Poster - The Secret World of Arrietty (US)
Hey, I like this poster. I like it a lot.
As you can see, Disney has released the movie poster for Karigurashi no Arrietty, in anticipation if its February 17, 2012 theatrical release. They've stayed quiet on the subject for many months, and as the US continues to fall further and further behind on Studio Ghibli's Blu-Ray releases, the fans have remained hopeful, if a little worried.
When I look at the poster, I'm struck by the rich color tones and dynamic composition. With an iconic simplicity, you understand what this movie is about and why you should care. It seems to fit into the Disney universe, even though, of course, it comes from Studio Ghibli. Indeed, I suspect that most families who see this poster will conclude that it's Disney's latest animation feature. Notice how little attention is paid to Ghibli; no mention of its director, or even the name Hayao Miyazaki (who, after all, delivered the script and image boards). Fascinating!
This is a welcome surprise for me, personally, and I think it's a smart move. As we all know, it's damn near impossible to get Americans to attend a foreign film, and doubly so for animation. Ponyo fought with tooth and claw just to earn $10 million at the box office, and that was a record. The sad truth is that, unless you're associated with one of the major "brand names" (Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks), your animation movie won't go anywhere.
This, to me, reflects the design decisions on Disney's Arrietty poster. The title itself neatly evokes memories of "The Wonderful World of Disney," the fonts have that nice, magical quality, even the colors appear more saturated in the American style. This does not appear to be an anime film at all.
Now notice the use of lighting and color on the boy's face and the objects in the frame. Doesn't this almost appear to look like...CGI? All of the objects - the sugar cube, the jars, the books - look like computer models and not drawn by hand. Arrietty, of course, is 100% hand-drawn and in 2D, now that Miyazaki has scuttled Ghibli's computer graphics department.
Animation lovers loathe to hear it, but the numbers are undeniable: traditional 2D animation doesn't sell in the United States. It's the computer-animated look of Pixar and Dreamworks that sells today, to studio bosses and audiences alike. Even Disney's The Princess and the Frog failed to meet expectations (don't worry, they'll make gobs of money on that franchise). If you want to sell an animated movie these days, especially one without a merchandising empire to build a fan base, then this is the challenge you must face. This tells me that Disney is committed to bring Arrietty to the mainstream.
Arrietty is an important Studio Ghibli movie because it marks the beginning of the post-Hayao Miyazaki era. How will Ghibli fare without its legendary founder? Can the new generation of directors carry the torch? What will become of Ghibli's relations with Western distributors? And, most of all, what about Disney? Will Disney continue to support the studio, a Ghibli without Miyazaki, or would they conclude that they really only wanted Totoro and Kiki, and it's time to move on?
I think Disney is showing their commitment to the studio, not the man, and that's a very welcome sign. It bodes well for the future. I think Arrietty has the potential to become a hit in the States, a goal that remains frustratingly elusive. Studio Ghibli deserves more than a cult following in the US. It deserves top tier, blockbuster status. Disney appears to agree, and they're going to try once again to reach that goal. All of these elements point in this direction. Good jaerb!