The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun is Coming to America!

At last!  The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun, the 1968 anime masterpiece, is coming to America!  Discotek Media made the announcement yesterday on their Facebook page.  No further details have yet been announced, including title, cover design, source material (Blu-Ray or DVD?), bonus supplements, retail price, or even a release date.  I promise that as soon as I learn anything important, I will share the news with you.

Discotek Media has previously released three Toei Doga animated features: Puss in Boots (1969), Animal Treasure Island (1971), and Taro the Dragon Boy (1976).  I remain hopeful that more of Toei's classic animated features could arrive on our shores.  And Horus is the most important title of the lot.

Horus, Prince of the Sun has been a special passion of mine ever since I first watched it in 2005, when the UK DVD (a poor, third-rate release) and fansub (a far better choice) were released.  It's a film I champion as a masterpiece - "The Citizen Kane of Anime" - and believe that it deserves a proper release here in the States.  I am already neck-deep in design notes for the supplemental materials, and am banging on Discotek's doors so we can work on the project.  I must stress that I am currently NOT working with them; I am only sending inquiries, with specific outlines and notes.

If you'd like to help Ghibli Blog, please contact Discotek Media and ask for us to be included on the BD/DVD production.  Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.  Stay tuned, kids.

Sherlock Hound Returns to DVD This September

Discotek Media announced today that they have acquired the rights to Sherlock Hound, and will be releasing the complete TV series on DVD box set this September 30.  They will include both Japanese and English-language versions, perhaps using a dual-sided format similar to the older (now out-of-print) Pioneer DVD releases.  It will be great to see this classic anime series return to American shores, and especially nice to have all 26 episodes in one box.


Sherlock Hound originated as a 1981 TV anime series, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated at Japan's Telecom studio (associated with TMS), alongside such luminaries of the period as Yoshifumi Kondo and Kazuhide Tomonaga.  Unfortunately, only six episodes were completed when the project was scuttled.  Fortunately, interest in the series was revived after two episodes were shown in theaters alongside Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind in 1984.  This led to a new production at TMS in 1984 and 1985.

Personally, I find the original 1981 Miyazaki-directed episodes to be far superior to the later episodes; you can spot the dramatic drop-off in talent, as most of the best animators and artists followed Miya-san to Studio Ghibli.  That said, this is a really fun cartoon show that doesn't aspire to be anything more than a really fun cartoon show, with MacGuffin-fueled plots and ridiculous car chases.  And having English dubs helps tremendously with selling to a wider audience.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Sherlock Hound again.  I do have the three Pioneer DVDs with the Miyazaki episodes (they're scattered about, the fiendish bastards!), but I'll definitely pick up the new Discotek release when it arrives this September.

No word yet on extras or bonus material, such as essays or audio commentaries.  As always, I'm happy to contribute and am regularly harrassing the Discotek people with emails.  Maybe I should send a fruit basket or something.  Who do I have to call around here?

Check Out These Totoro T-Shirt Designs



Take a look at these terrific My Neighbor Totoro t-shirt designs, courtesy of art website TeeFury.  The first design is titled, "Spirit of the Seasons,"  and was created by artist "queenmob," and the second, "Totorofoot," was designed by artist "louisros."  The TeeFury site sold both shirts in a 24-hour flash sale for only $11, and allowed fans to vote for their favorite design.  I understand that the winner, "Totorofoot," will be available for a limited time at $18 each.

In addition, TeeFury offers a 12" x 16" matte cover for sale, and a chance to win a coffee mug, with these Totoro designs.  Very nice.  I do hope these items remain on sale for a longer time; it always seems that as soon as anyone learns about these short-term sales promotions, they've ended and left town.  Trust me on this one, folks: the internet requires a little time for news to spread.  Make these Totoro prints available for a few months and you'll be far more successful.

Thanks to Stephanie Wood at TeeFury for sending word to Ghibli Blog.  My apologies for not publishing this news item earlier; we've really had a crazy busy couple of days here at Ghibli Blog HQ, including Nakamichi cassette deck repairs, a job department relocation, and a sprained ankle (thank you very much, April Blizzard).  Oy, vey!  I really need to get paid for this website.

Anyway, visit TeeFury, have a look around, and pick up one of these excellent Totoro items while they're available.

"The Collected Works of Director Hayao Miyazaki" DVD/BD Box Set in Japan June 18


The big surprise on Japan's home video front this weekend is the announcement of a massive Hayao Miyazaki box set, containing all of his directorial feature films, including Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, and the Studio Ghibli features.

Prices for this set are, well, horrifying - 64,800 Yen ($627.78 USD) for Blu-Ray.  Similar box sets for TV series like Heidi, Girl of the Alps sell for over $300. So this is definitely one for the diehard fans with the fat wallets.  Studio Ghibli released a similar box set on laserdisc years ago, and it has become a highly sought collectors' item (it remains the only place to find the TV interview featuring Miyazaki with Akira Kurosawa).

The inclusion of Castle of Cagliostro is a huge surprise.  Previously, this film was released on BD in 2008 by VAP.  It was a decent release, with sharper picture than earlier DVDs, but fans were left unimpressed and slightly disgruntled.  With Ghibli at the helm, we can expect the same masterful treatment given to all the studio's films, including superb sound quality and preservation of film grain.

This begs the question: Which version of Cagliostro will Discotek receive, the 2008 VAP release, or the 2014 Ghibli ga Ippai?  I am hoping and praying for the newer version, but no official word has been announced as of yet.  When Discotek has something to announce, I'm sure they'll let us know.

Two bonus discs are included in the package.  The first contains another big surprise: Yuki's Sun, Miyazaki's 1972 pilot film, complete and uncut.  This was Miyazaki's second directorial film (after Lupin the 3rd: Series One, with Isao Takahata), and his first solo outing as a director.  This pilot film has shown publicly only once: in 2001, on a Japanese TV program promoting Spirited Away; even then, only part of the film was broadcast.

Also included on the first bonus disc is Miyazaki's 1995 short film, On Your Mark, which originally played alongside Mimi wo Sumaseba in Japanese theaters, and last seen on the 2006 Ghibli Short Short DVD.  This music video for pop duo Chage & Aska follows a futuristic science-fiction scenario, quite different from Miyazaki's usual Jules Verne style, but includes a number of nods to Nausicaa and Castle in the Sky.  The film can be seen as a "saying goodbye" to Miyazaki's greatest heroine, as he had finally completed his epic, 1100-page Nausicaa manga comic.

A third extra for the box set are three episodes of the 1972-73 Japanese TV anime, "Akado Suzunosuke," which were storyboarded by Hayao Miyazaki (Isao Takahata is credited as the series' "chief director").  Both Miyazaki and Takahata had assisted with directing, storyboards and animation on numerous TV productions in the late 1960s and 1970s, so this is a good opportunity for many of us to fill in the gaps in their long careers.  This will be fun to watch.

The second box set bonus disc will contain the complete, 90-minute press conference where Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement.from directing feature films.  It's an interesting capstone to this chapter of the artist's career, and adds weight for those arguing that, yes, Miya-san really is retiring this time.  Bonus note: Were you aware that the 1972 Yuki's Sun pilot film was shown in Japanese theaters alongside The Wind Rises?  The "first" and "last" Miyazaki films shown together - I'd say Studio Ghibli has been banking pretty heavily on his stepping aside.

"The Collected Works of Director Hayao Miyazaki" will be released in Japan on June 18.  Again, I don't believe this box set will be seen outside Japan, but it's quite possible that we'll get the new Cagliostro Blu-Ray, and hopefully the extras.  Now if Ghibli could only get their hands on the classic Toei Doga feature films, we'd really be rolling.

(Update: I edited this post to more fully include the details of the box set.  Thanks to Anime News Network for their dedication and hard work.)

New Studio Ghibli Blu-Rays - The Wind Rises, Spirited Away...and Castle of Cagliostro




The next round of Studio Ghibli Blu-Rays in Japan have just been revealed: The Wind Rises, Spirited Away...(update) and Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro!

The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki's final directorial feature (that is currently playing in limited release in the USA) will arrive on DVD and BD this June 18.  This gives us hope that the West could see a home video release on our shores in time for Christmas.  Ghibli Freaks in Australia, the UK and Europe should start saving their pennies now.

Spirited Away ("The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro," as it's known in Japan) is the biggie, the Blu-Ray that everyone has been waiting for.  The Japanese release date is July 16, perfectly timed alongside Studio Ghibli's next feature film, Hiromasa Yonebayashi's "When Marnie Was There."  Careful readers will also notice that this leaves time for a Christmas release in the West.  Hey, maybe even Disney will bother to release this BD.  We can always dream, can't we?

Update: Following up on our post announcing the Hayao Miyazaki BD box set, Amazon.jp has revealed that Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro, the director's 1979 feature film, will be released on August 6 as a standalone release.  The BD is part of the "Ghibli ga Ippai" series and will feature a similar package design.

No word yet from Discotek on whether this Cagliostro Blu-Ray will be the source for their upcoming US release, but I would have to assume (and hope) it's true.

Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro - Discotek DVD & Blu-Ray This Year


Discotek Media announced this evening that they have acquired the US rights to Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro.  The new DVD will be released (tentatively) this August, and the Blu-Ray will arrive in time for Christmas, or early 2015.  The announcement comes courtesy of Reed Nelson and LupinTheThird.com, and Discotek's Facebook page.

Previously, Cagliostro was released by Streamline Pictures and Manga Entertainment.  Discotek is working hard to secure the American-dubbed soundtracks to both home versions, which will make all Lupin fans very happy.  Bonus materiald will include a feature-length commentary by Reed Nelson, who was heavily involved in a number of Lupin DVD releases, including the Complete First TV Series DVD.

I have sent inquiries asking to be involved in the project; I wrote three essays for the Lupin First TV Series, and am quite eager to work on another similar project.  But at this point, there is no news from yours truly to report.  Perhaps I should compile an outline for a commentary track and record a demo?  See, this is why we really ought to have a Ghibli Blog podcast...

Finally, Discotek has promised that Cagliostro's title sequence will be presented uncut in both Japanese and English language soundtracks.  This is welcome news for Lupin fans still feeling burned about the 2006 Manga DVD.  Have I mentioned lately that Discotek does a fantastic job for dedicated anime fans?  Drop whatever you're doing, visit their store, and pick up a couple DVDs.

P.S. This is the perfect opportunity to remind everyone of a 2004 audio commentary track by Lupin III fan Chris Meadows.  This hails back from the early days of podcasts, when it was hoped that amateur DVD audio commentaries would emerge from all sides.  The .MP3 file is still available, so be sure to grab a copy while you can.

2014 Ghibli Blog Animation Poll Ends March 30 - Hurry Up!

Just a quick reminder to everyone to send in their ballots for the 2014 Ghibli Blog Animation Poll.  The deadline is March 30, so be sure to send me an email, or post on the official thread (as seen on the middle highlight column).

As for me, I am still working on my list.  There are just too many great animated films and too little space!  I'll continue to edit and tinker around right until the deadline.  I'm very impressed by the choices readers have submitted, how varied and inspired these choices are.

Remember: Top 20 animated feature films, shorts and TV shows.  Whatever you love the most, just go with that.  If Spongebob is your favorite cartoon, write it down!  If you love some obscure indie film that remains undiscovered, write it down!  There's plenty of room for all - the goal is to create a "snapshot" of where our heads are in 2014, and it's purely for fun.

Thanks to everyone for their support.  I'll be busy compiling the database and tracking the votes.

Photos - The Tale of Princess Kaguya







Photos of Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya, showcasing its wonderful impressionist and expressionist watercolor art style. As someone who has worked in watercolors, I'm greatly impressed at seeing this painterly design on the big screen. What happened to animation diversity in the West? Why aren't we creating something like this? Wouldn't you love to see Pixar make a hand-drawn feature film that looked like this? Of course, you would.

This may sound paradoxical to most Western animators, but I think Takahata's unique perspective - he was never trained as an animator - allows him the freedom to experiment with form. He doesn't have to stick to a singular drawing technique, but can move freely between realism and surrealism, impressionist landscapes and expressionist character movements. He can contrast the outer world of forest, trees and cities with the inner world of minds and repressed emotions. This variety is essential for his depiction of psychological realism in animation. How do you show a person's inner soul when using drawings, and not actors? This is the challenge that awaits all painters and illustrators.

Kazuo Oga, Studio Ghibli's master landscape painter, served as Art Director for Princess Kaguya. His brilliance with pencil and paintbrush are on full display. I'm a great fan of the watercolor look pioneered by My Neighbors the Yamadas, and Ghibli short films like Dore Dore no Uta and Ghiblies Episode 2. This is an art style that reaches back to ancient Japan, drawing on the vast cultural tradition of scroll paintings (Takahata wrote a book on "12th Century Manga" a decade ago). Quite impressive.

Castle in the Sky - RC Flapper Aircraft



Somebody built a real-life model of the insect flapper aircraft from Castle in the Sky.  Nice!  I wonder if one could buy one of these RC model kits in Japanese stores?  It would be great to find one at your local hobby shop.

Poster - The Tale of Princess Kaguya


And now we come to the other Studio Ghibli masterpiece of 2013, Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya.  This film was in production since 2008, and was a painstaking and long process to completion.  The result is a true labor of love by a film master who continues to push the medium of animated film.  This movie was modestly successful in Japan ($22 million, in the range of pre-Mononoke Ghibli releases), which is a welcome return for Takahata, whose 1999 feature My Neighbors the Yamadas crashed and burned in its native country.

Kaguya's art style is purely expressionist, continuing the watercolor style begun by Yamadas, and continued by a number of Studio Ghibli short films.  It remains a very unique style, and with this picture, Takahata pushes the art style to its absolute limits.  The $50 million budget - the same as Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises - is monstrously expensive for a Japanese animated feature, so we're promised a spectacle to remember.  If you're hungry for something different and unique, then stay tuned for Kaguya's fall US release.

This is a great movie poster.  Keen observers will notice that this illustration riffs a famous scene from Horus, Prince of the Sun, where the conflicted anti-heroine Hilda battles winter wolves and collapses in the snow.  This suggests common themes in the story, which is based on a famous Japanese myth about a supernatural woman who is born inside a tree, grows to adulthood, and escapes from her troubled life to the moon.  No doubt Takahata will examine the psychology of this character.

Will Princess Kaguya be Isao Takahata's final feature film?  At age 78, one can never take the future for granted.  And given the enormous expense of the film's production (Studio Ghibli actually lost money for 2013), it would be challenging to secure financing for any future film projects.  Heaven knows how long it took Paku-san to find the money to pay for this one.  It's quite audacious of him to be so bold, so risky, at this stage in his career.  I am reminded that Ingmar Bergman reemerged from retirement to direct one final movie.  We should treat this as a miracle, and be thankful for the moment.  The moment may never pass our way again.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya will be released in American theaters this fall, courtesy of GKids.  Dubbed and Subtitled versions will be available.

Toshio Suzuki is Not "Retiring" After All

False alarm, folks. Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli's co-founder and former president is not retiring as the studio's producer, after all. The original news report came from Japan's TBS Radio, where Suzuki spoke of an "honorable retirement." The news quickly spread worldwide that he was stepping down after the completion of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata's latest feature films. Cinema Today Japan is now reporting that it's all a misunderstanding; the radio hosts took a humorous statement too literally. His positional shift to "General Manager" is more of a side move, not a step down, and Suzuki-san won't be leaving the studio anytime soon.

That makes a bit more sense. He'll need more time to train the next generation of Ghibli producers and corporate staff, just as Miyazaki has nurtured the next generation of movie directors.

And in slightly related news...Hayao Miyazaki is still "retired" from directing feature films. But he is still involved in oversight and pre-production work on the studio's current projects, drawing his new samurai manga comic, and working 12-hour days.

Photos - The Red Shoes (Criterion Collection, LaserDisc)



These screenshots come from the Criterion Collection LaserDisc release of Powell & Pressburger's masterpiece, The Red Shoes.  This is just about the best-looking LaserDisc ever released; if you have a picture-tube TV, you'll be amazed at the clarity and richness of color.  This is one of my favorite films, and any movie lover would be thrilled to include it in their movie library, on any format.

I took these photos on my 2003 Sony Wega 24" set.  This was the final series of CRT televisions made by Sony, and offered the sharpest picture of any SD on the market.  Even compared to today's LCD screens, this Wega looks impressive, and the best part is that these sets can be found for pocket change.

And don't even think of telling me to "upgrade" my TV because it's "outdated."  I already upgraded...to a 1995 Sony Trinitron, a pure analog set (the 2000-era Wega's are digital) with spectacular color.  They'll pry my CRTs from my cold dead hands!  Take that, LCD, Plasma, LED, 3D, Smart, and 4K televisions!

(PS - Yes, this is another shameless attempt to broaden my website's horizons by expanding into live-action movies.  Yes, it's self-indulgence.  But don't worry, Ghibli Blog is not abandoning animation anytime soon.)

Turn Your Pet Into a Cat Bus!


Now this is delightful.  I can't help but imagine that whoever markets and sells one of these cat costumes would make a fortune.  Quick, move quickly!  Before someone else beat ya to it!  Every cat owner will want one of these!

Seriously, somebody needs to sell a line of Cat Bus coats. Hurry up and make it happen before I convince Marcee to do it, and we hog the market all to ourselves.

GKids Gains US Distribution Rights to Princess Kaguya

Hooray for Zoidberg! GKids announced today that they have acquired full US distribution rights to Isao Takahata's newest film, The Tale of Princess Kaguya. This includes theatrical, non-theatrical, television, and home video rights.

In addition, Studio Ghibli is producing an English-language dubbed soundtrack for the film. The production team of Geoffrey Wexler and Frank Marshall will once again be in charge. This is their third localization production, following Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises, and Goro Miyazaki's From Up on Poppy Hill.

Princess Kaguya will be released in theaters this fall, and submitted for Oscar nominations.

Grave of the Fireflies on Apple iTunes

An interesting development: Isao Takahata's 1988 heart-wrenching masterwork, Grave of the Fireflies, is now available for digigal download on Apple iTunes. No doubt anime fans and publishers will be watching closely to see if this movie succeeds on this format. Disney does not hold the US distribution rights to Fireflies, so I wouldn't expect or anticipate more Studio Ghibli releases on iTunes in the immediate future. But it would be a pleasant surprise. Stay tuned, kids.

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