Poster - Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea (For Your Consideration - Best Animated Feature)



Courtesy of AwardsDaily.com, here is the Ponyo poster in consideration for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.  I still insist that Ponyo is worthy of a Best Picture Oscar nomination, but Disney is focusing all their energy on securing a nod for Pixar's Up.

I fully expect Up to be included among the Best Picture nominees this year, if only because of the sense that Wall-E was unjustly snubbed before the Oscars doubled the number of contenders.  If that doesn't happen, I will be shocked.  I would hope the Academy voters would wisely share the accolades in this event; if Pixar gets the more prestigous Best Picture nominee, then Ponyo surely deserves a space in the Best Animated Feature category.  In any event, Miyazaki deserves a second Oscar.  But, of course I'd say that, wouldn't I?

Cars 2 Concept Art

The Pixar Blog has a concept art painting from Cars 2, which is currently in development.  The illustration accompanied Disney's annual report.  You can see the concept drawing here.

Sylvain Chomet's New Film - The Illusionist




Sylvain Chomet is set to complete his follow-up film since 2003's Triplets of Bellville.  Scotland Herald has the details, as well as the first images from the film.  Bellville was a favorite movie of mine and I was lucky enough to watch it at the Lagoon Theatre in Minneapolis.  Unfortunately, I was stuck in a crowd of humorless hipster snobs who were offended at my laughter.  Whatever.  Chomet's movies are a celebration of life.  You can't help but laugh.

The Herald proclaims that The Illusionist could become a classic of Scottish cinema:

The Illusionist tells the story of an old-fashioned entertainer in Scotland who struggles to find his place in the world as the public deserts his act in favour of rock ’n’ roll. Marginalised, his life changes when he meets a young fan.

The film, animated in old-style 2D, was made primarily in Edinburgh at ­Chomet’s Django Films studios above a pub on George Street, with further work done by ink.digital in Dundee and in Paris.

The film’s production team spent £8 million directly in Scotland. ­Scottish Screen, the national film agency, has confirmed that this makes The ­Illusionist the biggest-ever spend on a film here. The Illusionist’s overall budget was “significantly north of £10 million”, according to the film’s producer, Bob Last.

The film industry expected The Illusionist to be unveiled at several festivals last year. It was rumoured to appear at Cannes, then Venice, and it almost made it to Toronto. Last week, however, it was confirmed that the film would finally show in Berlin, which runs from February 11-20.

Mr Last said: “When you technically push the boundaries of any given medium, there are unexpected obstacles that have resulted in delays to the movie. We’re very pleased we’ve completed it without compromising our production.”

An animation movie set in Scotland?  I guess this means I'll have to arrive at the cinema in the MacInnes team colors.  But I'm not wearing ths kilt.

Will My Neighbors the Yamadas be Ghibli's Next Blu-Ray?

Reader Beyond offered this following insight about Studio Ghibli's upcoming plans for HD and Blu-Ray:

In fact, NTV had broadcasted Nausicaa, Laputa, Totoro, and Kiki etc in HD. Nausicaa to be broadcasted on Feb 19 again. Though these are not true HD but Up Convert version HD.


According to Suzuki's comment in the radio show, Ghibli's next BD is seems Yamada. This is not official announcement.

Suzuki said "Other's BD is not difficult if BD of Ponyo is made."
 
Will My Neighbors the Yamadas be Studio Ghibli's next Blu-Ray release?  I would expect a similar pattern to their DVDs, where the most important films - Nausicaa, Totoro, Sen & Chihiro - are released last.  I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Yamada-kun arrive early.   That movie is a favorite of mine, and I'll be first in line with debit card in hand.
 
Thanks for sharing, as always.

Hayao Miyazaki's New Short Film, The Borrowers, and Ghibli Museum Shorts on Youtube

(Thanks to T. Ishikawa and GhibliWiki for all their hard work and dedication.)

Toshio Suzuki surprised the world on his radio show Ghibli Asemamire: Hayao Miyazaki was busy at work on his latest film. The unnamed project is a 10-minute short film for the Ghibli Museum. There is no word yet on the title or its contents, but we should expect a release this year.

According to Suzuki-san, most of Ghibli's staff is busy working on Arrietty (The Borrowers), leaving Miyazaki free to draw the key animations personally. This is a thrilling development for the workaholic director; after Mononoke, where he touched up and revised as much as a third of the animation cels, he "retired" those duties and settled squarely in the director's chair. This is the heart of all the "Miyazaki is retiring" rumors that have followed him ever since (at least, that's my understanding).

Given Miyazaki's hunger to rush in and take over every situation - it's how he made his name since the beginning - I wonder if Suzuki offered this short film project as a way to get the director out of the way, and leave The Borrowers' first-time director Hiromasa Yonebayashi alone.

GhibliWiki has this following exchange regarding Miyazaki's role in shaping The Borrowers:


According to Toshio Suzuki, Miyazaki wrote the project paper and the script for Arrietty then asked Suzuki "Who directs it?" Suzuki answered, "Maro" (Hiromasa Yonebayashi's nickname) immediately. Miyazaki was surprised and asked "Why?" It was a snap decision at the time as Suzuki recalls, "I had not spoken with Maro about being the director. I said his name as the question was asked Miya-san." They called Yonebayashi to the Miyazaki's sub-studio (Nibariki) and Miyazaki said, "You do the direction!" Yonebayashi was stunned, but he accepted after a few minutes. Yonebayashi decided to do the storyboards work without Miyazaki's assistance and when informed Miyazaki replied, "You are right, You are a man!" However, Miyazaki is very much interested in the film, and Suzuki worries about when Miyazaki will break into the project.

This, of course, is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but there's also a lot of truth behind the smiles. Even in his late '60s, Hayao Miyazaki is still champing at the bit, eager to prove himself, eager to dive into another project. You will remember that Kiki's Delivery Service and Howl's Moving Castle began with different directors, before Miyazaki rushed in and took over. He's been like this ever since Gulliver's Space Travels.

He does recognize, naturally, the importance of letting the young Yonebayashi have free reign over his film. It's important for the future of the studio. But the temptation in insert oneself, nudging, offering advice, suggesting edits...it's very strong. But before you know it, Miyazaki has muscled the animators aside, and he's blazing away once again.

Whoever came up with the idea of having Miyazaki animate and direct a new Ghibli Museum short was very smart.

----------

There was one new major development on Toshio Suzuki's radio show. Ghibli President Kouichiro Tsujino (Suzuki's groomed successor) has been a guest on the show the past two weeks. Tsujino has recommended that Miyazaki's upcoming Ghibli Museum film be made available on Youtube. Suzuki concurrs, and reveals Miyazaki supports the idea.

This is a major development if it comes to pass. Hayao Miyazaki has firmly opposed releasing the Ghibli Museum movies on the commercial market. To him, the Museum is a haven for children, away from the pressures of commercialism. He will not turn his works into theme park rides and cynically manipulate children's affections for profit (vestiges of the '60s radical in him). This means no theatrical releases around the world, and no DVD releases of the short films.

Youtube may be a game-changer. The format is free and open to all. It's far closer to the ideal of screenings in children's museums than the multiplex. And there's no question that the world hungers for these many wonderful, inventive little movies. It's a side of Studio Ghibli, and Miyazaki, that hasn't been seen before.

If Miyazaki is at least open to the idea, then Suzuki and Tsujino will be able to convince him on the merits of releasing his short film on Youtube. And if that indeed comes to pass, expect Ghibli to follow with the entire Museum catalog.

Program Note: Thank You

I just want to say "thank you" to everyone who has been commenting, sharing their insights, and contributing content to this website.  Looking over the comments this week, I'm amazed to see how much you bring to the table, offering histories, clarifying my posts, and pointing us towards videos on Youtube.

The Ghibli Blog isn't "my" website.  It certainly isn't anymore.  The Ghibli Blog belongs to the community, each and every one of you.  This site simply wouldn't be possible without your dedication and effort.  Thank you.

Ponyo on Blu-Ray; Castle, Totoro and Kiki on DVD

I just wanted to clear up any confusion regarding the upcoming Studio Ghibli releases on March 2.  All four movies - Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Ponyo - will appear on DVD.  Only Ponyo will arrive on Blu-Ray.

There have been no official announcements from Ghibli in Japan regarding future BD releases, but it is widely expected that more movies will be headed to the high-definition format in 2010.

Blogger is Being a Pain Today

Blogger isn't letting me publish your comments this morning.  I've tried repeatedly, only to be hit with error messages.  Hopefully, this problem will sort itself out quickly.  I just wanted to let everyone know, in case you're wondering what happened to your comments.

I'd just like to say, great points from everyone involved.  I'll see if I can track down that 2000 NHK video on Spirited Away that I mentioned yesterday.  If it's on Youtube, it will be in Japanese, so maybe one of us can find it.

Update (12:30 pm): It seems we're working again, kids.  The comments are getting published again.

Ponyo, Castle in the Sky, Totoro, Kiki DVDs Released on March 2




We are only six weeks away from the Ponyo's arrival on DVD and Blu-Ray, and the reissues of Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki's Delivery Service. As everyone remembers, these movies were planned for a December release, but was ultimately delayed. I'm sure we were all disappointed, but in the long run, I think March 2 is a wiser choice. There will be fewer movies to compete against, giving Studio Ghibli added attention.

I have to congratulate Disney for the new cover designs. These look absolutely magnificent, and it's refreshing to see the designs improve with each release cycle. Studio Ghibli's films finally have the proper shine and polish. Featuring the Japanese movie posters is especially welcome, and a very pleasant surprise.

There has yet to be any advance media from Disney on the state of the discs themselves. I remain very hopeful that the superior Japanese DVDs are used. I've praised the excellent picture quality of the Region 2 Castle in the Sky over the old, crummy Disney releases, and I can't wait for you to see for yourselves.

I see that John Lasseter's introductions for Castle in the Sky and Kiki's Delivery Service are returning, which is always a nice addition. Being the dedicated Ghibli Freak and...what's the name we're using for Pixar fans?...I would love to see more of Lasseter go into depth on their love of Ghibli and Miyazaki. Commentary tracks, of course, would just be spectacular. I'll just have to take a video camera to the Pixar campus one of these years and shoot a documentary.

And Ponyo, one of my favorite movies of 2009, will make its Blu-Ray debut. For most of us, this will be the main event, especially for those who couldn't see the movie in theatres last summer. I'm hopeful that the home release will find a Long Tail success. I know I'll be buying all four movies on March 2, and I'm sure many of you will, too.

Oh, and don't forget the Ponyo plushie! Marcee is going to want one of those...and my sisters...and cousins...yadda yadda. You see how this goes. If I were to buy any one of these Ghibli DVDs, it would definitely be the deluxe Ponyo set. Save yer pennies, kids.


First Television Footage of Karigurashi no Arrietty



Here is Japan's NHK broadcast featuring Studio Ghibli's upcoming movie, Karigurashi no Arrietty.  Toshio Suzuki and Hayao Miyazaki are briefly shown, while most of the footage contains production artwork and image boards.  Everything looks excellent, of course.

I would expect to see Arrietty's first movie trailers fairly soon.  I'm surprised that no teaser trailers have been released yet, but given Ghibli's enormous stature in Japan, this really isn't necessary.  As always, we'll be crossing our fingers and hoping they can maket their summer release.

Poster - Karigurashi no Arrietty (The Borrower Arrietty)


Studio Ghibli's first movie poster for their upcoming adaptation of The Borrowers, Karigurashi no Arrietty, has been available for a few weeks, and I've found it growing on me.  Call it a hunch, a gut check.  I really don't know any more than you do at this point.  I'm just thinking of the previous Ghibli films not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata: I Can Hear the Sea, Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns the Favor, Tales From Earthsea.

Of those films, Mimi/Whisper is easily the best.  And that's largely because director Yoshifumi Kondo's long working relationship with Miyazaki and Takahata.  Kondo had many years to learn and study and collaborate; he also had time to develop his own style as an animator and artist.

Arrietty's director, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, has worked with Miyazaki on The Imaginary Flying Machines, Mei and the Kitten Bus, and has worked at Ghibli since Mononoke.  GhibliWiki has an excellent piece on Yonebayashi-san from a 2000 NHK documentary on Spirited Away, Breathing Life Into Drawings.  You can read about it here.

Karigurashi no Arrietty (The Borrower Arrietty) - Image Boards






Much thanks to GhibliWorld, as always, for sharing much-needed news from Japan on Studio Ghibli's newest movie, Karigurashi no Arrietty ("The Borrowers"). These photos come from Japanese television, presumably NHK. As per tradition, the network has the first scoop on Ghibli's project, including image boards and interviews with producer Toshio Suzuki.

I'm going to have to scour Youtube for a video of this broadcast. If I'm able to do so, I'll share it on the Ghibl Blog.

Now a few thoughts about these image boards. As always, the artwork is brilliant, very detailed. The patented Ghibli "look" is there, but these drawings don't seem derivative at all. It feels unique. That's a very real concern for Ghibli as it prepares for a post-Miyazaki future. The temptation, and popular demand, will be to hue to the formula, and safely copy the old Miyazaki classics - another Kiki, another Totoro, another Sen. The challenge is for the studio's next generation of artists to forge their own style.

I'm not willing to settle into formula and nostalgia just yet; I still want Studio Ghibli to surprise me. I still want to see something new. It's very clear that Hayao Miyazaki's presence is felt on this film, but I don't want him to overwhelm it. The young director, 36-year-old Yonebayashi Hiromasa, needs to discover his own voice.

I'm impressed with the art style from these image boards. I've always enjoyed how Studio Ghibli - and Heidi Marco Anne back in the '70s - adapts Western stories to Japan, joining the two cultures together. These characters are distinctly Japanese, set in a 19th Century Europe ala Heidi.

That's the name that darts out at me when I see these artworks, especially that first image board at top: Heidi. The layout of that house is nearly identical to the Grandfather's home from Heidi, down to the oven, the wooden beams, and the humble arrangements. Isao Takahata's neo-realism can still be felt today, 36 years later. I wonder how much influence Heidi has on director Hiromasa and the younger members of Ghibli's staff. Personally, I'd rather have one Heidi or Marco or Anne than a hundred Wall-E's, and I hope the naturalist tradition continues down the line.

Karigurashi no Arrietty is looking very, very good. I have very high hopes for this movie. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed until summer.

Mary Norton's The Borrowers



Mary Norton's 1952 children's novel, The Borrowers, is the focus of Studio Ghibli's upcoming feature film, Karigurashi no Arrietty, which is set for a summer 2010 release. I have to admit that I've never read this book, but it has won many prestigous awards and is regarded as a classic. I may just have to scour the local bookstores for a copy.

The Borrowers spawned a series of books, in the tradition of children's literature, spanning through Norton's life. Interesting fact: she also wrote "Bedknobs and Broomsticks." Very interesting.

You can read the Wiki page for The Borrowers here, although I should advise you there is a plot summary. There's no indication how faithful Ghibli's adaptation will be, so newcomers might not want to spoil any surprises.

www.DanielThomas.org (2003-2010) - Some Final Thoughts

Today, the plug was finally pulled on my website, DanielThomas.org. The domain was due for renewal, and after many months of consideration, I decided to let it go. It's time to move on, and, in fact, I've already moved on some time ago. My blogs, Daniel Thomas Vol 4 and The Ghibli Blog, are where I create online today.

I build DanielThomas.org in 2002, and launched on January, 2003. It's remarkable to see how far the internet has evolved over these seven years. I was so proud of my design, proud of the ease of navigation, proud of the way I assembled my art galleries, proud that I had a home online where I could write and share my thoughts on a variety of topics: art, music, games, movies, politics, personal happenings. It was a lot of hard work, but I was proud of my efforts.

But, oh, Good Grief, maintainence was such a pain. Having to literally redraw the homepage with every addition or new essay was time-consuming and increasingly irritating. Having to debug the code was a pain in the neck, even with my elegant (and ancient) HTML design. Somewhere around 2004 or 2005 I completely redesigned the site, refining and honing the design skills I had learned. I was always pushing for traffic and trying to build an audience. It was so much work, and eventually, I realized that I just wanted to focus on the art, and leave the tech side to someone else. Once I decided to experiment with Blogger, there really was no going back.

DanielThomas.org was very successful, at least by my standards. I can tell you that I reached over two million visits, and thousands of hits per day, during the site's golden days. But I learned to distrust these numbers. Much of my traffic was due to message boards and other sites hot-linking my images. It became such a problem that I tried to change the photos around, swap in nasty messages, harass any offenders I found who wouldn't give credit (or links) back to me. It was a real pain in the neck.

The worst offender - and my highest bit of notoriety - was my film review for The Boondock Saints. This was a cheap, practically direct-to-DVD gun movie, humorless, witless, and crude. I watched it on the couch of some so-called friends one night, and just hated it. I wrote the review, published, and then soon discovered, to my surprise, that Boondock Saints was a cult hit among the college crowd. And these were not the smart kids. Hoo boy.

For the next two or three years, I received a steady stream of hate mail, barely coherent, mostly whining. Those kids really loved that movie. I was burnt out enough by the obnoxious and dumb frat culture, and this certainly didn't help. Do you know how annoying it is to sit in an empty theater, watching an acclaimed documentary, while the sports bar crowd is shouting and howling for dreck like Boondock Saints? I still get headaches thinking about it, even though I've moved on and learned to enjoy my qwirkier neighbors. They'll be middle aged and overweight soon enough, and I'll someday miss their belligerance.

I also received a steady stream of critical emails in response to my essay on Stryper. That was a real surprise. I wrote the essay to accompany one of my digital paintings, which just happened to be yellow and black. Of course, I immediately thought of those 1980s hair metal bumblebee costumes. I really hated '80s hair metal when I was a kid. I'm still getting a rare message today; my last Stryper defender wrote to me last summer. Haha.

I always took the good and the bad. I always cherished every letter from someone who enjoyed the paintings. I even tried to sell a few, without much luck. I've grown tired of the art hustle; it's just another nerdish clique that seems trapped in the past. I always wanted my art to embrace the future, the people, not the hipsters. The hipsters can look after themselves. That's why I built my own arts site in the first place. I was convinced that the internet was the key to an artistic revolution. Every artist should have their work online, I thought. I felt art should be treated as music, where the internet was concerned. Open the doors wide for everybody. I still believe those things, and the explosive evolution of the internet has proven this again and again. Everybody can create. Everybody has something to contribute.

DanielThomas.org - I couldn't get a dot-com back then, because it was taken by a Trekkie - was made possible by a roommate of mine named Joe Osburn. Joe worked for a local internet and web design company, and he offered to host my site for free. That was very generous of him, very generous. He renewed it whenever necessary, moving it around one server to another, keeping it secure. I have always felt deeply indebted to him for his kindness. I think I once paid him by giving him some of my paintings. It's getting harder to remember. Time always moves you forward, and the years melt away with the clouds.

Once my blogs were up and running, there really was no need for my old art website. I can focus on movies and animation at The Ghibli Blog; politics, pop culture and art have a home at Daniel Thomas Vol 4. The work now feels freer, faster, more immediate. Well, at least when I can be bothered to write regularly. Ahem. Pardon.

So, dear friends, let us pay our final respects to my "arts-and-entertainment webzine," DanielThomas.org. It was a wonderful experience, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Thankfully, I've moved much of my older work to the blogs, and I'll have to continue that until everything is preserved online again. I'm still not sure what to do about the artwork. I'll figure something out. I hope I don't get the idea to start a third blog....yuck!

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