Theatre Chains Jacking Up the Prices on 3-D Movies

Brownie, yer doin' a heckuva job:

Beginning today, the Wall Street Journal reports that many major movie chains, including Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Holdings Inc. and AMC Entertainment Inc., are raising prices for 3-D movie tickets. It reflects the steepest price increase in a decade. 3-D ticket prices are rising by as much as 26% in some areas, though the average increase will be closer to 8%. The average increase for IMAX screens is 10%. Some theaters in metropolitan areas will be charging nearly $20 for IMAX admissions.

It's almost like Hollywood is daring us to download their movies for free. Remember when the music industry charged $20 for a Compact Disc?

At this moment in history, you couldn't pay me to be a Hollywood executive. Once enough kids figure out they can download Transformers 2 in a matter of minutes, instead of paying $15 at the multiplex....

Photos - Toy Story 2 on Blu-Ray


Some terrific screenshots (720p) of the newly-released Toy Story 2 on Blu-Ray.  I'm still undecided on whether Toy Story 2 is better than the original movie.  Both are excellent, well-crafted and skillful films, and there's a deeper emotional undertone present in the sequel.  So I can appreciate the praises of fans and critics.  But there's something to be said for the back-and-forth comedy between Buzz Lightyear and Woody in the original movie.  They were the perfect "odd couple," and I can't shake the feeling that some of their magic was lost once they became best friends.  Theirs is an Ernie-and-Bert friendship.

Thanks, once again, to BluRay.com for supplying their many screenshots of the movie.  You can visit their Toy Story 2 page and check everything out.  These photos really look fantastic.  It's like Christmas every day.

Photos - Toy Story on Blu-Ray


Excellent news for all Pixar fans, as Toy Story 1 and 2 are now available on Blu-Ray.  I'm really looking forward to seeing these movies in their high-definition glory...that is, once I can save up for a Blu-Ray player and a fancy-schmancy LCD set.

As always, you can click on the photos to see them in their full size (720p).  This really looks fantastic.  The first Toy Story remains far and away my favorite Pixar movie, so expect this to quickly become one of my "go-to" movies.  Oh, and did you spot the books on the shelf behind Woody?  I always love Pixar's references and inside jokes.

These screenshots come courtesy of the fine folks at BluRay.com.  Here is their Toy Story page, which includes reviews, screenshots, and technical data.

Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray - Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind


Studio Ghibli's Blu-Ray for Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind was officially announced today.  It is scheduled for a July 14 date in Japan, at 7,140 Yen.  No American release date was mentioned as of yet, but we're all very hopeful for a 2010 release.  Cross your fingers, kids.

Courtesy of GhibliWiki, a translation of Toshio Suzuki's notes are available.  He goes into detail about the decision to choose Nausicaa as the studio's next BD, and the extensive involvement of Hayao Miyazaki.  He was insistent that his most important film be preserved as honestly and accurately as possible, and as you can see, he is highly critical of modern digital processing techniques.

Suzuki-san's notes suggest that Ghibli is not rushing out their catalog to BD, instead bringing over one film at a time.  This was a bit of a surprise to me, since I did expect a rapid rollout.  They are guarding their legacy very carefully.

Here is Toshio Suzuki's translated remarks on the Nausicaa Blu-Ray:

I watched Nausicaa. Re-encountering the film for the first time in 26 years. There was Miya-san nearby. When a preview room became dark, I was tense. Then Nausicaa began. We never watch a film after it's completed. I don't watch it. Because we cannot go to the next film. However, there were special circumstances this time.

It was the end of last year that the reqest for the next BD title was given by Disney. I thought about nothing, but I answered immediately, "How about Nausicaa?" Ghibli and Disney staff's faces were frozen. They seemed to have planned for Laputa and they thought Nausicaa would be "The Last BD Title" without permission. Then another thought appeared on me with an answer. I want to do a restoration from a clean negative. It was longtime homework for me who was concerned with Nausicaa.

Led by Okui-san of the photography department, an argument began about how to make an original negative of "Nausicaa". However, Okui-san was not involved with the production of Nausicaa directly. What is the standard of the original negative? We can guess, but we do not understand this important part. Digital technology can do anything. It is very easy to change a used thing into a new thing. Then a conclusion came about become Miya-san decided it. Miya-san participated in a meeting. Miya-san's opinion was simple and clear.

Miya-san was watching the Disney Channel in a house well after work. It was broadcasting a show on digital processing, a "makeover" of old works. That is profanity. Miya-san always sent forth a negative opinion about digital processing. A past masterpiece becomes a work without dignity through digital processing. That is quite disrespectful for the person who made it. It is natural for it to seem that a film looks timeworn by aging. Who has the right that makes it a new thing in technology? This was an opinion of Miya-san.

This is Miya-san's opinion. Basically, respect a original thing. We do not clean it than the original, remove the wound of the process of the print, keep the color mistakes, etc.

Okui-san took two months in deference to the opinion of Miya-san and worked hard for data faithfully. It was enough work to lose consciousness.

In this way the preview of March 1 came about.

There is already little staff who remember those days at Ghibli. I persuaded Miya-san who hated watching. When I went to the preview room 10 minutes early Miya-san was already there. In fact, I know that the preview was in the mind of Miya-san for a few days. Miya-san who waited for a re-encounter with Nausicaa was clearly excited.

The screening was over. We waited for an impression from Miya-san in a meeting room. At first Miya-san spoke an impression "looked timeworn", and he said in this way. "Suzuki-san, technically, we have come very far and wide."

The order from Miya-san was one thing: I want a little green to increase where necessary.

Okui-san came my room next day. He said "Miyazaki-san cried, didn't he?" I answered in this way, "Nausicaa is not yet over." Both I and Miya-san remember all of the events and every cut.

Photos - Goro Miyazaki's Nisshin Cat Commercial


I captured a few screenshots of Goro Miyazaki's new Studio Ghibli short.  Thank God for the "print screen" button, and reflexes sharpened by a week of playing Street Fighter 2.  I hope you enjoy these, and feel free to steal and share.

I really love this hand-painted and hand-drawn style.  It's very Japanese and very old fashioned.  The red butterfly is an especially attractive touch.  Another blow for traditional 2D animation!

Goro Miyazaki's New Animation Short


Goro Miyazaki is back with a new animation short.  This television commercial is a celebration of Nisshin Seifun Group's 110th birthday.  Nisshin and Ghibli began working together in 2008, as co-sponsors of the Ghibli Museum Library, which has brought many beloved and influential animated films from around the world to Japan.

This 30-second commercial, presented in a hand-drawn calligraphy style, is available online.  The website has few links, but, naturally, everything is in Japanese.  I've included the above screenshot so you know what page to look for.  I think you'll be able to find your way.

There is also an interview page with Toshio Suzuki.  I'd really appreciate it if we could translate the text into English.  My Japanese is just barely at the level of a three-year-old.  If anyone in the community could help out, that would be wonderful.

Goro Miyazaki directed this short and drew the storyboards.  Katsuya Kondo handled the animation, and his five-year-old daughter sang the song.  It's a cute, charming little moment of bliss, nothing major.  It's just a lazy cat yawning and chasing a butterfly around - a joyful moment of zen.

Goro continues to be carefully cultivated at Ghibli.  He's being put through film school and he's paying his dues.  Father Miyazaki insisted last summer that his son must work his way up the chain like everybody else, but there's no denying that Goro-san remains the studio's heir apparent.  His second directorial feature will be the ultimate test, and a critical moment for Ghibli's future as well.  No pressure at all.

Mickey and Friends Get Loaded


This is a 1951 mini-comic featuring Mickey Mouse, called "Mickey Mouse and the Medicine Man."  I laughed my head off when I saw these panels.  Hah hah!  In the next comic, Mickey and Donald meet Terence McKenna and the machine elves from hyperspace, hah!

You can see the entire comic here.  Feel free to pass along.  Do the Cartoon Brew guys know about this?

Video - Jarinko Chie, Opening and Closing





There's precious little of to be found of Isao Takahata's 1981 film, Jarinko Chie, on Youtube.  I was lucky enough to find clips of the opening and closing credit sequences.  These happen to be excellent scenes, so I thought I would share them with you.

Chie's opening credit sequence (it's about five minutes into the movie, actually) is based heavily on Hanafuda playing cards.  Takahata would use this same motif in the opening scenes of My Neighbors the Yamadas.  I've often felt both films were close cousins, being comedies about modern Japanese families, told in a loosely episodic style.

I think Chie is the better of the two.  It's bawdier, earthier, more strongly rooted in its Western Kansai environment.  It also presents a larger story arc, and hides its episodic seams more deftly.  Yamada-kun abandons all pretense of an overall plot, and its episodes are plain for all to see; it's more like a Calvin and Hobbes book.

These credit sequences always stay in my memory because the music is so wonderful.  Takahata has always been a great music connoisseur.  You can see that in every movie he's made; every soundtrack is superlative, memorable, infectious.  It's enough to make you want to hit the play button, and watch the movie all over again.

Photos - Jarinko Chie (Blu-Ray, 720p)


First of all, I'm happy that a subtitled version of Jarinko Chie is finally available to the world.  Secondly, I'm especially thrilled that we can watch the Blu-Ray version.  The picture quality is excellent, wonderful.  I really wish one of the anime publishers would bring this great movie to North America.  Where's Discotek?  Where's Manga?  Who's left standing in this business?

I hope you enjoy these screenshots.  Click on the photos to see them in full-size.

Jarinko Chie Blu-Ray - Fansub Download Now Available


Excellent news, everybody. The Blu-Ray release of Isao Takahata's 1981 movie Jarinko Chie is now available as a fansub. I've added the link to the Downloads section, replacing the previous DVD fansub.

I really love this movie; it's blend of slapstick and gross-out comedy is unique of Takahata, but the emotional human melodramas are still there in force. Yasuo Otsuka and Yoichi Kotabe served as the Animation Directors, and the trio are masters of their craft. Little would moviegoers know that both Otsuka and Kotabe were nearing the end of their animation careers. Otsuka would become a teacher at the Telecom studio, and Kotabe would work with Hayao Miyazaki on the Nausicaa film, before migrating to Nintendo. For the old Toei crew, this would be their last great heist.

The Blu-Ray was not released by Ghibli and Buena Vista in Japan; this does leave the possibility open for a Western publisher to grab the rights and bring it to North America. There ain't no way Disney would touch Chie with a ten-foot pole. If they were squeamish about all those tanukis not wearing pants, well...

I can't wait to see how Chie looks in hi-def. This is going to look terrific. I'll post some screenshots as soon as I'm able.

Photos - Gauche the Cellist


I finally managed to see the Ghibli ga Ippai DVD reissue of Isao Takahata's masterful movie from 1982, Gauche the Cellist.  This is one of my absolute favorite movies, and, because of its short length (barely one hour), remains one of my essential go-to animation films.  This is a movie you want to show off and share.

The picture quality is greatly improved over the older Pioneer DVD; sharper, cleaner, more detailed.  You can see for yourself how wonderful Gauche looks.  This is a painterly movie, full of vivid colors and impressionist brushstrokes.  I always admired the use of lighting in the background, the way it made the contents of Gauche's house melt together.  Sunsets are especially vivid, full of rich orange and reds and browns.

Takahata was at the peak of his powers when he created Gauche.  It was a long labor of love and it shows.  The naturalism, the humble neo-realism, the moments of human comedy and tragedy.  I've always admired the documentary shots in the opening scene, closeups of butterflies and ants.  Would a Western movie contain these everyday moments, or would the temptation to hurl everybody along the roller coaster prove too strong?  This is a meditative film, a reflective film.  It is a rural film at its core, and a deeply musical film.  A music lover made this movie.

Because Gauche is now under the Ghibli name, this makes it possible for Disney to bring it to North America.  They absolutely should do this, and do it immediately.  I wonder if John Lasseter or any of the top people at Disney/Pixar even know this movie exists.  If ever a foreign animated movie was perfect for a domestic release, it would be this one.  Please, Disney.  Bring this movie to the States.

Puedo Eschuhar el Mar - Umi ga Kikoeru Spanish DVD



Umi ga Kikoeru is also now available in the Spanish market, courtesy of Aurum.  This was actually released in October, 2008, and also retains the movie's actual title - I Can Hear the Sea.  Why should the English-speaking world be stuck with the bland and lifeless "Ocean Waves?"  The Ghibli titles are far more poetic and inviting to my ears.

I like the design of the Spanish DVD.  It's closer to the Japanese R2, and uses an illustration from the Ghibli Calendar.  And I'm thrilled anytime one of these great movies can be seen by the outside world.  Animation can be used for more than stale fairy tales and childish power fantasies.  You can do more than just rip off Star Wars and Snow White and Toy Story.  This awareness is slowly creeping into the American consciousness, very slowly.

Like the Optimum UK release, I Can Hear the Sea includes a single disc and no extras beyond the trailers.  At the time, this was the only Western release of this film.  I'd like to see Disney release this movie here, but a North American release remains highly unlikely.  If you live on the American continents, imports and downloads are your only options.

Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru) DVD Released in the UK


Our Ghibli friends in the UK have another reason to gloat over their American cousins: Umi ga Kikoeru/Ocean Waves is now available on DVD.  This means that our English, Scottish and Irish friends now have all of Studio Ghibli's theatrical films.

Umi ga Kikoeru was Studio Ghibli's 1993 film.  It was created by the younger staff members who had been trained and mentored for several years at the studio's art school.  They learned under both Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and were set loose on a 72-minute television adaptation of a popular manga.  Outside director Mochizuki Tomomi was brought in to head the project, Ghibli's first without Miyazaki or Takahata.

I've always been a great fan of this film, and Ghibli's forays into neo-realism.  The idea that animation could be used to depict real life dramas...this was a shattering revelation when I discovered Grave of the Fireflies.  Even though Umi ga Kikoeru (Ocean Waves is the standardized Western title, but the direct translation is "I Can Hear the Sea") is considered a "minor" work in the Ghibli canon, I believe that designation is unfair.  This teenage melodrama is brilliantly paced and skillfully animated.  The final scene is truly stirring, and never fails to move me.

True story: When I was in Bogota in December, Umi was playing on Cinemax, in Japanese with English subtitles.  That was a surprise for me.  You can actually find bootlegged DVDs of all the Studio Ghibli films on the streets of Bogota, cough, cough.

I have only one major complaint with this new DVD - no extras.  The Japanese Region 2 DVD includes an hour-long video that reunites the filmmakers on Umi's 10th anniversary.  There's no reason why that couldn't be included.  Indeed, naturalist anime is a rather tough sell in the West.  We need all the help we can get.  Much thanks to Optimum for bringing Umi to the West, but no skimping on the extras next time.

Best of the Twin Cities 2010 - Vote For The Ghibli Blog



Vote for The Ghibli Blog - Best Local Blog

City Pages is the alt-weekly newspaper in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and they are now accepting ballots for their annual Best of the Twin Cities 2010 issue. This is a very high honor in the Twin Cities and the American Midwest, and this year, I want us to win.

I'm asking everybody, regular contributors and casual readers alike, to cast a vote for The Ghibli Blog in the Best Local Blog category. It only takes a quick moment to fill out the ballot, and you don't have to worry about the other categories if you don't want.

A win for Best Local Blogger would be a great achievement for this blog, as well as the greater animation community. This will be a win for all of us, artists and readers alike. I have always said that The Ghibli Blog would not be possible without your devoted support. Here is another opportunity to demonstrate that.

To vote, simply click on the big button on the top-right of the page, just above Heidi Marco Anne. You can also steal that button for your own use if you wish. Do everything you can to help spread the word and bring in the votes. Ballots must be entered by April 5. The Best of the Twin Cities issue will hit newsstands on April 21. Thank you very much for all your support. Now let's win this thing!

Vote for The Ghibli Blog - Best Local Blog

New Poll: Vote For Best Animation Feature

We haven't had a poll at The Ghibl Blog in a long time, so what better time than now, after last night's Oscars?  Pixar's Up won the Academy Award for Best Animation Feature..what do you say?  Which of the five nominees do you think deserved to win?

Here are the five nominees:

Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up
"I Like Pie"

Everyone gets one vote, and we have all week to participate.  Feel free to leave your comments on this post, explaining your choice.  I'm very interested to hear what everyone thinks; honestly, I think this will be a much tighter race than last night's Oscars.

As always, the final choice is a jokey throwaway - I Like Pie.  I just use that for laughs, and also because I don't my vote to influence the final outcome.  Besides, if a movie can't compete against a slice of your favorite pie, can it really be called a good movie?  I think not.  Good luck!

Do I Really Have to Watch the Oscars?

Okay, we've all had our morning coffee and our cinnamon bagels, and the hangovers are wearing off.  What did everybody think of this year's Oscars?

I've been a fan of the Oscars for many, many years; it really is an event where the whole family sits down in front of the television set together.  So I suppose there's a degree of brand loyalty on my part.  That said, I've become increasingly bored over the past several years.  Either the show's producers are far too cautious and timid, and they've squeezed out all the spontanaeity and life, or I've figured out the "formula" by which the Motion Picture Academy hands out awards, or perhaps I've just outgrown it all.  Whatever the reasons, I'm getting very bored.

Was it just me, or were the jokes just falling flat?  Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin seemed like they could make a good team, and I like the idea of having a duo trade barbs and wisecracks.  In practice, however, it really didn't happen.  Either the writers weren't inspired this year, or Martin & Baldwin needed to work on their timing, I don't know.  I don't think they were on stage nearly enough.  Just what is the purpose of the Oscars MC?  They deliver an opening monologue and then disappear while other celebrities do all the heavy lifting.  Very strange.

The Academy's producers seem terrified that any unscripted events will happen, like Roberto Begnini standing on chairs, or Michael Moore denouncing the Iraq War, or that streaker who ran past David Niven.  But that's why I'm watching the Oscars!  I want to see something crazy and unexpected happen.  I want Jack Palance doing one-armed pushups!  I want Adrian Brody making out with Hally Berry.  I want Jack Nicholson drunk off his ass and making a fool of himself.

I want something, anything, that demonstrates these Beautiful People in show business are real human beings, and not animated robots.  I don't want an efficient machine.  Life is neither efficient nor a machine.  I want the excitement and passion of the movies.  I want the melodrama and the thrills and the spills.  I want Groucho Marx hitting on Margaret Dumont.  I want Nora Desmond begging for her closeup.  I am not interested in yet another boring acceptance speech that thanks family members and then shuffles off, in time for the next stupid commercial.

Maybe it's because I never watch television anymore.  If it weren't for the Nintendo and the DVD player, I wouldn't even own one.  My fab stereo system is the center of my living room.  Just listen to Miles Davis on the Sony turntable!  Listen to Beethoven!  It's amazing!  Why would you waste your precious lives on Jay Leno and reality shows when you could be immersed in great music?

So perhaps Marshall MacLuhan and Terence McKenna are right, and the media we consume skewer our sensory ratios.  Perhaps my brain has become wired against the passive drugged-out experience of television.  Even when there's something worth watching - Ken Burns' latest documentary, the Winter Olympics, Conan O'Brien's final Tonight Show - it feels like a compromise.  I'd rather see it in person, or hear it on the radio.  The idiot box just makes me cranky now.  It feels designed to make you stupid and numb.  It feels like an idiot narcotic to me.

So I sit down and watch the Oscars, and pass along my cranky grandpa rants to Marcee, who keeps me sane, and I pass along notes on Twitter for the sake of my readers.  It was okay.  It was sadly predictable, boring, lifeless, and always slightly off the mark.  Will I remember any of this in a week's time?  Will we remember anything next month?  Part of me fears that I'm losing interest in the movies.  I hope that is not the case.  There's so much strang and drum to muscle through, but there's always a surprise, a hidden gem, a truly great movie, if you are but willing to look.  When we lose curiosity, our spirit of exploration, that is when we truly grow old and die.  That is when the idiot narcotics win.

Miyazaki Comics - The Age of the Flying Boat (1989)

Hayao Miyazaki wrote and painted The Age of the Flying Boat in 1989 for Model Grafx Magazine in Japan.  This story was later evolved and expanded into Studio Ghibli's 1992 movie, Porco Rosso.  In 1993, Animerica Magazine scored an impressive scoop: an English translation, released in three monthly installments, as part of their extensive coverage of Porco Rosso and all things Miyazaki.

This must have been amazing to read back then.  Holding this comic in your hands was pure gold.  There was no hope of ever seeing the movie, unless you knew someone in Japan.  Porco Rosso wouldn't be officially released in North America until 2006!  Oh, the dark days when Ghibli's films were impossible to find, copied and shuttled around on beaten videotapes among the anime underground.  Even with the popular success of Katruhiro Otomo's Akira, and the hunger for "Japanimation" (Thank God that word was retired), Miyazaki would remain an unknown for another decade.

What a wonderful luxury we have today with the internet.  I am humbled and grateful that such works are now freely available.  I've helped to play my role in bringing that about.  I hope you enjoy reading "Crimson Pig" in The Age of the Flying Boat, from the pages of Animerica.


Part One - Animerica, July 1993:


Part Two - Animerica, August 1993:



Part Three - Animerica, September 1993:

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