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.


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.


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."


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.


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!

Photos: Mei and the Kittenbus (2003)

Studio Ghibli: Mei and the Kittenbus

Studio Ghibli: Mei and the Kittenbus

Studio Ghibli: Mei and the Kittenbus

Studio Ghibli: Mei and the Kittenbus

Here are some photos from the 2003 Ghibli Museum short film Mei and the Kittenbus. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this is a sequel of sorts to the beloved children's classic My Neighbor Totoro.

Mei and the Kittenbus is fairly short, roughly ten minutes. In the first sequence, young Mei playing around her family house until she discovers a new friend, the "kittenbus," who is a pint-sized version of Catbus. The two play and frolic around and have a good time.

In the second sequence, Mei is awakened at night by Kittenbus, who takes her on a journey, where they discover dozens of "cat buses" of all shapes and sizes, and populated by hundreds of large Totoros. Everyone is joining together to meet the elder Catbus, the oldest and largest of them all (and voiced by Miyazaki himself). Here, Mei is reunited with Totoro, who is still carrying his umbrella.

Everyone is happy and cheerful. Mei is returned to her home, and the story ends.

While this film, like all the Ghibli Museum short films, remain exclusively in Japan, Westerners can purchase the official art books, which include large screenshots detailing the stories. These are nice collectibles and very valuable for scholars who wish to discover this little-known aspect of Studio Ghibli.

Will Mei and the Kittenbus ever be shown outside of Japan? Not likely, at least not while Miyazaki is still alive. The museum was created with a decidedly non-commercial approach, deliberately avoiding the mass consumerism of a Disneyland. Because of this, the museum's short films are intended to be seen only there, with no possibility of a home video release.

Even after Miyazaki passes (hopefully not for many more years), Toshio Suzuki will likely still honor his friend's wishes. Whoever ends up controlling Studio Ghibli after the original founders are gone will likely decide the fate of these movies. But that's not a conversation we're ready to have, for obvious reasons. I'll gladly prefer to keep these movies in the vault in exchange for keeping Miyazaki around a little longer.

Support This Website With Amazon Associates

Ghibli Blog: Support this website with Amazon Associates

Hi, everyone. I wanted to share a quick message about Ghibli Blog and our ongoing plans to build and grow. As you can see, there are a number of small Google ads which bring in a couple pennies every day, depending on site traffic. I've experimented with these in the past, and while it never earns much money, every little bit helps. I promise to keep these ads discreet and not let them overwhelm the website.

You may also notice the Amazon ads on the right sidebar. This is our newest addition: Amazon Associates. When you purchase items shown in these ads, we will receive a percentage of the sale. Better yet, even if you don't buy that item, anything you purchase on that visit will still count. Best of all: this will not cost you one single penny.

Do you want to support Ghibli Blog? Here's how: when you want to buy something on Amazon, first click on one of the Amazon ads on this site. You don't have to buy the item from the ad, so if you're not interested, just continue shopping. For everything that you buy, we will receive a 20 percent royalty check from Jeff Bezos. Yay!

We at DT Media and Ghibli Blog are working hard to build something special, including this website and our upcoming book releases. This is a full-time job, and if you enjoy the content you read daily -- news, reviews, essays and more -- then please support us and enable us to continue our work.

Thank you very much.


Photos: Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli: Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli: Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli: Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli: Howl's Moving Castle

I'm a great fan of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, enough to see the movie four times when it played at the local theater in 2005. It felt like a distillation of his entire body of work, from Toei Doga to Studio Ghibli, from animation to comics. Was the movie a big, sprawling mess? Absolutely, which is precisely the thing I enjoyed most about it.

Fans of Diana Wynne Jones' fantasy novels were, understandably, less charitable with Miyazaki's very loose "adaptation," which only seemed to skim the names of the main characters and basic setting before chucking the rest and running wild. If you were expecting something akin to the books, or a faithful translation ala Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, you were bound to be disappointed.

I never read the novels, and have never been a fan of the fantasy genre. Science-fiction was always my style. Because of this, I never saw Howl as anything more than a Miyazaki story, one that seemed to plumb the depths of his personal quirks and obsessions. He seemed less interested in telling Jones' tale, and more interested in sharing his insights on the war, work ethic and marriage. The romantic leads are clearly meant to be the Miyazaki Clan, as we have seen in Animal Treasure Island, Future Boy Conan, Sherlock Hound, Ponyo and The Wind Rises.

I enjoy the joyous surrealism of this movie, the Fellini-esque carnival atmosphere and obsessions with his personal emotions. I enjoy Sophie's transformations, from young to old, back to young again,  and then a happy medium of youth and acquired wisdom. I enjoy the mashup of sidekicks and oddball characters who feel like refugees from Oz (one almost expects to find a yellow brick road somewhere. I especially enjoy the hulking castle, pieces together from impossible pieces that shouldn't fit together, yet somehow still works. It has real personality.

And, yes, I even enjoy the ending that attempts to shoehorn one too many plot points into a too-neat-by-half ending. One character is even reduced to tossing out wisecracks to the audience like Tom Servo and Crow, and we find ourselves agreeing with her. Great movies are rarely perfect movies, as Pauline Kael loved to say. You have to appreciate the cheesy moments now and then, or you're never going to enjoy going to the movies.

UPDATE: Blogger seems to have eaten this post, for some unknown reason. I'll just leave everything here and we'll discuss Howl's Moving Castle in depth at a later time. Yay, screenshots!

DT Media: Book Cover Design Contests Underway

DT Media: Book Cover Design Contest

DT Media: Book Cover Design Contest

Gustavo Cerati Bocanada

News on the upcoming books: I have begun cover design contests for my three titles at 99 Designs. I have supplied detailed notes on the books and what I'm looking for, which range from "exactly like this" to "I have no idea what I'm doing." Artists and illustrators will compete and the winners will create covers for the paperback and ebook editions.

Zen Arcade: Classic Video Game Reviews is a collection of 140 videogame reviews for NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, Turbografx-16, Genesis and Neo-Geo. All the titles have been released on Nintendo's Virtual Console and similar digital platforms. Two more books in the series are planned if this one is successful.

The cover design recreates the style of Nintendo Wii game packaging, complete with the swirl on top with the DTM logo on top-right. There are a tangle of game controllers, some rainbow colors, and a bunch of empty space. I hope the designers really make this one shine.

Greatest Hits: An Anthology in Four Volumes is an anthology of essays from four books, including two that I'm still working on, "Videogame Classics" and "Conversations on Ghibli." Yes, this will be my first published writings on the never-ending Studio Ghibli book project.

The cover design is aiming for a tabloid style. I wanted to use Totoro instead of an LP/CD, but I can't get the copyrights from Ghibli. This may become a problem with my efforts to publish the Ghibli book down the line. Maybe the designers will surprise me with something amazing.

Pop Life is a collection of pop culture essays on film & television, music & audio, video games, and politics & current events. This is the most "Chuck Klosterman" of my three books, and also the largest of the three. I really love this one.

The cover design will be a recreation of Gustavo Cerati's 1999 Bocanada album, but with me on the cover. I'm strongly tempted to leave no text on the cover, which would look cool, but might prove confusing to the public. We'll see how it goes.

The 99 Designs contest runs for a full week, but the first round runs four days. As soon as the covers are finished, I'll hand things over to the formatting team, then we'll be ready for launch. Is there still time to launch before Halloween? Cross yer fingers, kids.

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