3 items from 2016
Serious Ghibli fans have been well aware for quite sometime now that, in spite of the studio’s widespread recognition and devout following, there are several films in their catalogue that have never been widely available for Western viewers. Among those selected unlucky titles a couple belong to the company’s co-founder Isao Takahata, whose artistic talent is on pair with that of Miyazaki but is less of a household name, and have never enjoyed a proper release in North America.
Trying to prevent these marvelous works from fading into obscurity, independent animation distributor Gkids, which has distributed Ghibli films such as Takahata’s Oscar-nominated “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” “From Up on Poppy Hill,” and current Academy Award-nominee “When Marnie Was There,” has stepped in and is opening Takahata’s 1991 masterpiece “Only Yesterday” theatrically for the first time in the U.S with the first-ever English dub of the film starring "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" star Daisy Ridley and
Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire"). This fantastic new version comes 25 years after its original Japanese release and will probably be the first of many similar ventures. Lesser-known titles such as “Ocean Waves” and Takahata's pre-Ghibli feature “Gauche the Cellist” still remain unavailable and undubbed - but hopefully not for long.
Ahead of the film’s release across the U.S. on February 26, Gkids, appeal retailer Hot Topic and Ashley Eckstein's Her Universe, hosted a special screening of the film this week to celebrate the team that made the new dubbed iteration of this touching tale about growing up possible. Following the film’s presentation, chief of the international division at Studio Ghibli and producer Geoffrey Wexler, David Freedman, who was in charge of the English-language screenplay, and casting director Jamie Simone, joined Eckstein for a lively Q&A where they discussed the intricacies behind this project. Wexler, who is outspoken about his ardent love for the film, had the most insightful anecdotes that evidently show his passion for bringing “Only Yesterday” to a wider audience despite years of continuous hurdles.
Here are some highlights from the animated conversation.
On his decision to specifically push for an English-dub of Takahata's "Only Yesterday"
Geoffrey Wexler: I joined the studio about four or five years ago, and this was one of my most favorite films. I was taking stock of what the studio had done and I was surprised to find that this film had never been dubbed. We were creating Blu-ray discs for all the films and I was watching it with my colleagues. We were checking the subtitles and we were updating some of them here and there. I think the third or fourth time we watched it my colleagues and I all said the same word in Japanese, “mottainai,” which means “what a shame “or “what a waste.” This is a beautiful film, but if you don’t speak Japanese you can only read the subtitles. A lot of people don’t want to do that and you really can’t watch it. Every frame is hand-painted and every frame is hand-drawn. We don’t get that much anymore. We decided to figure how to do it and I was told it was “undubbable,” which I didn’t know was a word. I decided that it wasn’t a word and I wasn’t going to accept it.
On the uphill battle he faced to make this new release a reality
Geoffrey Wexler: Through persistence, stubbornness, arrogance on my part and even pride, I wasn’t going to give up. Three or four budgets later and three or four rejections later, I gave up - but not really. I threw a fit and said, “I’m never asking again.” I send a one-line email to my boss that said “Never!” [Laughs]. Bu just as David, Jamie and I had finished the dub for “When Marnie Was There,” we were sitting at dinner and I said “I’m going to look at my phone,” which I never usually do at dinner. There was a note from my boss that said, “Make your dub.” I still don’t know what the trigger was, but I think I just wore him down.
The background of all that is that I saw a beautiful film with a terrific story that would transcend borders, ages, and that doesn’t get old and doesn’t look old. It looks different than films that we are used to today like Pixar or "Avengers" and obviously the pacing is a little mellower and the action is slow-paced, but I still thought it was a beautiful film so I wanted to give it a try. I test screened it a few years ago after I had finished another dub at Skywalker sound in Marin County and it got a good reception. That was really encouraging. We showed it to our distributors, Gkids, of course, to our friends at StudioCanal in England, and our friends at Madman in Australia, and they all said they would chip in. Several budgets later we made it. I think it’s still relevant and I think it’s still beautiful. It’s kind of my baby.
On "Only Yesterday" being undubbable and his guess on why Disney never released the film
For me “undubbable” meant a litany of excuses that didn’t make any sense. A different studio than Gkids had the rights to distribute it and they never distributed it. When I joined Ghibli and I talked to them I said, “Are you guys ever going to release this?” and they said, “We can’t release it.” I said, "Can it have it back then?" and they said, ”Yes.” I think the discussion of the girls having their periods may have been a problem. A lot of people squirm about that in North America, but in other countries they don’t. It wasn’t a problem in some countries. I think also the pacing was hard for North America. Also there were some legal issues around some of the sound. The moment when she sings in Japanese for the first time I was told, “You can’t do anything about that. It’s going to have to stay that way.” I said, “It’ll stay that way and then a few minutes later they’ll talk about the song." One by one I just chipped away this façade of it being “undubbable.”
On the process from translating the Japanese screenplay to bringing the cast together
Geoffrey Wexler: We had a Japanese script obviously and we had to work on the subtitles, so there is a fellow in Tokyo who is one of my translators and he translated the script from Japanese to English but straight across. At first we don’t worry about how long the lines are, or if it's going to be easy for people to understand, or if it's going to be a direct translation. We polish that up and then I gave it to David.
This is the fifth one I’ve done. These scripts sync so well that the only real changes we are making is when the actor has a new take on it. If I’ve done my job well I have very little to do in the studio by the time we get there. Not counting the four years to get the budget approved. We started between February and March of last year, David got it in May, we started working on the casting around June, we were in the studio in August and then back in Tokyo in September to put it all together. Invariably there are always some things you don’t anticipate. We finished at the end of September.
One of the hardest things is we had Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel, who are very busy, there are other actors in many places, and then we have lots of actors who are here in L.A. Scheduling is really tough. If they are on a big film, I don’t know like a space movie, they may go away for months and months or perhaps and we only grab them for a few days. Actors always tell me how much they love doing this. No hair, no make up, no light, no camera. They are in front of a mic acting and that’s what they love to do.
On his personal connection to "Only Yesterday" and why it merits multiple viewings
Geoffrey: I started watching it in the early 90s, and it’s changed for me as I watch it. So if you watch it again in 10 years, and I hope you will, you’ll see a different film because you’ll change. That’s really something the film is very much about, about how Taeko’s changed. What it means to me is that it reminds me that most people are presenting themselves quite honestly.
I’m always moved at how much what happens in your youth affects you. We all have random moments when you are walking down the street and you remember something that happened when you were young and you might even physically cringe. A lot of things stick with us no matter how important they are and then they affect us later. You don’t stop growing. She is talking about how at 27 she is going to have this other growth. It happens over and over.
- Carlos Aguilar
Earlier this week, Disney Xd debuted a new preview for the second half of Star Wars Rebels Season 2, which revealed that Princess Leia will make her debut on the beloved animated series. With less than one week left until the Star Wars Rebels mid-season premiere, Disney Xd has released a new three-minute trailer, which features another look at Leia, while teasing the return of Darth Vader and Yoda. Perhaps the most interesting part of this footage is an intriguing connection to the current blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Towards the end of this footage, Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) is seen wielding a new lightsaber that has the same crossguard design as Kylo Ren's (Adam Driver) lightsaber from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It isn't the exact same weapon, though, since the blades on Ezra's saber are green and Kylo's is red, but the fact that it has the same design is certainly intriguing. »
An aide to Bail Organa (Princess Leia Organa) is sent to Lothal with ships for the rebel fleet, but an Imperial lockdown forces the rebels to create a new plan to steal the vehicles. Princess Leia, the unstoppable Rebel hero featured in both the original Star Wars trilogy as well as the recent Star Wars: The Force Awakens, makes her Star Wars Rebels debut when an all-new episode of Star Wars Rebels airs Wednesday, January 20 (9:00 p.m., Et/Pt) on Disney Xd. The network has released a new clip from the episode, entitled The Princess on Lothal, along with photos that offer our first look at this iconic character on the animated series.
Taking place three years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Leia is introduced as a young leader on her way to becoming the strong, more resolute character portrayed in the original trilogy. »
3 items from 2016
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