Ponyo, Ghibli DVD's Pushed Back to January?

Uh-oh. Here we go again, kids.

Ultimate Disney is marking the upcoming Studio Ghibli DVDs for an "expected" January release. This is pushed back from early December, when the titles were expected to be released for the Christmas season.

Ponyo is planned for release on DVD and Blu-Ray; Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki's Delivery Service are planned for re-release on DVD. Those three titles are now out-of-print.

This is bad news. Obviously, I don't have to explain the details why. Missing the Holidays is an especially hard blow (guess it's back to dreidels for me!), and, frankly, I'd like to hear a good explanation for the delay.

The problem is that "expected in January" isn't a definite date, and an official announcement has yet to arrive. These movies could be delayed endlessly. It seems bizarre that the biggest shopping season of the year is deliberately avoided. If Disney isn't waiting for December, just what are they waiting for?

So now are we back to the old Disney games, where the Ghibli films are trapped in limbo indefinitely? I was hoping the thawing relations earlier this year would continue, but it appears that Ponyo's theatrical performance has changed things. Of course, that's just my guess at the moment, but it's the best guess I have right now.

Really, if the Disney suits are unhappy with Ponyo's box-office totals, they have no one but themselves to blame. I honestly don't know if Ponyo could have earned more than $14 million, but I think if we look at the larger picture - the performance of foreign films and Japanese anime films - Ponyo was a great success.

Studio Ghibli will never be more than a solid niche in America, but that's not a bad thing. We're living in a Long Tail world. Besides, have you seen what "mainstream success" looks like today? Fake Barbie Doll pop, American Idol, Michael Bay summer blockbusters....yuck. Take the road less traveled on, and it will make all the difference.

21 comments:

Doug said...

Well, this settles it ... I'm finally getting a region free dvd player and picking one up from Japan. I'm not waiting any longer. Frankly I'd rather watch it with subtitles anyway.

Tim Maughan said...

I'd guess Ghibli are behind the Ponyo push back. US and Japan share the same bluray region, and have you seen how much BRs cost in Japan? They'll be worried fans will import them from the US instead. It's why so few anime titles have been released on BR in the US so far. It's a shame.

Henry said...

"So now are we back to the old Disney games"

Old Disney games? What about Only Yesterday? Disney have never stopped playing this game at all.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing it's really another case of Buena Vista Japan wanting it first-this time on BD. Reverse-importation, don't ya know? And frankly, Ponyo suffered more due to elitist fans who only want to support everything subbed, lazy fans who probably already saw it bootlegged, and shallow Hot Topic fans who don't mind seeing a Neil Gaiman knock-off of Spirited Away more.

Lasseter toured Miyazaki across Cali, for eff's sakes! And that guy almost never travels outside of Japan, unless it's for research purposes. And Disney used some of the most current stars, and their siblings, to sell the pic. So I think where Disney went wrong is that they promoted Ghibli in a state where anime is already commonly known, when they should have tried selling it more in the Midwest and South. Yeah, they're probably familiar with it everywhere, but taking time to get people interested in a flick like Ponyo means something in those parts of the country, 'cus they usually get screwed out of the promotional stuff. [Though maybe it might not be entirely a good idea, seeing as Ponyo acknowledges evolution, and all...^_-]

ulanshad said...

Another likely explanation - Oscar nominations are in January, and Disney may be hoping to get from free marketing off of Ponyo's [very] likely Animated Feature nomination.

Chris Sobieniak said...

guess it's back to dreidels for me!

Heh, my Christmas' haven't been much fun either. I'm planning to help out one blog site by reviewing the Christmas Specials That Time Forgot soon (after finishing up on Halloween and Thanksgiving). Maybe then I can figure out why I lost my happiness all these years!

Studio Ghibli will never be more than a solid niche in America, but that's not a bad thing. We're living in a Long Tail world. Besides, have you seen what "mainstream success" looks like today? Fake Barbie Doll pop, American Idol, Michael Bay summer blockbusters....yuck. Take the road less traveled on, and it will make all the difference.

I usually shut all these out of my head on a daily basis. None of it appeals to me at all and is too obnoxious.

Anonymous said...

You always assume things like this are malicious acts on Disney's part, but I don't see why they would deliberately do something like delay a DVD. Even if the movie didn't do well in theaters, they know movies make most of their money in DVD sales anyways so it would be the obvious move to get it out on DVD as quickly as possible. I don't think they would delay it unless they were having some kind of actual production problems with it.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@anon: "You always assume things like this are malicious acts on Disney's part" - Yeah, I really ought to switch to decaf.

@ulanshad: Oscar nominations? That's a very good idea. There's no doubt Ponyo will earn a Best Animated Feature nod. Let's see what happens.

@Tim Maughan: One of those obvious things that I never realize until someone points it out. Japanese BD's are very expensive. It's surprising, really. I'd be curious to know just how big importing into Japan affects sales. This would be a really great theory to test out.

If you're right, this suggests what we could expect from the next wave of Ghibli Blu-Rays. The question is how long they would remain exclusive to Japan before arriving in North America.

@henry: I hear ya. But I'll take Disney's side on this one. Remember all the crazy "teabaggers" (ahem) back in August? Imagine now what goes through the minds at Disney when they see Omohide Poro Poro's bathhouse scene. If I were in their shoes, I would be extremely skittish. The film lover in me would want to see it released (I'd even hand it to Criterion Collection if I could), but it's not worth losing my head.

some guy said...

@Anonymous,
I hope you aren't implying that Coraline is a knock-off of Spirited Away. Because if you are, you are absolutely wrong.

Chris Sobieniak said...

If you're right, this suggests what we could expect from the next wave of Ghibli Blu-Rays. The question is how long they would remain exclusive to Japan before arriving in North America.

As long as we don't revert to our Old Otaku Ways and just buy import and feel proud of it!

greentea said...

Well, waiting another month isn't so bad. It bites that it won't be in time for the holidays, but oh well. I hope the reasons for this delay are good.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

As long as there actually is a January release. Since no official announcement has been made, this might just be shorthand for "whenever." If January turns into February, then turns into March, and on and on....that's what concerns me.

I cannot imagine that Disney would delay Ponyo and the others indefinitely. The other Ghibli DVDs are meant to ride with Ponyo, and the prospect of four new Studio Ghibli DVDs and one BD is worth the wait.

This is where I really wish I knew some people on the inside. Are there any Disney people who visit the Ghibli Blog? Now there's a good question to ask.

Thanks for all the questions and comments, everybody! Help yourselves to some pie.

Kevan said...

There's an ad for the home release of Ponyo on the new Snow White Blu-ray. I wouldn't worry about it being delayed indefinitely. I haven't seen it yet, but my understanding is that it accompanies a Dumbo ad and an Up ad. Both of those releases will be out by February. That's my guess for the latest that Ponyo will come out over here. And the Japanese prices of blu-ray are out of control. I will gladly wait a month or two to pay $25-$30 for Ponyo rather than the kind of release Bandai did of some of their titles (simultaneous international releases, which cost $60-$80 for one single film at Amazon).

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

That's great to hear. Putting a Ponyo promo with Snow White will do more to sell the movie than any of the theatrical trailers. And Disney also put Ponyo on the Witch Mountain BD (that's where our screenshots came from).

I wouldn't mind paying the high prices for Japanese BD, if only there were enough extras to justify the cost. Just look at what Criterion Collection offers, and they keep their prices under $40.

I do hope the prices can come down. Japan is typically more expensive with their DVDs, but I'd be thrilled to see that change.

Anonymous said...

This is going to sound like a conspiracy theory, but here goes.

Disney does not care much about Studio Ghibli films except for DVD sales, which they have always excelled at. They get no merchandising rights, which is where Disney and Pixar make a good 90% of their money. Films are unfortunately 2 hour long commercials, even if they are great films.

They probably bought the rights to keep competition from buying them and using them against Disney. They also get some of the cutbacks from helping in Japan, where the films make huge bank.

Ghibli will always take a back seat to Disney's domestic plans. They've had UP, Toy Story 1 and 2, The Princess and the Frog this year. All releasing in more theaters then Ponyo.

Spirited Away was in 151 theaters back in 2002. They spent $140 million on their Treasure Planet and put it into 3,227 theaters. Treasure Planet only made $38 million.

They put all their trust and money in the tried and true, and royally screwed up.

Spirited Away not only won the Oscar, but they re-released the film in 714 theaters ONE WEEK AFTER it had already come out on DVD to try and capture the success they let slip through their fingers.

Besides the DVD releases, I don't know why they bother wasting their time, when they just bury everything.

Anonymous said...

Yea the Trailer on the Snow White BD just says Coming to DVD and BD no date. Hopefully there is some word soon.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

At tne end of the day, this is a business, and Disney is going to do what they can to make the maximum profit. Remember that Ponyo's release on DVD and Blu-Ray is being joined with new DVDs of Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki's Delivery Service.

For lesser-known properties, a slower week on the calendar is more advantageous - this is why Ponyo was released in August and not, say, June. It would have been overwhelmed by the big noisy blockbusters. Perhaps the same thinking is at play with the home versions.

Studio Ghibli is more of a Long Tail in the US, which means these movies will not be immediate blockbusters, but will enjoy a long, steady life, a slow burn instead of a bonfire.

Good to see Ponyo advertised on Snow White. I'll have to get that BD myself. I'm sure it looks spectacular, just like Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty. Can't wait for Fantasia and Bambi!

Anonymous said...

Conspiracy theory? More like fact, as anyone pissed by how they handled Princess Mononoke will recall. [On a related note, I imagine the only reason that movie's rated PG-13 is because Disney lobbied for it, because an R-rated toon would be bad PR for the company.] And when Disney's willing to kill its own 2-d line, it's clearly not in the business for the art-form in general. In fact, it probably only submitted Spirited Away for an Oscar, because it wanted to dominate that category with the most films. And I'm sure that if Spirited Away *didn't* win, the company would continue to sit on the R1 dvd releases of the Ghibli library.

As for the Coraline thing, well...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnF0Qfm-Ois http://movies.sky.com/neil-gaiman-on-coraline-alan-moore-and-twitter
http://www.animenation.net/blog/2008/01/07/ask-john-why-does-neil-gaiman-steal-ideas-from-studio-ghibli/

greentea said...

I don't think Mononoke warrants an R rating in the first place. Disney has an image to uphold, it makes sense that they'd distant themselves from something like Mononoke.

Whether they're pushing Ghibli's movies to the side to keep it out of their own animation spotlight, I wouldn't doubt it.. but really, Ghibli films are not like what the average American is used to. They are 'weird', the characters 'all look alike' etc. Being too different may be a reason also.

Anonymous said...

greentea: It has about the same kind of violence of that QT movie, actually. And other anime films which were just as violent did get an R.

Anonymous said...

Mononoke wouldn't get an R rating not even in sweet-honey-sugar world. I see no reason for it to get an R, you're exaggerating it's violence level, PG13 is right I think. Maybe sixty years ago it would have.

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