Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Relationship of Miyazaki and Disney

Many people of my generation would point to John Lasseter being the great "Walt Disney" of our times, and its understandable to do so.  To his credit though, John Lasseter has repeatedly pointed to his own personal hero to claim that mantle:  Hayao Miyazaki.  

Miyazaki is an animator and illustrator from Japan that has taken the Japanese, and now American audience, to fantastic places for over 40 years.  His films are national treasures in Japan, to the point that factories shut down when they are released because so many would schedule their days off during them.  Miyazaki is the head of Studio Ghibli, which do other movies aside from his own, which are each wonderful in their own ways as well.  It is an extensive catalogue.

This catalog was to be bought by Disney in the late 90's.  Many thought that this would mean we would get great versions of them brought to our shores.  In video games, the Japanese games were at their height.  On television the Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon craze was in their zeniths as well.  That fact such a large company bought the rights to Ghibli distribution should have been a cause for celebration.  Unfortunately the lead of the studio saw Ghibli as a competitor.  They were afraid these wonderful movies would detract from whatever half assed direct to DVD sequel they were pumping out that week with horrible quality animation, and shoddy voice acting.  The catalog was bought for one reason: to bury it so that western audiences would never see it.

This is where John Lasseter came in.  Disney was feeling the pinch of their horrible decisions around the turn of the millenium.  Their biggest hits were done by Pixar, a studio that was not yet part of Disney.  John Lasseter wrote into the contract that he would in charge of Studio Ghibli's western distribution, and since Disney needed Pixar, they consented.

Many times since, we have been getting good quality transfers of Ghibli films, and Oscars have either gone to Lasseter's Pixar stuff or Miyazaki's Ghibli movies.  While Lasseter does not make the movies himself, you can see why and how Miyazaki has influenced the kinds of things Pixar green lights.  From Up to Wall-E, you get that warmth and quirky charm.  While the earlier stuff is niche still, and largely unknown, the stuff released since Lasseter got in charge of it, are known and loved by critics and movie audiences a like.

Ghibli movies are spectacles.  You are guaranteed to be transported to a place you never imagined.  To places that are not yet stereotypical here in America, and treated to stories that are heart warming, quirky, and less about princesses in castles rescued by the quarterback. 

This is the end to my post about Miyazaki and his relationship with Disney, but it surely will not be my last post about Ghibili.  I have watched almost all his movies, and the movies of Ghibli not done by him, several times each.  I should do reviews and try and get others to watch them as well.