Monday, March 06, 2006

Hayao Miyazaki

Academy award winner Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest living directors and the force behind Studio Ghibli, the premier animation production company in Japan.

Miyazaki has been making brilliant films since the early 1980s, but only his most recent movies have had theatrical releases in the US. I saw both Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle in the theater, but over the past several months I have been catching up with his older films with this DVD box set from Hong Kong. (My thanks to Stephen for the long-term loan!)

Miyazaki’s creations are beautifully animated and scored, and they often feature strong, young female characters, magical creatures and fanciful flying machines. Miyazaki is master storyteller, and he weaves environmentalism, Shintoism and pacifism themes into the fabric of his films. They are perfect for children (and feature a mythology complex enough to challenge adults), but as I have been watching the original Japanese with subtitles (not so good for kids) I was unaware that there were dubbed versions as well.

Disney, in partnership with Studio Ghibli, has been producing DVDs for the US market that contain both the original Japanese language soundtracks and newly dubbed English soundtracks. After several delays, the final three in the Miyazaki catalog will be released tomorrow:

Howl's Moving CastleHowl’s Moving Castle (2004) (dvd: 3/7/2006) (trailer) (directed by Miyazaki)
Whisper of the Heart (1995) (dvd: 3/7/2006) (written by Miyazaki)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988) (dvd: 3/7/2006)

The previous DVDs with dual soundtracks are:

Whisper of the HeartSpirited Away (2001) (Disney) (dvd: 4/15/2003) (trailer)*
Princess Mononoke (1997) (dvd: 12/19/2000) (Miramax)*
Porco Rosso (1992) (dvd: 2/22/2005) (Disney)
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) (dvd: 4/15/2003) (Disney)
Castle in the Sky (1986) (dvd: 4/15/2003) (Disney)*
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1985) (dvd: 2/22/2005) (Disney)*

All of the movies are written and directed by Miyazaki (except where noted) and they are wonderful. Although they are not directly comparable, the quality of Miyazaki's work equals Disney at its finest. An * marks my favorites, an assessment The Cartoon Network evidently agrees as they will air these four Miyazaki classics over the next month:

My Neighbor Totoro (2-Disc Set)Spirited Away - March 18
Princess Mononoke - March 25
Castle in the Sky - April 1
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind - April 8

Set your Tivo’s and fill up your Netflix queues as these are all highly recommended. And, don't be surpirised when you hear a few famous voices. Phil Hartman, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Keaton, Anna Paquin and many others play characters on the Disney DVDs.

Bonus link 1: an excellent fan site with a synopsis, script, reviews and FAQs for each Studio Ghibli film
Bonus link 2: a trailer for Tales from Earthsea, Miyazaki’s newest project


At 12:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great suggestions! Totoro and Kiki are wonderful for smaller children since they are not scary at all. Castle in the Sky is a masterpiece. Watch them all if you can.


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