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2017-02-25

Spirited Away: The 8-Bit Videogame



This is just super cool. The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro has been recreated as an NES-style 8-bit videogame. The video progresses through the major scenes of the movie, as Chihiro/Sen and her family arrive at an abandoned Japanese theme park, which leads to a haunted bath house for the spirit world, and many exciting adventures for the young girl who must rescue her lost parents (who have been turned into pigs).

I really enjoyed this video.  Apart from some 3D effects, it could easily be created for the NES. I could see this working as a side-scrolling adventure game, like Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, or perhaps a graphical adventure like Maniac Mansion. Somebody should make this happen. It clearly would never receive the official blessing of Studio Ghibli, but at least Miyazaki might respect the effort. He probably wouldn't tear your head off the way he famously did to those CG programmers who created the mutant zombie demo. Ouch. That was just brutal.

Kudos to the programmers who created this demo. This is a great work of classic digital art.

New Trailer: Mary and the Witch's Flower



Studio Ponoc, founded and staffed by Studio Ghibli alumni, has just released the second trailer for their upcoming feature film, Mary and the Witch's Flower. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who previously directed Arrietty the Borrower and When Marnie Was There, is promising his greatest work yet. He clearly sees himself as the heir to Hayao Miyazaki.

Mary will be released in Japan this June. Will the public embrace Studio Ponoc? I certainly hope so. This trailer looks absolutely spectacular, with lush colors and extremely fluid animation. Yes, it is very clearly a "Miyazaki" film, but this may be just what the public wants. And we will discover if Yonebayashi has any new ideas, or if he is content to recreate Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service.

Either way, this movie is going to be something special, and a worldwide release is all but guaranteed. I just hope we won't have to wait a full year or more to get this movie. Bring it over this year! We have money!

The Next Miyazaki Feature Film is NOT "Boro the Caterpiller"


After the news broke yesterday that Hayao Miyazaki is returning to feature film production, a few facts have been brought to my attention, so I wanted to correct the official record.

Back in November, NHK TV aired a special about Hayao Miyazaki, Owaranai Hito Miyazaki Hayao ("The Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki"), showing him working on a new short film for the Ghibli Museum called Boro the Caterpiller. During this program, it was also revealed that the director was also reconsidering his "retirement" from feature films, even going so far as to show him working on storyboards.

There seems to be some confusion on the specifics, as these NHK specials are famously vague. Studio Ghibli loves to reveal only snippets here and there, only revealing everything once productions are nearly complete. Because of this, the idea emerged that Boro the Caterpiller, in addition to being a short film, was also the subject for Miyazaki's new feature.

The story first broke on Anime News Network, which detailed the events of the NHK special. The Boro and feature projects are mentioned separately. This was followed by Indie Wire, which conflated the two into a single project. From here, the meme was carried away by the internet echo chamber, which leads us to today.

Let's be clear on this matter. Boro the Caterpiller is a short film created for the Ghibli Museum. Miyazaki's feature film is a separate project, not related in any way. At one point during the NHK program, the director even asks the cameraman, "I think, if I make a feature film, what should I make?" In addition, while he is seen on camera working on storyboards, its contents are never revealed. This, again, is in keeping with Ghibli's tradition of teasing out only tiny pieces for the fans.

I've been writing about Studio Ghibli since 2003, and I can assure you that such misunderstandings are very common. Westerners pick up on bits and pieces, often just casual conversation by Miyazaki himself, that balloons into unofficial news. Movie sequels to Porco Rosso and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind are two good examples. Other examples: the idea that Hayao Miyazaki's career began with Studio Ghibli; that Castle of Cagliostro or Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind was his "first movie"; that any number of pre-Ghibli works are "Ghibli Films," even citing Toei Doga movies; and citing just about any anime film as "Miyazaki." For many Westerners, "Miyazaki" is merely shorthand for "Japanese cartoons that remind me of Disney."

We're getting better with accurate news, but the internet is a vast echo chamber for gossip, which spreads like wildfire and quickly becomes "conventional wisdom."

Much thanks to Japanese reader Tsk06, a follower on Ghibli Blog Twitter, for helping me out on this subject. As always, we greatly appreciate our fans and supporters.

2017-02-24

Hayao Miyazaki Returns With New Feature Film in 2019


Update 2:20 pm, February 25: We have updated this article in light of new information.

Now it's official: HE'S BAAAACK!!!!

During pre-Oscars interviews for The Red Turtle (which is produced by Studio Ghibli), Toshio Suzuki finally made it official: Hayao Miyazaki is working on another feature-length animated movie. The title and subject of the proposed movie has not yet been revealed, but storyboard creation is currently away, with the full animation production set to commence in June of this year. The film is planned for a June 2019 release date.


Back in November, Japanese TV network NHK aired a special on Hayao Miyazaki, detailing his daily activities at Studio Ghibli, as well as his production of Boro the Caterpiller, an animated short film made exclusively for the Ghibli Museum. During this program, the director floats the idea of returning to feature films for the first time since his well-publicized 2013 "retirement."

Hayao Miyazaki is notorious for his "retirements" which never seem to last. I wonder if Miyazaki felt the itch again in the wake of Makoto Shinkai's Your Name, which became a blockbuster hit in Japan, second only to Spirited Away (the movie's worldwide box office numbers have actually surpassed Spirited Away). And let us not forget the imminent arrival of Mary and the Witch's Flower, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Arrietty, When Marnie Was There) and produced by Studio Ponoc, which is founded and staffed by Studio Ghibli alumni.

It would make sense if Miyazaki felt his time had passed in 2013. Four years ago, 2D animation was "obsolete" and doomed to extinction, like silent movies after the arrival of sound. In 2017, the landscape is very different. While CG animation continues to dominate around the globe, hand-drawn animation features continue to achieve critical and popular success. A much-deserved Oscar nomination for The Red Turtle, a haunting and lyrical movie by Michaƫl Dudok de Wit, will no doubt help to keep the tradition alive.

Most likely, Miyazaki-san just can't sit still. His idea of "retirement" only ever applied to feature films, as he continued to tinker around with short films, manga comics and overseeing Studio Ghibli. Like Patty and Selma, he's working a job that he'll be doing ten years after he dies. He's not going anywhere, and Thank God for that.