Long history of Disney vs. Ghibli confrontation (Topic)

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Long history of Disney vs. Ghibli confrontation


Many directors of Disney-owned studios openly admit their love for Ghibli paintings, but the company itself has never understood its value. Disney had to deal with the release of their films in America, and the process from film to film was quite painful. For example, notorious producer Harvey Weinstein believed that Princess Mononoke should be edited for Western audiences. In America, animation was for families, and families might not have wanted to see a two-hour epic. In response, the producer of the film, Toshio Suzuki, sent Weinstein a katana with an engraving "Cut Nothing."

Miyazaki won this battle, which is surprising, especially given Weinstein's penchant for radically changing and reworking the films he released through Miramax. In Hollywood he was called Harvey Scissorhands for a reason. But Suzuki's wise move worked, reflecting the Ghibli's ability to counter the even larger giant. For just over 15 years, Studio Ghibli films have been licensed for the American release of Disney, resulting in financial success. Ghibli has never been a problem; on the contrary, some of her best films were made during this period. The problem was that Disney didn't understand what made Studio Ghibli special, says Polygon as part of their Ghibli Week.


Princess Mononoke was not reworked for its first release in America, but it went largely unnoticed. Despite excellent reviews, the film was released in a limited run in the fall of 1999, grossing only $ 2.3 million domestically. Fortunately, Miyazaki and his studio were able to find in the vast dense forest of Disney someone who was on the same wavelength with them and understood everything much better than Weinstein: John Lasseter from Pixar.

Lasseter joined the production of Miyazaki's films right in the middle of Spirited Away. Lasseter could be called the biggest Ghibli fan of the time in the United States. At the same time, Lasseter became one of the most powerful Disney players. While executives felt that a failed campaign for Princess Mononoke would spell doom for any future films, Lasseter argued otherwise.

According to Disney-History Jim Hill Media, the first American show of Spirited Away was powered by Pixar. Lasseter immediately fell in love with the picture, offering to become the executive producer of the American version. As Lasseter recounted in tribute to Miyazaki at the 2014 Tokyo International Film Festival, he was their assistant for decades. In 1981, while Lasseter was still at Walt Disney's animation studio, Miyazaki and a group of other Japanese animators visited the studio to showcase a scene from Miyazaki's first film, Cagliostro Castle.

“I felt it was the first cartoon that could entertain people of all ages,” Lasseter said.


For Spirited Away, the Pixar leader hired Kirk Wise, co-director of Disney Oscar-winning Beauty and the Beast, to manage the English translation. In Japan, Spirited Away was an undeniable hit: nearly 20 years after its release, it still remains the highest grossing film ever released in the country. In the United States, however, even with Pixar's momentum behind, Spirited Away could fail. Lasseter and Wise did their best, but Disney didn't work too hard to advertise the film, and didn't help a wider audience see that there was such a picture at all.

If there ever was a formula they had with Studio Ghibli, it was precisely how their films were released in the United States with critical acclaim and barely noticeable box misses. Although Spirited Away won almost all of the critical acclaim, during its limited release in the fall of 2002, the film grossed just $ 10 million in the States [including when Disney reissued the film in 2003]. The good news was that Spirited Away won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and most importantly, it did it before Disney. This helped strengthen Ghibli.


Spirited Away was the peak of the relationship between Ghibli and Disney. Miyazaki's next three films were also released through Disney, but since his films were difficult to categorize by genre in a country that grew up with Disney products, their screenings in the States were good at best. Howl's Moving Castle also emerged from under the Pixar wing. It was executive produced by Pete Docter, who won a future Oscar for Up and Inside Out.

At the time, Docter expressed his own admiration for Miyazaki's work: “He brings these real truths to life ... he takes time and allows you to live in your world, which is so rich and beautiful.”

Through the influence of Disney, Docter has been able to assemble an impressive American cast for English-language dubbing, including Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall and Billy Crystal. Even so, Moving Castle Howl, which was an anti-war film inspired by the Iraq war, came out in the States in the summer and earned less than $ 5 million.

Miyazaki's next film, Ponyo Fish on the Cliff, was released in the US simply as Ponyo and received more marketing push. Lasseter was joined by Brad Lewis and Peter Son [the latter best known as Emile's voice in Ratatouille] as directing the English translation, and the script was written by screenwriter Melissa Mathison.

With the main character, "Ponyo" reminded the audience of the familiar "Little Mermaid". However, even though Disney flirted with a return to traditional animation with The Princess and the Frog, the traditionally animated Ponyo was shown in theaters at the end of the summer season, when many schools had already reopened.


The two most recent works, Ghibli Tales from Earthsea and Secret World of Arrietty, were also released by Disney. Tales from Earthsea is the only MPAA-rated PG-13 animated film released under the banner of Walt Disney Pictures. But he was shown in just five theaters in the final days of summer 2010, earning less than $ 50,000. Secret World of Arrietty proved to be a modest hit for Ghibli when compared to their other films. But released by Disney, it surprisingly grossed $ 19 million domestically, making it Ghibli's biggest American hit.

Miyazaki's latest film, The Wind Rises, did not look like a cartoon: it is a biopic about aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi and how his Mitsubishi A6M Zero plane was an important part of Japanese aviation in World War II. The two-hour long "The Wind Rises" also received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. A lengthy animated film that is neither child-friendly nor family-friendly was unusual in the states. It was released through the Disney label Touchstone Pictures. Although Touchstone was once a major studio, it had lost its status by the mid-2010s. The Wind Rises has grossed just over $ 5 million in 496 cinemas domestically.


And yet the film received praise from many critics. Although the biopic was an unexpected choice for animation, its honest and clear portrayal of the destruction of war, created from the memories of one of its creators, was something new. But since then, Disney no longer holds the reins on American Ghibli releases.

For decades, Ghibli has been opposed to their films being broadcast digitally. Disney tried to get a streaming deal before his contract ended, but it didn't work out. The widely popular streaming service Disney Plus is not allowed to show their work on its service.

But in 2019, Ghibli changed that policy, allowing its films to be shown digitally for the first time. In the spring of 2020, Ghibli films hit Netflix in countries outside of the US and HBO Max in America. Over the past 30 years, Disney has tried to absorb every major franchise and high-value entertainment spot in the sun. But no matter how much his creative team adored Hayao Miyazaki, Disney has never been able to stomach Studio Ghibli.

The Topic of Article: Long history of Disney vs. Ghibli confrontation.
Author: Jake Pinkman