Friday, June 10, 2005

Have you had your Ghibli today?

If you love animated film as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to read this brilliant column by Jeff Yang of the San Francisco Chronicle, about the marvelous masterworks of Japan's Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli's latest film, Howl's Moving Castle, opens in U.S. theaters today, and I, for one, can hardly wait to see it. Directed by the legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, Howl's Moving Castle looks like another winner for the traditional yet inventive filmmaker. Two of Miyazaki's previous films for Studio Ghibli, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, are among the greatest cinematic achievements in any genre during the past ten years. And if you have children and they haven't yet seen Kiki's Delivery Service or Laputa (also known as Castle in the Sky), dash over to your local video outlet and pick up one or both this weekend. Trust me.

I do have to take issue with one point in Jeff Yang's article. In slamming Disney Studios — with good cause — for its mismanagement of its animation department over the past several years, Yang writes:
In the past half decade, the studio that lovingly birthed such classic toons as Bambi, Snow White, Fantasia and The Lion King has stamped out an embarrassing series of, ahem, nonclassics: The Emperor's New Groove. Treasure Planet. Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Brother Bear. Home on the Range.
Though he's mostly right, Yang's wrong about a couple of the films on his list of "embarrassing...nonclassics." The Emperor's New Groove (read my review) is a terrific comedy — perhaps the funniest animated movie, end to end, that Disney has ever done. It's animated in a simpler style than most of the Disney classics, but the approach works very well for what is essentially a extended Chuck Jones Looney Tune. And while they were duds at the box office, and certainly a notch down from the great Disney films of the previous decade, both Treasure Planet (read my review) and Atlantis: The Lost Empire (read my review) were decent films that, although flawed, were far from embarrassing.

Home on the Range sucked, though.

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