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Studio Ghibli Retrospective to Play in L.A., from ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ to ‘Spirited Away’

Studio Ghibli Retrospective to Play in L.A., from 'My Neighbor Totoro' to 'Spirited Away'

Unknown ObjectStarting on January 26, LA’s Egyptian and Aero Theatres will present a 20-year retrospective of films by Japan’s acclaimed Studio Ghibli, building on the success of a previous festival that played in New York in late 2011.

Fourteen Ghibli films will be screened in both subtitled and English dubbed versions, among them Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke,” “My Neighbor Totoro” and his Oscar-winning masterpiece “Spirited Away.”  The retrospective will also feature several films by other Ghibli directors, such as “Whisper of the Heart” and “The Cat Returns.”

The December retro at New York’s IFC Center grossed almost $123,000 in just three weeks, setting several single-day records for the theater.  In addition to Los Angeles, the festival will also travel to several other American and Canadian markets, including Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Toronto.

GKIDS, the animation distributor behind the retrospective, recently partnered with Studio Ghibli to provide theatrical distribution for the studio’s feature films.  The distributor is also planning several limited releases at the end of 2012 of several Ghibli works never before screened theatrically in the US.

The GKIDS agreement is an interesting twist in the Ghibli distribution story.  In a 1996 deal, Tokuma Shoten, a Japanese publisher and the parent company of Studio Ghibli, entered into an agreement with the Walt Disney Corporation that gave Disney the worldwide non-Japan home video distribution rights to several Ghibli films and the worldwide non-Asia theatrical distribution rights to “Princess Mononoke,” which was released in 1997.  Disney (whose animation department is now run by Pixar director John Lasseter, a devoted friend of Miyazaki) was instrumental in producing and distributing the English dubbed versions of several of Miyazaki’s films from the last decade, including “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Ponyo.”

The GKIDS deal grants the company the rights to the theatrical distribution of several Ghibli films in North America, while Disney will retain the home video rights to those films.  In addition, Disney will be reponsible for the North American theatrical distribution of Ghilbi’s newest film, “The Secret World of Arrietty,” which will open in the US in February. Here’s a clip.

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The dubbing of these films is a fact of life…you cannot take an English speaking only 5 year old to a Studio Ghibli film in Japanese!


And it cannot be emphasized enough that several of the prints will be shown with their original Japanese tracks (and subtitles). With all due respect to Lasseter, the English dubs turn these films into completely different experiences; it's extremely difficult to believe you're in medieval Japan when a character opens his mouth and out comes the Arkansas drawl of Billy Bob Thornton.


Many people have seen the Miyazaki films, but have overlooked WHISPER OF THE HEART, a comedy-drama about adolescence and one of the finest animated movies ever made, IMHO. Another real find in this festival is "Ocean Waves," a made-for-TV animated film that's easily one of the best high school dramas ever made. I'd put them above all but five of the Miyazaki films (NAUSICAA to KIKI, plus MONONOKE).

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