The World of Ghibli Featurette

Disney's bonus material for the new Studio Ghibli DVDs revolve around the moniker, "The World of Ghibli."  This consists of three segments: complete storyboards (e-konte), "Behind the Studio," and "Enter the Lands."  Let's take a look at what's on the second Laputa: Castle in the Sky disc.

"Behind the Studio" is a remarkable surprise.  It's a collection of interviews with Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, and Joe Hisaishi.  The interviews are cut into five short segments - The World of Laputa; Creating Castle in the Sky; Character Sketches; Producer's Perspective: Meeting Miyazaki; and Scoring Miyazaki.

These interviews were filmed in 2009 in Japan, and I'm curious to know how many were filmed.  Everything depends on when the next wave of reissued DVDs and Blu-Ray discs arrive.

Japanese movie trailers are included once again, and this is a welcome sight.  I always enjoy seeing the previews, especially Castle in the Sky, Studio Ghibli's inaugural movie.  "Following the famed Nausicaa, Director Hayao Miyazaki's latest creation," goes the tagline.  The name of the studio is never mentioned; in 1986, there are no expectations or plans beyond this one film, that Ghibli would become famous throughout the world (it's easy to forget sometimes that these are purely Japanese movies, with no expectation of being seen elsewhere).

Disney's old "Behind the Microphone" feature appears once again.  James Van Der Beek is just as embarassing as ever, Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill are still chewing the scenery.  Cartoon dubs really can be cheesy sometimes.  But Disney has improved vastly since John Lasseter took over the Ghibli dubs, and we're all the more grateful for it.  I really don't like this dub...but, eh, shrug.  To each their own.

"Enter the Lands" is a rather interesting feature.  It's an interactive menu, presented as a large map containing (most) of the Studio Ghibli movies.  All of the films are present, except, of course, for Grave of the Fireflies, Omohide Poro, Umi ga Kikoeru, and Gedo Senki.  We're never going to see those films in America, sadly.  At least Grave of the Fireflies is available on DVD by another label.

One pleasant surprise - and I really never believed Disney would touch this movie again - is Mononoke.  San is right there on the upper right corner of the screen.  This does strongly suggest that Disney will reissue Mononoke on DVD/BD.  Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it.

I don't understand why Disney simply doesn't release the Ghibli catalog on its own label, without the Disney moniker.  If there were at least one degree of separation, perhaps that would calm the nerves of the executives who have nightmares about the Dumb Proles storming their walls because of cartoons with severed limbs and bath houses and menstruation.  Just sayin'.

Enter the Lands is more of an interactive toy for the kiddies; the rest of you will be bored quickly and move on.  You click on the menu items, watch brief clips, and learn about the movie characters.  The narrator is talking in a DisneySpeak dialect, sounding a bit like new parents.  Ooogly Googly, whoooze the happy babyyyy?  Awwww, smoochie smoochie smoochie!  Yeah, don't you laugh.  You'll have kids one day and it'll happen to you.  It's like catching the Chicken Pox; everybody has to suffer through it once.

Finally, I'd like to pay my compliments on the wonderful new menus.  The style is very restrained, easy on the eyes, and easy to navigate.  Thank goodness the days of heavily animated menu screens are behind us.  I just want to get to the movie, please.  Disney has done an outstanding job with the presentation.  You can see the care and dedication in their work, and it's really the first time I can say that honestly.  In previous years, the Ghibli catalog was treated with something bordering on contempt, like a Thanksgiving dinner with relatives you avoid the rest of the year.

If you're wondering if you should buy Castle in the Sky, or Totoro, or Kiki, even though you have the older releases, I'm giving you my endorsement.  These are excellent reissues and will make a fine addition to your movie library.  Excellent job, Disney!  You get a cookie.


asuka said...

thanks for the reviews, daniel.
you've convinced me to get these.
and i'll look forward to your review of the new totoro release! how have they treated the ultimate miyazaki film this time around? it sure looks pretty.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Next weekend, I'll be picking up Totoro and Kiki. I'm not expecting Totoro to look any different from the 2006 DVD, but at least there are the extras.

I really wish I hadn't lost my R2 Castle DVD. I'd like to see how the picture quality on the new reissue compares. Fortunately, I think I burned a copy for Marcee down in Bogota.

asuka said...

btw, ocean waves is now indeed available on, as was promised last year. i've ordered my copy - i love that honest, modest little film.

OscarWRG said...

let's pray for Mononoke Blu-Ray

Dave said...

Daniel, do you have the last R1 Castle in the Sky DVD? How does the picture quality compare? I know I'm probably asking the wrong guy, with the busted win xp dvd player and all...

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@Dave: I did have the old R1 Castle years ago, and I thought it was just terrible - scratchy, dusty, far too much edge enhancement. Japan's R2 destroys it. I wrote a couple posts about this subject, so just check the archives (use the tags), and see the screenshots for yourself.

I can still watch DVDs on the tv set, thanks to my ancient portable DVD unit. I'm just having trouble with the PC, that's all. I may pick up a laptop or netbook next month, so we'll see how that goes.

Gnickerson said...

IMDB actually has Gedo Senki listed for a theatrical release on July 30th, 2010 in North America.

I don't imagine it will be a big release, maybe something similar to what Howl's received.

asuka said...

(yay - just ordered my new kiki and laputa
if the image quality of the new laputa is in fact comparable with the R2 screenshots daniel has featured here, i'll be very happy.

Katie Johnson said...

Sorry if this has been mentioned elsewhere already, but what do you think of the subtitles on Ponyo? I've already watched various bootlegged subtitled versions elsewhere, and there were a few lines that jumped out at me watching the official DVD subs, like Lisa calling Fujimoto a "freak show". It didn't seem to be actually dubtitled though. Is there an offial (or at least more reliable) translation somewhere?

Anonymous said...

It seems more like World of Miyazaki then World of Ghibli. I believe he directed all the movies shown on the map.

I just can't make out the one near the middle. Seems to be a kid in a city...

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@Gnickerson: That's right, I remember that. I do hope Disney goes through with putting Tales From Earthsea in theatres, even if it's a limited run. My guess is that they would, given a) Disney already created a dubbed soundtrack, and b) the Earthsea name is fairly well-known.

The ultimate question: What will the post-Miyazaki relationship between Disney and Ghibli look like? Gedo Senki will be an important clue; I'm sure The Borrowers will be another. Let's hope both see a US release.

@Asuka: You should be pretty happy with the new DVDs. I wish I had my R2 Laputa to compare, but I lost that disc (and a bunch of others) on my last plane to Bogota. D'oh! Oh, well, the new US discs should be the same as the Japanese.

@Katie: I've thought the same about the subs on the new discs. There are a few lines that are a bit different from the Japanese lines, but the idea is the same. This is always the challenge of subtitles.

As for Kiki, I think that movie still uses the ancient dubtitles from the 1980s dub...strange. I really don't see why someone didn't give Steve Alpert a call. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to help Disney with a direct translation.

That said, my favorite line from Castle in the Sky got changed; it's a line by Dora, the pirate leader: "This is a job for a woman!" Hah! That one's right up there with "I'd rather be a pig than a fascist" (Disney's subs goofed that one up, too). Oh, well.

@scribble: I'll take a better photo of that map if I can. All the Ghibli feature films are represented except for Grave of the Fireflies, Omohide Poro Poro, Umi ga Kikoeru, and Gedo Senki. That does tend to skewer towards the Miyazaki movies, since Takahata's two best films are omitted. Oh, well, let's write some letters and make some calls to Disney.

greentea said...

The map was planned nice, I'll give it that, like this was one big Ghibli Island that all the characters lived on. But was anyone able to select Mononoke, Porco, Yamada, or Chihiro from the World of Ghibli feature? The cursor just seemed to skip over them for me. And I don't think I saw Nausicaa, or Whisper of the Heart..

asuka said...

i've been watching my new kiki and,
daniel, you need to review this!

i was especially interested in what they had done to the dub, since that seems to be the major change from the old R1 release. (plus i think is an important feature of the disc because it is a children's film and i think children need dubs. i also happen to think that the dub for kiki has always had a strong centre in kirsten dunst's enthusiastic performance.)

and what a difference! i had read that the new english songs were gone and that phil hartman's final words from jiji had also been axed. but so much more has been cut than that.

the dub track has been re-edited apparently with the aim of producing an experience closer to that of watching the original language. all the main actors have lines cut: kirsten dunst, phil hartman, and janeane garofalo. hartman's jiji especially is pared right down. also gone are the host of anonymous by-stander comments and andy-dick-style punchlines (e.g. "nice dress!" hollered from the car by one of tombo's scrub friends).

in fact they may have gone a little overboard with cutting their dub track. when kiki and jiji take off from the roof of the train to to fly over the water, kiki asks jiji if he's still holding on. in the new english dub he apparently makes no sound when he opens his mouth, whereas the japanese has him reply "a!" ("fine!" in the older disney version.) but this is quibble. less is better than more, i think.

oh, and the old disney incidental music had been replaced with the original music throughout, as far as i can see (think the sequence with the wild geese) and silence in the original is now silence in the english dub (the characterless "dramatic" music at the climax of the action is gone).

as i said, their goal seems to have been to create a more accurate dub. and i think it's wonderful that they did that for the child audience of the film. in a way it's not that amazing an achievement: it would not take a genius to do it, since you just follow the original, right! but given that disney already had a product, i can't think of any motivation for them re-doing it now apart form just wanting to get it right. which you've got to applaud. good for them.

in summary, i feel anyone who ever complained that the old disney dub filled in the silences, and refused to trust the story to tell itself will be pleasantly surprised by the new dub. it's more accurate, sparer, and feels more current as a result. i don't see how it could be improved without rewriting and getting everyone back into the studio.

(as for the re-editing being disrespectful to phil hartman, i think that by injecting a bit of retrospective discipline into proceedings, the new dub actually makes all the performances sound better. i have more affection for his jiji now than i ever did.)

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@Greentea: You can only select the characters from the movies that have been re-released. Future DVDs and BDs will expand this feature.

@Asuka: Great post! I'll be picking up the DVDs tonight, and I'm just as interested in seeing Kiki and Totoro again. I read about Disney scaling back the excesses of the old Kiki and Laputa dubs, and that's good to see. Those were my least favorite of all the Disney dubs.

asuka said...

yay—i'm looking forward to reading your impressions and analysis. btw, what do you make of this review of the R1 re-release of laputa?
the author reckons the video quality is still sub-par—though it's hard to judge whether they know what they're talking about.
maybe you can do some screenshot comparisons! ^^

(my own new copy arrived from amazon, but it was defective, so i'm waiting for them to replace it. and on tenterhooks in the meanwhile!)

asuka said...

i have my laputa (thank you, amazon) and i've just started to watch it, taking special interest in what they've done to the english dub.

and i have a question right off about the music. am i right in thinking that the rearrangement of the score that hisaishi produced on the occasion of the disney version is completely missing from this new release? i'm just going on the title sequence here, where the new dub track seems to feature the original japanese climactic pian rather than the brass- and strings-heavy arrangement of the previous disney dub.

am i right that hisaishi's rearrangement is simply gone? if so, it seems like a little bit of shame—maybe something that could have been included on the dvd as another way of watching the film? or at least a reason not to chuck your old dvd...

or am i being too sentimental here? (or factually wrong!)

asuka said...

it appears i can't make it through the whole dub of laputa, even for research purposes.

anna paquin. ouch.

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