Everything is Going to be Fine

Reader Joe Leonard wrote this comment on the blog, and it was so useful that I decided I had to give it, and my response, a proper post. Enjoy:

This is pretty embarassing, but, well, trying to look at the big picture:

1. Lasseter has obviously pushing hard for Ponyo to do well in the US. They really want Miyazaki and Ghibli to be more mainstream, and not something for just the anime kids and art scene crowd.

2. They can use this in ads, use it for exposure on the Disney Channel and on Kid Disney radio. I'm guessing from the comment you linked to earlier that this is already in effect.

3. Kids will eat this up and love it to pieces. Kids are dumb.

4. The song will get kids excited for Ponyo, who will then beg their parents to go see it.

5. A horrible bastardization of a silly folksy tune into an in-your-face pop song complete with robot voice auto-tune effect will therefore be the gateway drug for lots of kids and parents to Studio Ghibli. A case of the ends justifying the means to be sure, but, well, what can you do. This is America.

Keep in mind at this point we're not even completely sure if this will be used in the film proper. If it is, it'll probably be contained to just the credits, which while still unfortunate, doesn't matter that much in the long run.

Here is my response:

That's the smartest insight I've read on the subject. Thanks for helping to keep my head attached.

It also helps that there's a large and violent thunderstorm outside my window this evening. After the third lightning strike right outside my window, I find my outrage meter has been properly reset. So many things in life are never worth getting upset over.

You may be right about the kid appeal. I've been struck by the numbers of kids on Youtube and Twitter who want to swarm to the malls to see Ponyo because the celebrity kids are in it. "Gateway Drug" may be the smartest metaphor yet.

Reflecting on this, I think this episode exposes a rift of tension between Disney and the Ghibli Freaks, one that has been there for many years. We must be careful not to view their treatment of Ponyo through the lens of past disappointments. There are several new players involved in this drama, and we must give them the proper chance to succeed.

This is my own advice to myself, and I hope it proves helpful to everyone else if needed.

BAM!! There's the fourth massive lightning strike. BAM!! Number my eyes are temporarily blinded from the lightning flash (hese are 100 yards away from my living room window). I can't believe I was ever upset at another human being for anything, ever. Why are people throwing tantrums about health care in town meetings again? Vanity of vanities, a chasing after the winds.


Anonymous said...

they had better not use that abomination in the movie part of the movie

Anonymous said...

Miyazaki basically had the final say in anything, and I'd like to think that he wouldn't let something like that get into the actual film. I guess we'll see next week

Joe Leonard said...

Oh, wow. Glad you liked my comment so much, quite the honor! Of course now that it's on the main page the typos and other mistakes stick out like a sore thumb to me. ;) But really, thanks! Been following your blog for a few months now, always a good read.

BionicVapourDude said...

You had me until you wrote, "kids are dumb."

Kids are not dumb, mainstream America just feels the need to treat them that way.

I just think that if they had just used the original song with those Disney kids singing, it still would've been popular with the moppet crowd.

Totally unnecessary and insulting. Period.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Ahh, please don't compare this fake computer-manufactured pop "music" to the Muppets. The Muppets were cool, heheheh ....hmm, maybe this is the excuse I need to post some Sesame Street clips on the Ghibli Blog?

Anyway, being smart and not stupid isn't something that just happens to you. You have to learn and develop critical thinking skills. Looking at the adult population in this society, I'd say most grownups are failing miserably at that task. American Idol...fake Auto-Tuned "music"...movies with nothing but CGI explosions...right wing talk radio...grown adults throwing temper tantrums about birth certificates...

Primus was wrong. We aren't sailing the seas of cheese; we're drowning in an ocean of stupid.

BionicVapourDude said...

"moppet", not "muppet"

It's just a term which means a young kid.

I agree with what you say, but I guess my point is if you give kids more credit from an early age, don't talk down to them, and treat them like they're stupid, maybe that's the first step in having an adult society that is not a bunch of nimrods?

Not to say that having a non-offensive Ponyo song would achieve all this, but hey, it's a first step!

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Ah! I was thinking Muppet. Or maybe some cheap ripoff version. I was really thinking of that Simpson's episode where Troy McClure is in a cheesy Muppet movie:

Homer: Well, they're not a mop...and they're not a puppet...but heh heh heh heh"

Speaking of the intelligence of the adult population here in America, check out Bill Maher's New Rules this week. Oof!

BionicVapourDude said...

Cool, I'll check it out.

Did you ever see the South Park episode, "The Ring".

It's a brutal lampooning of all things Disney.

Required viewing!

Joe Leonard said...


I think Daniel put it nicely, but just to explain: I was really just oversimplifying things to be funny. I know kids are often smarter than we credit for, and back in my own younger days I always enjoyed more the shows and movies that didn't talk down to me.

However, when it comes to just overall wisdom, life experience, and taste, kids... well, they have a lot of room to grow. ;) I myself remember how long it was before I developed my own taste in music. Likewise, for kids these days, this song is exactly what they've been told by the media "good music" sounds like, so they'll totally go for it.

So, you're right, maybe saying "kids are dumb" is a poor choice. They just don't know any better.

serhei said...

@Anonymous, your fears of being subjected to the techno version of the theme song seem likely to me. It doesn't seem likely that Disney would go to the trouble of doing what is, in someone's mind at least, a lavish reimagining of the original song just for viral marketing. I don't really know how the Disney starlet thing works these days, it might be that the whole thing was just to satisfy Miley Cyrus' and Frankie Jonas' egos? I seriously don't know. I personally will be looking forward to having a hip, techno version of Ponyo whack me upside the head on Friday.

Let's look at this song fiasco in perspective. Unless the ending of the movie is in some specific way unamenable to being juxtaposed with Jonas Brothers music (I have my own reasons to be particularly interested in how this movie will end) this might just serve as a reminder to some of the Ghibli newcomers in the audience of just how much better what they saw is when compared to the cultural baseline. I assume the audience will be able to tell the difference between a Miyazaki movie and a Bonus Jonas musical performance, and conclude that these things have come from different universes and are stuck together on the movie reel by a strange accident of movie production. (What else would you conclude if you saw e.g. Spirited Away and then at the end, out of nowhere, pop music instead of the actual Spirited Away ending theme? Clearly these two things would have absolutely nothing to do with one another.) This would be a reminder that is beaten into you with a blunt instrument, true, but I'm hoping.

Conversely, I'm afraid that a number of the kids who are just clamoring to see Ponyo because they're bedazzled by the postprocessed music of Frankie Jonas are going to come with their expectations skewed towards... whatever movies fit into the Jonas Brothers cultural milieu. And then they're going to miss a lot of the good stuff while they adjust.

serhei said...

Oh, and regarding the 'kids are dumb' thing, really, it's supremely ironic how a movie made by a studio which tells stories governed by a hypothesis that kids are anything but dumb is now being marketed with tactics that are going to work mostly on kids who are being fairly dumb. Luring them into the theater to tell them that they really have no reason to be that dumb?

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

For the record, this type of Disney Channel Auto-Tune product is not Techno. I have a cousin who's a musician and DJ, and the thought of being compared to schlock like this would probably lead to fisticuffs.

This isn't even music, really, and it says something about the state of today's music industry that this sort of manufactured, formulaic product - and that is all this is - can be packaged and sold to the masses so easily. Between the American Idolizing of pop music, the reach of the Disney empire, the hypnotic power of Republican talk radio, and the pull of fundamentalist religion around the globe.... it becomes very difficult to argue that human beings are intelligent creatures. Julian Janes may be more right than he realized.

One must cultivate curiosity and a willingness to question authority. As a proper antidote, I warmly recommend a decent turntable and some great jazz music. Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and Marvin Gaye's What's Goin On have been in my heavy rotation all week.

Great comments from everybody on this matter.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@Serehi: Knowledge is Power. This is the oldest rule of human civilizations. As Terence McKenna observed, this is about who will remain on top, and who will remain stupid. Heirarchies and institutions have always been organized around that idea - control, power, dominance.

This episode illustrates, in its small way, a larger fact of life: Culture Is Not Your Friend.

Is it any coincidence that Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata were '60s radicals? Their democratic and socialist ideals greatly inform their work, and you can point to any number of movies for examples.

In that sense, Ponyo is a trojan horse. It is cultural subversion of the highest order. And don't doubt for a second that John Lasseter isn't aware of that. Everything that happens in the Disney soundtrack must go through him.

Geoff N said...

I have seen more TV spots for Ponyo in the last 2 days then I did for Howl's and Spirited Away combined. Also, I didn't even see any Spirited Away TV spots until after it won the Oscar.

Clearly this was the film Disney was hoping for when they struck the deal with Ghibli. They wanted another film in the mold of"Kiki's" or "Totoro", or at least something they perceive as the same.

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