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2020-06-19

Conversations on Ghibli: First Book Photos

Conversations on Ghibli: First Book Photos

Conversations on Ghibli: First Book Photos

Conversations on Ghibli: First Book Photos


I have been promising a Studio Ghibli book for nearly as long as I've had a Ghibli Blog. It was always my great ambition for this ongoing study of the works of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, and it was a project that suffered through multiple bouts of fits and starts. I was actually working on the book almost four years ago when I was hit by the first major roadblock, at which time I decided to work on a couple other book projects instead, both of which eventually became Zen Arcade and Pop Life. I made several attempts since that time, always becoming stuck and frustrated.

Thankfully, in the past couple months, I have finally managed to make headway in my vast writing project. The idea for a Ghibli book was based on the blog posts, but I have since discovered that the blog is only a reference point, a first draft towards the final script. I found myself heavily revising and rewriting most of what I had done, and most importantly, I was able to cut out the majority of essays and articles. For any artist, the most important tool is not the pen or paintbrush, but the knife.

Now, at long last, I have a solid framework on what Conversations on Ghibli should be about, what topics should be covered, and where I should focus my energies. I know where the writing should go. All that's left is to sit down and grind out chapters.

The page layouts are the second major challenge, and it's the issue that has held me back more than anything. For the longest time, I had resigned myself to simply publishing a text-only book, or one with only a few art assets scattered here and there, knowing that such a book would never sell. Readers and animation fans want lots of photos and illustrations, and I wasn't confident that I could do that, or afford to hire designers to put it all together.

And then a light clicked on inside my head: I already know how to do this. I don't need to hire anyone to put a book together. I've been doing this for years, not only with the art & photography ebooks, but fanzines in my teens and twenties. For some reason, my brain couldn't grok that a print book is just another form of magazine or fanzine. It's the same principles: page sizes, margins, gutters, bleed, text fonts, yadda yadda.

Most importantly: I don't need Adobe InDesign to put a book together. Everything can be created on the freeware program Scribus, which is an excellent little desktop publishing program with a surprising amount of support. I've been watching tutorial videos this past week as a refresher course and to boost my skills.

That brings us to Conversations on Ghibli, and these first pages that I assembled, an essay on the 1979 Anne of Green Gables and the first page of an essay on Marco/3000 Leagues in Search of Mother. The pages are 7" x 10" with one or two columns and a number of screenshots. There will be some minor revisions here and there, but I may be close to having a solid selection of master pages to use for the book.

The main concern for now is length. I don't know how big the final book will be, but it will blast past 100k words with ease. I don't want a book that's 500 pages and I'm still unsold on the idea of multiple volumes (as the pre-Ghibli volumes likely won't sell), so we'll see how things go.

Two of my main reference points are Antes De Mi Vecino Miyazaki, the outstanding book written by our friends Alvaro Lopez Martin and Marta Garcia Villar for Spain's Diablo Ediciones, and The House That Trane Built, an essential biography of the Impulse jazz label by Ashley Kahn. I also have various magazine nearby for ideas, but the book size and large amount of text will mostly dictate the interior design.

Anyway, that's the update on my Ghibli book project. It's not anywhere close to being completed, but it's definitely in the "alpha" stage now. Once I have the page designs and master pages nailed down, I can then focus on the writing. In addition, I also have several other book projects in various stages of completion, including Galaxy Four: Modern Art, an art ebook of acrylic and watercolor paintings from 1998-2002, and Sega Genesis: 500 Greatest Videogames, a book that details the definitive ranking of games for the classic console as chosen by players, professionals and influencers. I'm also taking photos for my next photography book, which will be called The White Album.

Right now, my schedule is as follows: Galaxy Four, then Sega Genesis, then Ghibli. But I'll be working on everything more or less simultaneously. Stay tuned.

Update 7:04pm: I swapped in revised photos, now with better formatting, drop caps and the like.

2020-05-19

A Look at the Cliffhanger LaserDisc Arcade Game





In 1983, an arcade videogame called Dragon's Lair featured fully animated movie scenes that were streamed off LaserDisc. It was a great success and spawned a mini-boom of likewise imitators. Stern Electronics, the US publisher known for many successful video and pinball games, sought to get in on the action, but lacked the resources to finance a million-dollar production of their own. Instead, they turned to Japan in search of animated movies to use.

They found two anime films based on the popular Lupin the 3rd franchise: The Mystery of Mamo and The Castle of Cagliostro. After securing the rights, Stern hired Evanston, Illinois-based production company Associated Audio Visual, Inc., who assembled action scenes from both movies into an interactive game, and the resulting product was dubbed Cliffhanger.

Like most LaserDisc videogames, Cliffhanger is an interactive movie where you move a joystick or press buttons at key moments when prompted by on-screen displays. This provides the illusion of participating in the action, by dodging enemies, attacking foes or driving a car through crowded roads. Any actual interaction is minimal, and you are really just responding to flashing lights while a movie plays in the background. For the time, it was an impressive feat, but the lack of true immersion combined with high production costs doomed the genre to extinction. By 1984, the US videogame industry was in complete collapse, including the arcades, leaving only a few publishers to survive.

Miyazaki fans will be interested to know that the dubbed segments for Cagliostro were recorded exclusively for this game and appear nowhere else. An effort was made to include these scenes in the Discotek Blu-Ray package, but were unsuccessful due to rights and contracts.

The Cagliostro dub is almost cartoonishly bad. It almost sounds like the pimply teenager from The Simpsons recorded the voices and that all the dialog was riffed on the spot, without any scripting. You can also hear the original Japanese soundtrack playing faintly in the background. The names have also been changed: Cliff (Lupin), Jeff (Jigen), Samurai (Goemon), Clarissa (Clarisse) and Count Draco (Count Cagliostro).

Today, a Cliffhanger arcade is extremely rare and expensive, but the game is playable on MAME, the arcade emulator. It remains an interesting curio from a bygone era, one that could never be allowed to happen again. Miyazaki would probably slap you upside the head if you even mentioned the subject in his presence.

2020-05-13

New Additions to Videos


I've added a host of new links to the Videos section, including a number of Toei Doga classic features that have never been released in the West and are now frightfully difficult to track down. Don't forget that Heidi, Marco and Anne are also available with English subtitles, and I strongly urge you to watch these while you can.

As always, I strongly urge the owners of these classic films and television shows to release these titles on our shores on Blu-Ray and DVD. There is a small but dedicated following of fans who would scoop them up in a heartbeat.

2020-05-11

Hustle Punch: The Complete TV Series

Hustle Punch is a TV anime series created by Toei Doga and broadcast in 1965. It ran for only 26 episodes, but is an excellent cartoon with a very strong Hanna-Barbara groove. The series was masterminded by Yasuji Mori, Isao Takahata directed the opening sequence, Hayao Miyazaki and Yoichi Kotabe were key animators, and pretty much the whole gang of regulars that we all know and love worked on this series, which took place while Horus, Prince of the Sun was in pre-production.

Youtube user Felipe Jimenez has compiled all 26 episodes into this single video. It's a great discovery, although the video quality suffers from occasional glitching and there are no English subtitles. That's okay, since you're watching a lot of goofy slapstick cartoon gags that anyone can understand.

Beyond that, some of the animal characters from this series appeared in Animal Treasure Island, and the fox character also appeared as the villain in the third Puss in Boots movie from 1976. Finally, we can see that the junkyard and safe that appears in the opening was later riffed by Hayao Miyazaki in the final episode of Lupin the 3rd: Series One in 1972. Small world.

As always, be sure to watch this show before Toei gets wise and has it removed.


Isao Takahata: GeGeGe no Kitaro (1971)

GeGeGe no Kitaro is a popular manga comic that has spawned a number of TV anime series over the years. The first series was produced by Toei Doga and ran from 1968-1969. A second series, this time in color, was created in 1971. Isao Takahata had a minor involvement on this show, directing episode 62 of the original series and episode 5 of the second.

Takahata also directed the opening and ending sequences for the 1971 series, making this his final work with Toei Doga before leaving with Hayao Miyazaki and Yoichi Kotabe to A Productions to join Yasuo Otsuka for Lupin the 3rd and Pippi Longstockings. A Youtube video of this has been posted below.

Currently, there are no complete episodes of the 1968/1971 GeGeGe series on Youtube, but complete box sets are available in Japan for the price of a kidney or any other major organ. One of these days, one of us will have to bite the bullet and purchase those, if only so that we can finally see the Paku-san episodes. Until then, we have his credit sequences to enjoy and share.


Isao Takahata Episodes of Moretsu Ataro

Moretsu Ataro (Ataro the Workaholic) is a television anime series created by Toei Doga in 1969-70. Adapted from a gag comic that ran from 1967-1970 in Weekly Shonen Sunday, it's a purely zany and wacky kids cartoon. Isao Takahata directed episodes 10, 14, 36, 44, 51, 59, 71, 77 and 90 (the series finale).

Thanks to Youtube user Mr. Batsugoro, the entire series run has been posted online. There are no English subtitles, but as is the case with most vintage anime, you learn to live with it. What matters is that we are finally able to watch these episodes.

I am posting all of the Takahata-directed episodes here. As always, I strongly urge everyone to store these episodes for posterity. These things have a nasty habit of disappearing suddenly and without warning, and the chances of seeing a commercial release in the West is slightly less than zero. Remember all those fansub copies of the classic Toei Doga feature films that vanished off the face of the earth? Good luck finding those again.

It's always a thrill to discover more of Takahata's work, particularly the late post-Horus Toei period. Enjoy!












2020-04-17

Studio Ghibli Video Call Backgrounds






This week, Studio Ghibli provided a series of background images from their movies that can be used in online conference calls or podcasts. Eight backgrounds are currently available with more to follow in the coming weeks. I have posted four, and the others can be found by clicking on the above link.
Ghibli also posted the following notes (courtesy of Google Translate):

It is provided for the purpose of being used by individuals as a background for Web / TV conference applications such as telecommuting, teleworking, and distance learning. It cannot be used for commercial purposes or for advertising of companies or products. 
If you would like to introduce us, please use the information and links on this site. Please refrain from redistributing the image data yourself. 
When using it, you can change the image size and adjust the trimming to fit the Web / TV conference application.

Ghiblioteque Studio Ghibli Poll is Open


Ghibliotheque, the excellent podcast dedicated to all things Ghibli, is currently running a poll of the studio's best movies. Simply click on the link below to participate and cast your votes. Good luck!

Ghibliotheque Studio Ghibli Poll

Update (5/11): To the surprise of absolutely no one, Spirited Away won the poll. I could have told everyone that and saved all the trouble. 

2020-04-06

2nd Anniversary of Isao Takahata's Passing


April 5 marks the second anniversary since the passing of animation legend and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata. His loss continues to be profound, but we are blessed with a career of animated masterworks that span five decades. His work will stand the test of time and his legend will continue to grow.

In the United States, all of Takahata's Studio Ghibli features are available on DVD and Blu-Ray, courtesy of GKIDS. Of the pre-Ghibli period, Lupin the 3rd: The Complete First TV Series is available on DVD, and Horus, Prince of the Sun is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, all courtesy of Discotek Media.

The titles yet to be released on our shores include Heidi, Girl of the Alps, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (aka Marco), Anne of Green Gables, Jarinko Chie, Gauche the Cellist and The Story of Yanagawa Waterways. In addition, the 2003 anthology film Winter Days, of which Takahata contributed one segment, remains exclusive to Japan. Fan translations for all of these works do exist and can be downloaded online or seen on YouTube (visit the Videos sections for more details). The DVD and Blu-Ray for Gauche does include English subtitles, so you are welcome to import.

Much thanks to Studio Ghibli Weblog for their image of Takahata with his anime characters. Don't forget to visit their site and share with friends and family!

2020-04-03

Animal Crossing Meets Studio Ghibli







Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the newest installment in Nintendo's beloved series of cartoon virtual communities, where you move into a small town, build a house and spend your days and nights running errands, catching fish, growing trees and making arts and crafts. Its world is an idyllic rural dreamscape where you can relax, chat with friends, share fabric patterns and chase fireflies.

Studio Ghibli makes a perfect match for this laid-back videogame, and it's a joy to see fans bring the two worlds together. I found a sampling of screenshots from Animal Crossing that show off players' Ghibli creations, including costumes, flags and paintings. Some have even recreated the characters from the movies themselves, as shown in these photos. It's cute, it's fun and it's the perfect remedy for  the continuing quarantine.

So consider that your homework assignment: stay indoors, play videogames and create some Ghibli artwork to share with others.

2020-04-02

Ghibli Park Reveals New Concept Drawings

Progress on the highly anticipated Studio Ghibli theme park in Japan are proceeding rapidly. In February, Ghibli Park, Inc., a joint venture between the studio and newspaper Chunichi Shinbun, revealed new conceptual drawings and details of the park.

The Ghibli Park will incorporate several large sections inspired by the studio's movies such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. The illustrations reveal details of the Ghibli Large Warehouse (Ghibli no Daisoko) and Youth Area (Seishun no Oka).



This first illustration depicts a shopping street in the Warehouse district, inspired by the theme park shown at the beginning of Spirited Away. Cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops will be found here.



This second drawing shows two large buildings: a blue one that will be used to host permanent exhibitions, and a yellow one that will house a 170-seat theater.




This third and fourth illustrations depict Youth Hill, a large forest area that will include a Cat's Office, inspired by the kingdom of cats in The Cat Returns. It will also feature a tall, Western-styled building inspired by Castle in the Sky and Howl's Moving Castle, as well as the Ghibli Museum.

These two areas, plus the third area, Dodonko Forest, will be completed in time for the park's grand opening in the fall of 2021. Two additional areas will be completed and open to the public in the following year.

Ghibli Park is expected to receive one million visitors in its first year, then 1.8 million the following year once all sections are opened. Construction began in 2019 with a budget of 31 billion Yen ($287 million), plus an additional 3 billion Yen ($27.78 million) for planning and conception.

Ghibli Blog's Greatest Hits: The Top Nine Articles


Since Ghibli Blog is now beginning its 15th season, I wanted to celebrate by taking a look at this website's top nine articles. These are the most popular posts based on page views and are based on current stats. Let's take a look at our greatest hits and the stories behind them:


1. Mononoke Hime (1980) - The Original Miyazaki Book (2008)

This post originally posted translated pages of the 1980 Mononoke Hime book that composed of storyboards for an unrealized animation project. This post sat unnoticed for three years until an article on io9 brought a lot of new traffic. Internet forums and message boards soon joined in, and word of Miyazaki's storybook spread far and wide. In 2014, Viz Media announced that they would publish the Mononoke book in the US, and so I deleted most of the pages on my post, leaving a sample of pages and encouraging readers to buy the new book.

Was Ghibli Blog responsible for making that happen? Eh, probably not, but who knows?


2. Totoro is Not the God of Death (2007)

I read about a conspiracy theory floating around Japan that My Neighbor Totoro is actually a horror movie based on a real-life massacre of two children. In this telling, Totoro is a gruesome "God of Death" who functions like a fuzzy Grim Reaper who carries children to their graves. I wrote this post to gently debunk the idea. As the conspiracy meme swept the internet, my post was used as a handy rebuttal.

Unfortunately, the "Sayama Incident" conspiracy theory refused to die, which led me to writing a more forceful rebuttal ten years later. Even Studio Ghibli was forced to make a public statement debunking the meme.


3. BREAKING: Disney to Acquire Studio Ghibli in 2014, Takahata and Miyazaki to Retire (2013)

This was my great April Fools joke on Ghibli Blog, and it caused panic attacks from fans throughout the world. And the best part is that they remained scared after realizing it was a prank. Comments continued through the following April. The illustration was not created by me, but found online. I never knew who drew it, but it looks terrific and the joke could never have worked without it.


4. "This Page Intentionally Left Blank" (2011)

This was the Downloads page, one of the main menu items on the site. I posted links to movie and television downloads, largely Toei Doga and Pre-Ghibli works. Most of the links pointed to an anime fan site called Baka BT. A few years ago, they completely shut down their torrent downloads and have closed all new memberships to their forum.

In 2015, I closed everything down and just left the page blank. I didn't want to cause any trouble, definitely didn't want to be tagged as a "pirate" website. And so the page is now blank and unlisted.


5. Ghibli Museum Sketching Set - Miyazaki Teaches You How to Paint (2015)

This informative post shared details of a paint set that was sold at the Ghibli Museum in Japan. Created under Hayao Miyazaki's personal supervision, this set included a set of 24 watercolor paints and a full-color comic drawn by the director who teaches you how to paint, offering several examples of his own work. Ghibli Freaks familiar with Heidi and the House Foods commercials that appear on Ghibli ga Ippai Short Short.

This post remains one of the most popular on Ghibli Blog to this day, which is great. I'm happy to share useful little gems such as this. Somebody ought to produce that paint set in the West!


6. What's the Deal With the Disney Princesses? (2011)

A short, snarky post featuring a cool cut-and-paste collage asking hard questions of all the famed "Disney Princesses" that were enormously popular among children and Disney fans. This is one of those quick bits that I'd zip out in five minutes, mostly as a lark and never deserving more than five seconds' attention. So, naturally, the internet grabbed it and ran wild for months.

It did spark a fascinating discussion about gender roles in Disney cartoons, both pro and con, and I think that's a good thing.


7. Heidi, Girl of the Alps Arrives on Blu-Ray (2012)

The arrival of the magnificent Blu-Ray box set of the landmark 1974 anime classic sparked interest from international fans, many of whom grew up watching Heidi and similar anime shows as children. This is a good example of a solid news article that connects with readers, and it demonstrates the popularity of Heidi around the world. This Blu-Ray set really ought to be released globally, but I fear the legal costs surrounding broadcast rights and dubbed soundtracks make this all but impossible.


8. Studio Ghibli Blu-Rays (Japan) - 2012 Holiday Edition

Another informative news post, this time showing the then-growing library of Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray releases in Japan. These discs came packaged in cardboard cases and included color booklets and postcards of the original movie posters. At the time, very few Ghibli movies were available in the West on Blu-Ray or DVD, leading diehard fans to import shops to pay a premium price for the expensive JP discs.

Today, all of Ghibli's theatrical features are now available on Blu-Ray, courtesy of our friends at GKIDS. Back in 2012, we weren't nearly so lucky. Heck, I remember importing DVDs back in 2005 before anybody knew any of these movies existed. How times have changed.


9. Studio Ghibli Feature Film Blu-Rays (2012)

This article was published in January 2012, whereas the previous article appeared in December. Once again, we see images of all the Studio Ghibli movies released on Blu-Ray in Japan, all of which look and sound fantastic and beat the pants off anything Disney was doing. At the time this article posted, Japan had eight movies on BD, while the US had only two. And those two, Nausicaa and Ponyo, both had problems with picture or sound that irritated fans.

Have I mentioned lately how much we all love GKIDS for their glorious treatment of Studio Ghibli? Go buy all their Blu-Rays as quickly as possible!

2020-04-01

Happy 14th Birthday to Ghibli Blog



A nice (and slightly belated) happy birthday to Ghibli Blog, which launched in late March, 2006. Here's a photo of a really cool Totoro-themed cake.

I spent most of today doing the annual spring cleaning, updating the links and content in the Reviews, Library and Videos sections so that everything is current.

Finally, this website has now surpassed five million page views. Hooray!

Toei Doga Movie Trailers: From Hakujaden to Sinbad




A YouTube member named Kenshiro Minami has posted a video compilation of trailers for the first six Toei Doga animated feature films. This is a terrific find that I am happy to share with you.

As we all know, Toei Doga was the leading animation studio in Japan's postwar years, growing into a powerhouse that trained, educated and inspired an entire generation of animators. Nearly every famous anime artist or director from the 1970s and 1980s got their start at "Toei University." And that includes Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki and their many friends with whom they crafted so many classic films and television shows.

The movies featured in this compilation include: Hakujaden (1958), Shonen Sarutobe Sasuke (1959), Saiyuki (1960), Anju to Zuzhiomaru (1961), The Adventures of Sinbad (1962) and Wanpaku Oji no Orochi Taiji (1963).

All of these movies were given limited theatrical release in the US, usually with a change in title, all-star cast and the addition of new musical numbers. These are interesting historical curios that are worth checking out, and are available on VHS and LaserDisc. Alakazam the Great (aka Saiyuki) was even released on Netflix and Amazon Video.

Of course, none of these Westernized variants are anywhere as good as the Japanese originals, which stand as true animated classics of a bygone era, as good as animated classics from Russia, France and America. They remain almost entirely unknown, and only a small number of titles were released outside of Japan on DVD. In Japan, Toei is only now beginning to open the vaults for complete restorations on Blu-Ray, but only for a select few.

In the States, only three Toei Doga films were released on DVD, all by Discotek: Horus, Prince of the Sun, Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island. The latter two are now out-of-print and highly collectible, while Horus has also been released on Blu-Ray.

The first six Toei Doga features represent an era of complete creative freedom and dominance. In 1963, manga legend Osamu Tezuka, who collaborated on Saiyuki, Anju and Sinbad, founded his own animation studio called Mushi Productions and moved into television, sweeping in the TV anime era with Tetsuon Atom, aka Astro Boy. The winds of change were sweeping through the industry, and before long, nothing would ever be the same again.

2020-03-31

Hayao Miyazaki's Eulogy of Isao Takahata (English Subs)




It's hard to believe that Isao Takahata has been gone for nearly two years. His presence and impact found in his work continues to shine and inspire us, and will continue to do so for many years to come. But his loss is equally profound and will always linger in our hearts.

At the public memorial service at the Ghibli Museum, Hayao Miyazaki offers a touching tribute to his lifelong friend, colleague and rival, offering a couple personal anecdotes from their days at Toei Doga in the 1960s. We still feel the emotional weight of his words.

More Ghibli Blog Posts To Discover