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2017-10-23

Comics: Hayao Miyazaki as the Cat "Meowzaki"

Comics: Hayao Miyazaki as the Cat "Meowzaki"


Comics: Hayao Miyazaki as the Cat "Meowzaki"

This is just too good to pass up: a comic rendition of Hayao Miyazaki as a fussy house cat. There have been a million jokes about the director's on-again, off-again dalliances with retirement. It's almost customary to issue threats after the completion of the latest feature film. And, still, Miyazaki-san always sneaks back inside for another go.

The second comic is a little more sly and subtle, and a nice bit of cultural commentary. The line is a direct quote by Miyazaki from last year's NHK TV special, in which he was shown a disturbing piece of computer animation by some over-eager students. They expected praise; he proceeded to give them the riot act instead.

"Meowzaki" was created by Boulet...do I have the name right? I discovered these on the Buta Connection forums, which is published in France. If you have any questions, ask them. Better yet, just visit Boulet's Twitter page and skip the middleman. Ask for more "Meowzaki" comics!

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli's Star Wars by Lap Pun Cheung

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli's Star Wars by Lap Pun Cheung

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli's Star Wars by Lap Pun Cheung

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli's Star Wars by Lap Pun Cheung

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli's Star Wars by Lap Pun Cheung

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli's Star Wars by Lap Pun Cheung

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli's Star Wars by Lap Pun Cheung

Back in 2016, a friendly arts competition entitled "Star Wars Reimagined" asked conceptual artists to create their own unique take on George Lucas' sci-fi universe. Lap Pun Cheung, a video game concept artist at Boss Mode Games took inspiration from the films of Studio Ghibli, creating a series of scenes the combine the visual flair of Hayao Miyazaki to the Star Wars saga. The resulting series of digital paintings are highly colorful and impressive.

I really enjoy seeing Darth Vader mashed up with Castle in the Sky, or Darth Maul in a Mononoke mask. Many of these designs have more of a generic "anime" style in terms of color and shape, and feel less like a "Ghibli" style, but the artist was no doubt aiming for variety. It wouldn't do much good to create half a dozen Future Boy Conan paintings packed with Ewoks and droids.

You can visit Lap Pun Cheung's portfolio, where he describes his Star Wars pieces in greater detail.

Beware Studio Ghibli Pirate Bootlegs

Studio Ghibli Pirate Bootlegs

Studio Ghibli Pirate Bootlegs

Studio Ghibli Pirate Bootlegs

Studio Ghibli Pirate Bootlegs

One of the biggest issues surrounding Studio Ghibli fandom in recent years is the explosion of pirate bootleg DVDs. Many online retailers are stocking DVD box sets that are, in fact, illegitimate and entirely unauthorized, and of questionable quality. If you see any of the packages shown above, avoid at all costs.

In the United States, Ghibli movies on DVD and Blu-Ray come from only two official sources: Disney and GKIDS. The Disney titles are well known and have been available on a number of home video formats for nearly two decades. GKIDS is a newer partner and are now in the process of releasing Ghibli features under their banner. Both brands are easily recognized and well known. They can be trusted.

The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki is the only officially-sanctioned Studio Ghibli box set available in the US. This Blu-Ray package includes all of the director's feature films, from Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro to The Wind Rises. This deluxe set was released in 2015 and is available exclusively at Amazon. This is the same package as the one that was released in Japan, and exported to all major global markets.

All other "Studio Ghibli" box sets available online are bootlegs. All of them. Don't be fooled into thinking that you've found a bargain or a rare gem. The audio/visual quality on these pirated discs are sub-par at best, and often merely ripped from the ancient (and sub-standard) Video CD format, and nearly always come from China.

As always, caveat emptor. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don't be taken in by pirate scams. And do not buy from online retailers who are selling you this junk. They're ripping you off. The official releases are widely available and easily affordable. Support those who are working hard to provide you with these great movies. Don't support the Chinese mafia, kids.

Mary and the Witch's Flower US Premier Announced

Poster: Mary and the Witch's Flower

Animation movie distributor GKIDS has today announced the US date for Hiromasa Yonebayashi's Mary and the Witch's Flower. The film will play a special one-night premier on January 18, 2018 in select theaters. The screenings will be presented by Fathom Events, and you can purchase advance tickets directly from their website.

In addition, GKIDS has revealed the official US poster for the film, which looks terrific. It's different from the Japanese poster designs, but very similar. Studio Ponoc and "Academy Award Nominated" director Yonebayashi are given the top space, which is very generous.

Studio Ponoc is a new animation studio staffed by Studio Ghibli alumni, and Mary can be seen as a direct descendent to the films of Hayao Miyazaki. We see the obvious parallels to Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away. What Yonebayashi brings to the table is a gentle sensitivity, an ability to get into the depths of his heroines. When Marnie Was There, his previous movie (and Studio Ghibli's final feature before their "retirement"), is an exceptional portrait of teenage alienation and loneliness, wrapped in the blankets of a nostalgic ghost story. He is a storyteller with great potential, and he is a rising star to watch in the coming years.

I have not seen Mary and the Witch's Flower yet, and I have consciously avoided learning too much, apart from the Japanese movie trailers. I always enjoy walking into a theater with as few expectations as possible. I know the former Ghibli crew will bring their "A" game. What more do you need to know?

2017-10-22

GKIDS Animation is Film Festival Oct 20-22



The Animation is Film Festival, presented by GKIDS, continues this weekend in Los Angeles, presenting a wide variety of feature animated movies from around the world. This festival was created from a desire to expand the appeal of the medium beyond its "electric babysitter" ghetto.

This movie festival features the US theatrical premier of Mary and the Witch's Flower, the debut movie from Studio Ponoc and latest feature from Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the director of The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There. The Sunday event has already sold out.

Other anime films from Japan include three from Masaaki Yuasa: Mind Game, Night is Short, Walk On Girl and Lu Over the Wall. This is a very welcome sight and will hopefully lead to wider recognition of this most visually inventive of anime directors.

On the Western side, the selection of animated features runs from mainstream blockbusters (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Incredibles, The LEGO Batman Movie, to a variety of independent movies, including the highly anticipated film from Nora Twomey (co-creator of The Secret of Kells), The Breadwinner, and the user-stylish French thriller, Zombillenium, a graphic novel adaptation where zombies, vampires and witches hide in plain sight by working at a horror-themed amusement park.

This festival is an excellent idea, and should be shown in more US cities. Hopefully a successful run in Los Angeles will inspire GKIDS and their sponsors to do just that. I am already saving my money for the inevitable GKIDS Blu-Ray releases.

2017-10-18

The New Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray/DVD Movies Are Here!

Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray Movies

Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray Movies


This week, the first wave of Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray/DVD movie titles have been released in North America, courtesy of animation distributor GKIDS. The entire studio feature film library will come under one roof in a series of release dates from now until early next year.

The six movies released this Tuesday include My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo. All feature new cover designs that follow the GKIDS style, and fits perfectly on your bookshelf next to the other Ghibli Blu-ray titles.

Diehard Ghibli Freaks will be watching closely to see if Ponyo has lossless Japanese audio, and if Mononoke has proper subtitles. Early reports are very hopeful, but we will report on any surprises that arise.

Overall, GKIDS is doing a fantastic job with the Ghibli movie catalog. The packaging is excellent, the audio/visual quality is superb, and best of all, these titles are widely available at retailers. No more having to hunt endlessly to find that one remaining copy at Target for us.

Artist Spotlight: Kiki and Jiji by Ian Lee

Artist Spotlight - Kiki and Jiji

Here is a charming illustration of Kiki and her pet cat, Jiji. I like this cartoon style a lot, and like many Ghibli art pieces, I'd like to see more. You can find Ian's Instagram page here. Send him your thanks.

2017-10-14

Here Are My New Book Covers: Zen Arcade, Pop Life, Greatest Hits

Ghibli Blog: Daniel Thomas MacInnes

Ladies and Gentlemen, here are the book covers to my upcoming books. The brilliant designers from 99 Designs created these great works, and I am forever in their debt. These just look amazing. I now turn to the skilled formatting designers to put everything together. Meanwhile, I will be working on setting up the new DT Media website, setting up the Amazon sales and author pages, and sending out review copies to pretty much everywhere.

When will these books finally be released? I'm still hoping for late October; Halloween would be nice. These titles will be available exclusively at Amazon, but later will be expanded to Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo at a later date. For now, I just want to concentrate attention on one single storefront before expanding.

I have not yet firmly decided on prices; I am currently thinking of $14.99 for the paperback and $4.99 for the ebook, but nothing is yet set in stone. There may also be some surprises for everyone on the mailing list, so if you're thinking of joining up, now's the time.

Finally, if you are a review critic for any media outlet, please contact me and I will send you copies of all three books as soon as they're available.


DT Media: Zen Arcade Book Cover

Zen Arcade: Classic Video Game Reviews

"Do you love retro video games? Are you a veteran collector, or a young player wondering where to begin? Zen Arcade collects 140 reviews of video games across six classic platforms: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super NES, Nintendo 64, NEC Turbografx-16, Sega Genesis and SNK Neo-Geo. Author Daniel Thomas MacInnes, a video game writer for over 20 years, guides you through this living history with intelligence, humor and wit. Zen Arcade is a celebration of the vitality and power of classic video games to inspire and entertain."


DT Media: Pop Life Book Cover

Pop Life

"Pop Life is a collection of essays across four broad themes: film & television, music & hi-fi audio, video games, and the political & personal. Author Daniel Thomas MacInnes tackles every aspect of 'the pop life' with biting wit, humor and keen insight, bringing readers on an illuminating journey across the cultural landscape. This book follows in the tradition of Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, Chuck Klosterman and Hunter S. Thompson, and will prove insightful, illuminating and entertaining for all readers."


DT Media: Greatest Hits Book Cover

Greatest Hits: An Anthology in Four Volumes

"Greatest Hits: An Anthology in Four Volumes is a compilation volume of selections from two current books (Zen Arcade, Pop Life), and two upcoming books (Videogame Classics, Conversations on Ghibli). Author Daniel Thomas MacInnes examines and dissects the pop culture universe: film and television, animation and live-action, music and audio, video and computer games, politics and current events with sharp wit, humor and insight."


2017-10-13

My Neighbors the Yamada on US Blu-Ray Release Date: January 16, 2018

My Neighbors the Yamada on US Blu-Ray

At long last, it's nearly here! GKIDS has finally announced the long-awaited release date of Studio Ghibli's 1999 classic My Neighbors the Yamadas on Blu-Ray for January 16, 2018. No further word has been made regarding bonus features, but we expect to find some new goodies for the fans.

My Neighbors the Yamada is Isao Takahata's newspaper comic strip adaptation, an anthology of wildly amusing misadventures featuring an average Japanese family and their daily foibles. The visual style is practically groundbreaking, a zen-watercolor style with vast splashes of color, and equally vast splashes of empty space. There are a number of inventive CGI sequences that explode off the screen, a wonderfully surreal introduction to the family history from marriage to (folk tale) childbirth. And there is a jubilant, almost bittersweet musical number at the end that features fireworks, umbrellas, and seemingly half the population of Japan.

This is the movie that you wish Hollywood executives would watch when the time comes to attempt adaptations of popular comic books. It's like Bill Melendez' Peanuts cartoons, but with a vastly larger budget, wider color palette and stronger pop-jazz bent. Don't you dare try to make a Calvin and Hobbes movie without memorizing every frame of this near-masterpiece.

Listen to Paku-san, aspiring moviemakers. Always listen to Paku-san. He's the Yasujiro Oju of our generation and we must treasure him while he still walks among us.

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art by Richard J. Evans

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art


Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art

Three years ago, artist Richard J. Evans embarked on an interesting project: a series of digital artworks based on the movies of Studio Ghibli, rendered entirely in "pixel art." This is an art style that is deliberately low-fi, low-resolution and quite blocky, inspired, one supposes, by the look of computer graphics from the 1980s. This sub-genre of art has become very popular in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Evans successfully captures the hand-drawn animation style of the Ghibli films quite masterfully, with a very wide color palette at his disposal (much more than what was available on computers and videogamess of the 1980s), and everything is sharply detailed, which maintaining those large blocky pixels. The ones you see here are my personal favorites, but the artist has also paid tribute to nearly every Ghibli movie ever made, and they're all terrific.

Overall, great job. Creating art within very hard limitations can be quite challenging, but the results are equally rewarding.

You can see more of Evans' work on his website. Be sure to send him a thanks for his efforts.

Ghibli Fest Continues: Spirited Away in Theaters 10/29, 10/30, 11/1

Spirited Away in Theaters October 30 - November 1

Ghibli Fest, sponsored by film distributor GKIDS, continues with Hayao Miyazaki's Academy Award-winning masterpiece Spirited Away in theaters October 29, 30 and November 1. The events are presented in conjunction with Fathom Events, and will feature screenings in both English (dub) and Japanese (sub) language soundtracks.

Spirited Away will be given a fairly wide release, which is a big plus for Ghibli Freaks everywhere. Here in Chicago, there are 24 theaters participating, not including the outer suburbs (which, frankly, are like visiting another state). No doubt, conditions will be the same in your area.

Tickets can be purchased in advance by visiting the GKIDS website.

2017-10-11

GKIDS Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray/DVD Movies Coming October 17

Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray Movies

This coming Tuesday, October 17 sees the first wave of Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray/DVD movies from GKIDS. The titles included will be My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo.

GKIDS has promised that all versions will include multiple language soundtracks, English subtitles, and new bonus features. We are hopeful that previous issues surrounding Mononoke (subtitles) and Ponyo (audio quality) will be resolved. Unfortunately, it has been confirmed that Kiki's Delivery Service will retain the "dubtitles" that have been present in all home video releases.

The cover designs are all terrific, although only Mononoke features new cover art. The slipcovers are welcome, as always, and fits into the GKIDS design very nicely. Picture quality should be identical to the previous Disney Blu-Ray releases, although we will be perfectly happy to be proven wrong.

For the most part, these releases exist to consolidate the Studio Ghibli catalog under one roof. If you own these movies under the Disney label, there are few reasons to make the jump. Princess Mononoke and Ponyo will be my first picks, for the aforementioned reasons. Fans will be happy to collect everything. And if you're just beginning to build your library, now is the perfect place to start.

I'm looking forward to watching these movies again, and can't wait for the following waves. What a great time to be a Ghibli Freak!

Update: Blogger is being a pain in the neck again. Stop chewing up my articles!

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