Kiki's Delivery Service 1998 VHS Promo

When Disney secured the US distribution rights to Studio Ghibli's films, they clearly had their eyes on Kiki's Delivery Service. Here was a family-friendly movie that was charming, upbeat and very similar in tone to their own movies. For parents who probably associated "Japanimation" with sex, violence and cheap production values, this would be a very welcome relief. Add in a new dubbed soundtrack created by Disney themselves, and you have a guaranteed hit on home video.

This video is the original 1998 promo for the videocassette, and according to the YouTube page, appeared on the VHS for The Black Cauldron. Notice the colorful logo which would be replaced in the DVD that appeared five years later. I always preferred this to the later design, when Disney appeared to be far less invested in Studio Ghibli. I don't care much for the corny narration or the dub, but I'm not the target audience, which would be parents and small children.

It's fascinating how this trailer focuses on the climactic action sequence. There's quite a bit more action that one would expect from a "children's cartoon," albeit with all the hokey narration and preachy moral values. In a Puritanical society, such concessions are necessary in order to sneak past the guards. Mom and Dad will nod with approval at the important messages, and the kids will be thrilled by the exciting flying scenes and the sights of a foreign city (modeled greatly on Sweden, as we all know).

It's really too bad that the relationship between Disney and Studio Ghibli was such a troubled one. They rarely seemed to be on the same page, often viewing one another as rivals rather than partners. The cultural differences were just too great at the time. Also, Hayao Miyazaki probably shouldn't have made a grim and gory Kurosawa epic right when he signed the distribution papers. I can't help but feel that Princess Mononoke burned more bridges than it built, and is really the point where that marriage turned sour. Maybe it's just me.

In any case, here's Kiki to cheer everybody up.

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