There has been a degree of distrust on both sides, but a warming of relations has commenced over the past year, with Ghibli's new President Koji Hoshino taking the helm. He has made improving relations with Disney, and building Ghibli's brand in the USA, a priority.

That good will has paid off lately, as we saw with Ponyo, and I hope it continues with the new DVD reissues later this year. That means no more stupid gaffes with the main menu screens. As always, we'll cross our fingers and hope for the best.

P.S. One thing that's always puzzled me is why Disney never established Studio Ghibli as a seperate product line. I understand the need to promote the corporation at all costs, and these conglomerate treat rival studios the way the church treats rival religions. But I don't believe Ghibli, with its slight output of foreign movies, could eclipse the Disney empire in the public's mind. It's not as though children exposed to My Neighbor Totoro will refuse to ever watch Pinocchio or Ducktales again.

Wouldn't it be smarter to establish a seperate product line - "The Studio Ghibli Collection"? This is much smarter from a branding and market-building angle, and it does provide a degree of independence from the Disney brand - a crucial distinction if we are ever to see Omohide Poro Poro and Umi ga Kikoeru released on our shores. Is there a reasonable reason why this option was never pursued? Or does this just come down to promoting Buddhism during Lenten Mass?


greentea said...

Hope I'm not over-commenting.. but I don't see this as something worth getting upset about. It is kind of cheap, but what does a title serve to do in a DVD menu? If it wasn't on the case and the DVD itself that would be different, but just the menu?

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

No, go ahead and comment all you want. That's why this blog is here. I don't mind.

I'm not being all that critical on this issue - really! It was something that bothered me years ago, but that's water under the bridge. At this point, I'm just really curious to know why there were no titles on the main menus. I've never seen that on DVDs before, and I used to rent and watch movies obsessively, almost constantly. I used to live a few blocks from a Hollywood Video that has a large Criterion Collection section.

This is just weird. It's something that could have been installed in, what, five minutes? Maybe they had a taco buffet on that day, and the A/V staff didn't want to miss out. Who knows?

Henry said...

It's times like these I'm thankful for having the Region 4 Madman (Aus) DVD releases! Their menu's and DVD covers I believe are superior to those both US and UK (menu's are the same, but each film in Aus has it's own unique logo on the DVD cover). Each DVD also comes with an insert and a reversible cover featuring the alternative poster artwork including the original Japanese logos.

The Ponyo DVD cover art was recently revealed, and follows suit with the previous Ghibli titles sporting the golden "Studio Ghibli Collection" band and matching spine (which are not numbered like the UK releases).

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Do you have a link to the Ponyo DVD cover? I tried looking through Google, but no luck.

Henry said...

*slaps forehead*

I just realised I submitted my previous comment in the wrong post. Anywho, here's the link:

Just scroll down a few posts for the DVD and Blu-Ray artwork (nothing suprising really).

I think this is one of the few instances where the blue bluray case actually works with the cover art.

Sean L. said...

The title-less menus kind of bother me too. I watched Pom Poko tonight and it was the same way. I'm just a perfectionist and I would like to see a little more artistic sensibility go into the menu design. But ya know, small potatoes or whatever you say, hehe.

asuka said...

yeah, you're right - those numbers on the R2 spines are just silly.

Chris Sobieniak said...

I'm being reminded of the Nausicaa DVD being the same way too with it's main menu. A "Studio Ghibli Collection" would be nice too if it ever happened (at least we might get some Totoro plushies out of the deal).

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