Friday, February 17, 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty Opens Today in Theaters

Princess Mononoke
The release of a Studio Ghibli film in theaters in the United States is a cause for celebration.  Studio Ghibli films use classic, hand-drawn animation, and the Studio Ghibli style is lush and distinctive.  Studio Ghibli films are revered around the world.  The studio was founded by master animator Hayao Miyazaki, who continues to oversee all major Ghibli productions.  I've been a fan since Princess Mononoke was released in the U.S. in 1999.  Princess Mononoke was released by Miramax Films, known for releasing "art house" and "independent" films aimed primarily at adults.  The critics loved Princess Mononoke, but since it was released as an "art film" in the U.S., it did very modest business.  In fact, Princess Mononoke was rated PG-13 and was undoubtedly seen by many more adults in theaters than kids.

In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures released Spirited Away.  Its reviews were even better than Princess Mononoke's, even though it is a more "kid friendly" film (PG rating).  The release of Spirited Away was even overseen by John Lasseter, known as the chief creative force behind Pixar.  The film also won the Academy Award for best Animated Feature.  Still, Spirited Away made only $10 million dollars at the box office (Shrek, released a year earlier, made $267 million, for means of comparison).  Howl's Moving Castle was released in 2005 and Ponyo was released in 2009.  Howl's was seen mostly by Miyazaki die-hards.  Ponyo, while considered a lesser film in the Ghibli canon (it's aimed at a much younder audience), nonetheless received a wider U.S. release than any Ghibli film which had come before it.

The Secret World of Arrietty is being released today in 1,500 theaters.  While a Harry Potter movie is released in over 4,000 theaters, the release planned by Walt Disney Pictures shows a definite commitment to grow the profile of Studio Ghibli in the U.S.  Will Arrietty be a hit for Walt Disney?  That remains to be seen.  You can see how the release for Arrietty compares to the laast four Ghibli features released in the U.S.
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the children's novel The Borrowers, by Mary Norton.  It's about a group of tiny people living under the floorboards of a family of what we would consider regular-sized people.  It has the humor, beauty, and magic of the Miyazaki brand.  It's not getting the rave reviews of Spirited Away, but it's getting very positive reviews.If you're a Miyazaki fan, you will want to seek it out.  If you've never seen a Miyazaki film, you need to see one in a theater.  The Secret World of Arrietty is currently playing in Olympia, Lacey, and Tacoma.

If you're interested, here is my ranking of my favorite Miyazaki films:

1.  Porco Rosso
2.  Princess Mononoke
3.  Spirited Away
4.  My Neighbor Totoro
5.  Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
6.  Castle in the Sky
7.  Howl's Moving Castle
8.  Kiki's Delivery Service

I haven't actually seen Ponyo.

Grave of the Fireflies
I also recommend the Studio Ghibli film Grave of the Fireflies.  It was directed by Miyazaki's contemporary Isao Takahata, whose style is different than Miyazaki's.  Its subject matter is the bombing of Kobe at the end of World War II.  It is much more serious and somber than other Studio Ghibli movies.  Film critic Roger Ebert was a vocal champion of the film.  Here is his review of the film for his Great Movies series.

1 comment:

  1. Me, Kate and Liah all went to see that! It was really good! Just like all his other movies. :)