Heidi and Marco Retail Links Updated

I finally updated the links to the Taiwan box sets for Heidi and Marco.  The Taiwan site,, changed their web domains, and that's why the old links no longer worked.  No worries, both series, and many other World Masterpiece Theatre productions, are available for sale.

Once again, to remind everyone, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother does include English subtitles.  Heidi, Girl of the Alps does not include subtitles.  The odds of any Western release, unfortunately, remain slim to none.  The costs involved with scoring an English-language soundtrack with a full cast would be too expensive.  Maybe we should mail a Marco DVD box set to John Lasseter?  Anyone have the mailing address? Heh heh...

Green Mustard (Wasabi Anime) Top 10 Anime Survey

Green Mustard (Wasabi Anime) has opened voting for their 2010 poll of the "Top Ten Anime."  Voting is open to everyone, and will continue until June 1, 2010.  Plenty of time to get in your votes.  You know what to do.....

It's a foregone conclusion that this survey will be skewered to more recent anime, since these are the American fans.  How many have seen more than one Toei Doga classic?  How many have actually seen an episode of Heidi or Marco?  That's more of a question of exposure than anything else, and while the internet has made greater access possible (think back to the good 'ol days of tape trading), much of Japan's animation history remains to be fully discovered.

Top 10 Greatest Anime Ever Survey


The Borrowers Teaser Trailer

Here is Studio Ghibli's teaser trailer for The Borrowers. This really looks magnificent - Kazuo Oga's impressionist paintings are always a wonderful sight. Very interesting that this movie returns to the "classic" Ghibli style, and not Ponyo's storybook watercolor approach. Perhaps that newer style will be more exclusive to Miyazaki's films? It's a great testament to these skilled artists that Studio Ghibli can showcase so many different artistic styles.

Obviously, I would love to see The Borrowers in American theatres this year or next. That's probably unlikely, but everything should depend on Disney's internal expectations for Ponyo's US theatrical run, as well as next month's DVD/BD releases. Sounds like a good incentive to buy multiple copies of the new DVDs, hmm?

Video - Karigurashi no Arrietty on Japan TV

Here are a pair of videos of Japanese television teasing out more information on Studio Ghibli's newest feature film, Karigurashi no Arrietty (The Borrowers).  I'm afraid my Japanese has never been good enough to really translate what's being said, but perhaps our more fluent friends can help. Enjoy!


Ponyo Arrives in UK Theatres

At long last, Ponyo is now playing in theatres across the UK.  I know you've all been waiting for months and months, and now you'll finally enjoy Hayao Miyazaki's latest.

The UK reviews are in and are very favorable.  I have a roundup of the latest reviews.  Feel free to use this as your all-purpose Ponyo thread.  Have you seen the movie yet?  When are you planning to go?  What were your impressions?  Did Miyazaki live up to the hype?

Financial Times (4 stars): Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo is absurdly delightful, a prestidigitation of line and colour from the Japanese animator-director of Spirited Away. A fish with a little girl’s face spreads delight in a coastal village. We recognise, if we want, a fable about art’s power to enchant and the storyteller as epiphanic visitor.

London Evening Standard (4 stars): Hayao Miyazaki, the brilliant Japanese animator of Princess Mononoke and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, is never afraid to mix naturalistic detail with out-and-out fantasy, which is why this children's film, hand-drawn throughout, appears so original and charming.

Times Online (4 stars): The underwater scenes are as rich and teeming as Miyazaki’s boundless imagination; little Ponyo in her human form, joyfully wobbling around on her newly sprouted legs, is a pure delight.

Guardian UK (4 stars): Miyazaki's is a gentle narrative art, but with ­moments of ambiguity and strangeness: I loved Ponyo's face looming up to that of a crying baby: a silent moment held just long enough to be disturbing. This film will be loved by those who admire the intricacy and power of his Howl's Moving Castle and the great Spirited Away. It is an arresting work from an unmistakable film-making personality.

The Independent (3 stars): No animator captures the movement of tides and the deep physics of the sea as lyrically as Miyazaki, and the story's themes of rejuvenation and ecological balance carry a highly topical edge. It is difficult nonetheless to get involved in its slightly bland characterisations – my inner child had got quite restless by the end.


Totoro Cameo Appearance in Toy Story 3

Totoro Cameo Appearance in Toy Story 3

Look who has a cameo in the upcoming Toy Story 3...

Yeeehh!!  This is a massive surprise.  I honestly never expected to see Totoro or any Studio Ghibli character in a Pixar movie.  This will bring the Ghibli Freaks out in droves.  Of course, we were going to show up in droves, anyway...


The Oscar Nominations Are In - Up is In, Ponyo is Snubbed

82nd Academy Awards Nominees

I'm sure everybody has had a chance to look over this morning's Oscar nominations.  It's a pretty good list overall, but I'm reminded of the Simpson's episode where Homer is recruited as a NASA astronaut and launched into space.  "Get the rating" seems to be the mantra.

And if Hollywood wanted an Oscar drama to bring in the viewers, hoo boy, they got it.  James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, divorced couple, in the lead for most nominations, for Best Director and Best Picture?  It smacks of calculation, but it just may work.  The expansion to ten Best Picture nominees was another attempt to attract viewers, and we can see an effort to pick movies outside of the art-house circuit.

Roger Ebert observes that the five Best Director films are the "serious" Best Picture nominees, the real contenders, and I'll have to agree with him.  It's not that I expected Pixar's Up to be a credible contender; we're just happy to be nominated.

I do think the push for Avatar speaks more for Hollywood's desperation to sell expensive 3D movies than anything.  Is Avatar really worthy of nine nominations?  Is it really one of the year's best movies?  I find that very hard to swallow.  In all fairness, I have to see this movie, but it's not the kind of movie I'd want to see.  Special effects blockbusters with video game graphics are not my thing.  I need more than sugar in my diet.  But I'll go watch one of these days and give it a fair chance.  Maybe it won't feel like an Xbox version of Dances With Wolves (ugh).

Now let's get to the Animation categories.  First, congratulations to Pixar for Up's Best Picture nomination.  Hollywood has now officially apologized for snubbing Wall-E.  I hope this bodes well for animation, and that it inspires studios to move beyond the safe boundaries of summer roller coaster rides and family formulas.

Now to Best Animation Feature.  Ponyo wuz robbed.  Boo!!  That's an unacceptable omission, and either reflects the Motion Picture Academy's ignorance of animation, or bias against foreign movies.  Perhaps they feel that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli received their praises for the Spirited Away Oscar, and that's enough.  More "statement" awards.  I'm really tired of that.  It's as though everybody gets a nomination or a statue just for hanging around long enough.  This year, it's your turn.  Next year it's theirs.

I'll pull out this argument when Sandra Bullock wins over Meryl Streep.  Sorry, but some film artists simply dominate, and that should be acknowledged.

Nominations for Best Animation Feature: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, and Up.  Pixar is the easy favorite, as always.  There is a possibility, however, that the Academy will consider Up's Best Picture nod to be "their award" this year, and hand this Oscar to someone else.  I think Coraline could be a fan favorite, as it's a clever and charming movie that's skillfully hand-crafted.  Fantastic Mr. Fox is a critic's favorite, but its appeal is limited.  It's happy to be nominated.  Disney could win for Princess and the Frog.  That would be a plus for hand-drawn animation, but wouldn't that be a lazy win?  Will it be seen as a box-office disappointment, of an overlooked classic?

Secret of Kells is the real shocker.  I didn't expect this at all.  I'm not even sure if it played in the Twin Cities.  Another win for hand-drawn animation; in fact, this is a very solid collection of films.  It shows the diversity of the animation artform, its vitality and creativity.

Still, Secret of Kells snuck in like some lucky wild card team.  Ponyo deserved that spot.  Hell, Ponyo deserved a Best Picture nod alongside Up, but that's an old speech of mine, and it's all water under the bridge.  Life continues.

Up was also nominated for Music (Original Score), and I think they're the clear winner.  Michael Giacchino brought the film to life, especially the emotionally-charged opening act.  It's a beautiful score, reminiscent of Fellini's movies.  The only possibility of an upset is if Avatar sweeps everything - and remember, Hollywood is desperate to sell us on 3D movies and 3D televisions.  It's the battle between art and commerce.

Finally, Up received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and as a writer, I'm glad to see Pixar recognized for their work.  Far too many animated movies are nothing more than video game demos, roller coaster rides.  Pixar has wisely focused on the essentials of storytelling, focused on the craft of filmmaking, and that's why they're where they are today.  The competition is too fierce in this category, so I couldn't expect a Pixar win.  It's good to be nominated.

Don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to this year's Oscars.  This should be fun.  Just don't let Cameron walk away with everything.  Please let there be some surprises for once.


Princess and the Frog Finally Reaches $100 Million

This has to be a disappointment, and, frankly, I'm surprised.  Disney's The Princess and the Frog has finally reached the $100 million mark in its ninth week.  For such a high profile movie - the return of Disney feature animation - this is just a shock.

I haven't seen this movie yet, but in all honesty, I haven't been to the movies since Ponyo back in August.  I just haven't had the time or money.  Besides, a Disney fairy tale isn't exactly my angle (I'd rather watch documentaries and spin Miles Davis records); but I did expect this movie to be a big hit with families, and that doesn't appear to have happened.

Disney has now released two hand-drawn animation films - Ponyo, Princess and the Frog - to great critical acclaim, but tepid support at the box office.  Is there a rational explanation for this?  Could things have played out differently?  How much did Alvin & the Chipmunks and James Cameron's Avatar influence matters?  Perhaps in this economy, there just wasn't enough money to go around.

My concern is that executives will see this as further evidence that the public is no longer interested in hand-drawn animation.  Disney's next feature, Rapunzel, is GCI, and that's a telling sign.  Princess and the Frog was a return to Disney's roots, but it was also a risky experiment.  It was like Chaplin's City Lights and Modern Times, silent film masterpieces in the age of sound.  Between Pixar and Avatar, it will be very tempting for business minds to pull the plug on traditional animation entirely.  I hope that doesn't come to pass.

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