Viz Media to Release "The Art of Princess Mononoke" - Is a Disney Blu-Ray Coming Soon?
Viz Media announced this week that, in addition to publishing Hayao Miyazaki's 1980 Mononoke Hime (based on a series of image boards for an unrealized animation project), they will be publishing "The Art of Princess Mononoke," as part of the continuing Studio Ghibli art book series. The book will arrive in bookstores this October.
This release will officially replace the long out-of-print edition published by Miramax, "Princess Mononoke: The Art and Making of Japan's Most Popular Film of All Time." That book was also based on Ghibli's official art book. I haven't seen that edition in many years, so I cannot remember if there were any exclusive pages or essays that won't appear in Viz Media's edition. We'll just have to wait and see.
And now for the larger question: Does the publication of two Mononoke Hime-themed books mean Disney is planning to release the Blu-Ray edition of the film? It was released in Japan just in time for Christmas last year (along with The Cat Returns the Favor/Ghiblies Episode 2), and should be arriving around the world in due course. Unfortunately, as we all know, the relationship between Studio Ghibli and Disney over this film was rocky and contentious. It's never a good sign when the studio boss wakes up to find a loaded weapon in his mailbox.
When Miramax split from Disney, they took Princess Mononoke with them, as they were the official distributor in the US. It appeared the rights would be lost in legal limbo; fortunately, Disney quietly reacquired those rights a couple years ago, and reissued the DVD, with the blue-and-gold label. This was done with almost no fanfare, and, probably don't even know this release even exists. Heck, I didn't know about it until I saw a copy at Barnes & Noble's last year.
When Disney signed a distribution deal with Studio Ghibli, they were interested in Hayao Miyazaki's children's movies like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. The last thing they ever expected from the Japanese filmmaker was a bloody and brutally violent Ford-Kurosawa epic. In a society where animation exists almost solely as "the electric babysitter," Princess Mononoke came as a shock, and relations between the two parties were notably damaged, until Pixar's John Lasseter came to the rescue in 2002.
On the Blu-Ray front, Disney in the US has fallen so far behind Japan and the rest of the world, I've all but given up hope. They have little interest in selling movies that don't sell in this country, especially when Disney holds no merchandising or character rights ("where the real money from the movie is made.") And the box office returns for The Wind Rises are absolutely dreadful. And so there is very little demand, or interest, by either Disney or the general public.
The two new Mononoke books give hope that we'll see the Blu-Ray on our shores. On that topic, I'll move the dial from "Never in a Million Years" to "Maybe." For our side, I'll count that as a win.