Disney Releases Hayao Miyazaki Movies on DVD: Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service Get New Cover Art
Whatever questionable decisions the Walt Disney Company has made, or will make in the future, animation fans will always bless the company for bringing Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful, poetic films to North America. Considered the grand master of the Japanese anime style, Miyazaki’s family friendly fantasies have demonstrated a singular vision and delightful, whimsical touches that few directors in any genre would dare place in their films.
Disney Releases Miyazaki’s Ponyo, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service
Early March sees the release of Miyazaki’s latest Ponyo in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. In addition, Disney will release 3 of his older films onto DVD: 1986’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky, 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro, and 1989’s Kiki’s Delivery Service.
For those who only know about Hayao Miyazaki through his latest films – Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away – this gives you a chance to see some of the Japanese director’s earlier work, some of which rank among his most beloved fantasies.
Yes, Miyazaki’s older films have seen DVD releases before but many animation fans hated the covers that Disney had plastered on the 2003 versions. The original Laputa: Castle in the Sky DVD artwork was possibly the biggest offender, since the it spoiled one of the biggest reveals in the film.
However, what’s truly mind-blowing with these new DVD’s is that they also feature new making-of documentaries, and interviews with the Old Maestro himself. Longtime Miyazaki fans know that he doesn’t like to discuss his movies – he feels they should stand on their own merits without explanation – so kudos to Disney for convincing him to sit down and discuss his films.
More controversially, these DVD releases retain the star-studded English dubs that Disney slapped on these films. The dubs are either tolerated or despised but, as of this writing, there has been no attempt to offer the original Japanese soundtrack with subtitles.
1986’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky: Studio Ghibli’s First Full-Length Anime
Although Miyazaki had already directed two films – 1979’s Castle of Cagliostro and 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – Laputa: Castle in the Sky was the first feature film released by Studio Ghibli, the company Miyazaki co-founded with director Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) and producer Toshio Suzuki. The movie follows a little girl named Sheeta and a young miner called Pazu, who are searching for the mythical airborne city of Laputa.
Like all of Studio Ghibli’s foreign dubs, the North American voice cast for Laputa: Castle in the Sky received mixed reviews but Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill’s performances as Dola and Colonel Muska respectively drew universal praise.
My Neighbor Totoro Introduced Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli to North America
My Neighbor Totoro – the story of a little girl who befriends a garden troll – is widely considered one of Miyazaki’s greatest tales, with its touching plot, environmental themes, and wonderfully bizarre images, such as a gigantic bus-shaped cat. It’s believed to be the film that first established Miyazaki’s reputation among North American audiences, and the title character now rivals Mickey Mouse in popularity among Japanese children.
Kiki’s Delivery Service: Phil Hartman’s Last Performance, Plus Witchcraft Controversy
Kiki’s Delivery Service was based on Eiko Kadono’s novel of the same name. The story followed a trainee witch as she started a new life in the European seaside city of Koriko (heavily inspired by Stockholm, Sweden). Sharp-eyed animation fans will notice that Sunao Katabuchi was listed as assistant director on the film’s credits; he went on to direct the wonderful Mai Mai Miracle.
Despite Kiki’s charms, many viewers disliked the English dub, which featured Kirsten Dunst as Kiki and the late Phil Hartman as Jiji the cat. In addition, the conservative group Concerned Women for America – who vows to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy” – claimed the film promoted witchcraft, and called for a boycott of all Disney products.
All four DVD’s will be released on March 2nd. As of this writing, Ponyo will be the only Miyazaki film to get a Blu-Ray release, although you’ll still be able to play your DVD’s on your Blu-Ray player.