9 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
Ever since master animator Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from feature filmmaking in September 2013, the question hanging over Japanese animation has been: Who, if anyone, will step into his very large shoes?
This search for the “new Miyazaki” began long before the Oscar-winning auteur released his 2013 swan song, the WWII-themed “The Wind Rises.” Studio Ghibli, which was Miyazaki’s creative home for nearly three decades, has raised several putative successors, including Miyazaki’s son Goro, who directed “Tales From Earthsea” and “From Up on Poppy Hill,” and “The Secret World of Arrietty” helmer Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who made Ghibli’s last feature to date, this year’s Oscar-nominated “When Marnie Was There.”
But no animator working in the Japanese industry today has approached Miyazaki’s spectacular earnings for 2001 coming-of-age fantasy “Spirited Away.” Its $300 million domestic take reset the all-time record.
The shape of the post-Miyazaki animation landscape became clearer with the »
- Mark Schilling
©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Pixar Animation Studios was the big winner at the 43rd Annual Annie Awards, Saturday evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Inside Out won Best Animated Feature along with 11 other categories, including Outstanding Music – Michael Giacchino; Outstanding Editing – Kevin Nolting; Outstanding Production Design – Ralph Eggleston; Outstanding Voice Acting – Phyllis Smith as ‘Sadness’; Outstanding Writing – Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley; and Best Directing – Pete Docter.
Watch the 2016 Annie Awards here.
This year was the first for the new category Best Animated Feature, Independent with Filme de Papel’s ‘Boy and the World’ taking this top honor.
The Best Animated Special Production was awarded to ‘He Named Me Malala’ (Parkes-MacDonald/Little Door); Best Animated Short Subject ‘World of Tomorrow’ (Don Hertzfeldt); Best Animated TV/Broadcast Commercial ‘Man and Dog’ (Psyop); Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production for Preschool Children ‘Tumble Leaf’ – Mirror (Amazon Studios and »
- Michelle McCue
Joy was the primary emotion felt by Pixar after “Inside Out,” its heart-tugging journey through the mind of an 11-year-old girl, took home the top prize at the 43rd Annie Awards on Saturday night.
In all, the film picked up 10 trophies, including prizes for best animated feature, director Pete Docter, writing (Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley) and voice acting for Phyllis Smith, who played Sadness.
Pixar also picked up an Annie for its second film of 2015, “The Good Dinosaur.” The award for achievement in animated effects in an animated production went to “Dinosaur’s” Jon Reisch and Stephen Marshall, giving Pixar a total of 11 awards for the night.
Ale Abreu’s “Boy and the World” took home the first ever best animated feature — international award. Asifa-Hollywood, the organization behind the Annies, decided to split the best animated feature category in two this year to give less seen films a chance at a prize. »
- Terry Flores
Though you’d be hard-pressed to get him to admit it, Japanese animator Isao Takahata is one of the most influential artists in the medium, alongside his longtime collaborator and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. His career reached a pinnacle last year when his film “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” was nominated for an animated feature Oscar. Takahata, 80, will be honored at the Annie Awards on Saturday, Feb. 6, with the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement alongside Phil Roman and the late Joe Ranft.
In your long career, what have been your biggest joys and biggest challenges?
Both my biggest joys and biggest challenges relate to the first feature-length theatrical film I directed: “Little Norse Prince Valiant” (1968). This project was extremely challenging in terms of the content to be expressed and the imagery in order to represent the story. And, for me as a novice director as well as »
- Terry Flores
The 43rd Annie Awards are turning to pairs of presenters rather than a traditional host for its awards ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA.
Comedy duo Garfunkel & Oates, also known as Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, are returning for a second year as presenters. They will be joined by actor, producer and director Edward James Olmos and actress Rita Moreno; Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, and “Saturday Night Live” alum Laraine Newman, who voices Gram on Netflix’s new toon “Dawn of the Croods”; young thesps Alexander Garfin and Hadley Belle Miller, who voiced Linus and Lucy in best feature nominee “The Peanuts Movie”; veteran voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson (“Uncle Grandpa”) and composer Christophe Beck; and actress and comedian Kristen Schaal (“Bob’s Burgers”) and actress Phyllis Smith, who voices Sadness in Pixar’s “Inside Out.”
Many of the presenters are »
- Terry Flores
Say what you will about AMPAS, the Academy Award nomination process, or the lack of minority representation in the acting categories, but when it comes to the branch that selects the Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Short Film nominees, one has to agree they are by far the group that is most willing to look outside what studios are producing and truly champion the quality of the craft ignoring lavish campaigns for true artistry.
Read More: 6 International and Independent 2D-Animated Features in the Oscar Race
This year, while most experts and pundits had their predictions fixated on films such as “The Peanuts Movie, “a well-liked homage to Schultz’ characters, or Pixar’s less prodigious candidate “The Good Dinosaur,” members of the animation committee seemed to ignore the speculation and in a highly unexpected move bestowed the coveted recognition on two five films that reflect the eclectic and broad spectrum of the medium. Curiously enough, the popular choice, “Inside Out,” is in the outlier here, because it’s the only CG film nominated in the category. The other four finalists are handcrafted projects created outside the box-office smashing and toy-selling strategies of large corporations.
One is a stop-motion romance aimed at mature audiences; there is also a critically acclaimed Aardman Studios production inspired by one of its most beloved characters, and two are hand-drawn international features prompted to this level of exposure solely by their undeniable craftsmanship and compelling visual storytelling. These last two candidates couldn’t be more different in stylistic approach and cultural intricacies; however, the fact that they both belong to New York-based independent distributor Gkids’ catalog, places them within an elite collection of animated gems known for their unconventional excellence.
Read More: Review: Why Alê Abreu's Sublime 'Boy and the World' is the Best Animated Film of the Year
On January 14th as the as the nominees in the Best Animated Feature category at the 88th Academy Award were revealed, the most shocking appearance, at least for those not familiar with the title, was that of a completely independent and visionary work from Brazil. Alê Abreu‘s mesmerizing musical extravaganza “Boy and the World” has been profoundly adored by those who have given a chance from the very beginning, but that doesn’t always translate into the mass appreciation - much less into Oscar love. Its nomination represents a triumph for uncompromising artists and in particular for Latin American animation. “Boy and the World” is the region’s first nominee and undoubtedly the most achieved animated project ever produced there.
Abreu’s film is utterly unforgettable and can’t fully be compared to anything previously done in the medium. Such colorful singularity and its endearingly transcendent messages certainly stroke a chord with voters. Nostalgic childhood memories, social justice concerns, artistic rebellion against oppression, and a myriad of other poignant ideas expressed nonverbally with multiple dynamic techniques and a vivid score resonated far beyond the reach of cocktail parties. “Boy and the World” is animation in its purest, most inspired and most heartfelt form. Is art directly from the artist hand, and that’s invaluable.
Read More: How "Boy and the World" Director Alê Abreu Handcrafted His Heartfelt & Dazzling Animated Masterpiece
Moved by the unexpected nomination director Alê Abreu said, “I am so honored and happy to have our film recognized by the Academy, I have no words. Thank you! It was a great year for animation around the globe, and the Academy's continued recognition of our work will continue to inspire."
That morning, as Guillermo Del Toro read the names of the chosen films, another Gkids nominee was announced to most people’s disbelief. Ghibli is no stranger the Oscar race, but their latest and, for the time being, final film from the legendary Japanese studio, “When Marnie Was There,” opened back in May and seemed to have lost traction as larger productions appeared to dominate not only the box-office but also the collective consciousness of what films would be recognized by the Academy. But one should never ignore Ghibli’s magical way to connect emotionally with audiences and the painstaking effort that takes to create such beautifully drawn treasures. The inclusion of Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s touching coming-of-age story based on a British novel by the same name, rounds up one of the strongest and most distinct group of nominees to have competed for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award.
Ead More: Review: Wondrous 'When Marnie Was There' is One of Ghibli's Most Profoundly Moving Works
Humbled and grateful for the mention Yonebayashi noted, "I am delighted and honored that 'When Marnie Was There' has been selected by the Academy as a nominee for 'Best Animated Film' of 2015. The selection of the film truly is a tribute to the entire production staff of the film, to whom I express my sincere appreciation. I will continue to endeavor to make films that will be seen and enjoyed by many people. Thank you very much for this honor."
Since 2010 when it earned its first nomination for Tomm Moore’s “The Secret of Kells,” Gkids has collected a total of eight nominations making it a powerhouse in the category - one that pundits should stop underestimating. Gkids’ first double nomination came in 2012 with two very different offers, the moody, Hitchcockian “A Cat in Paris” and the Cuba-set Spanish production “Chico & Rita,“ which is one of the few adult-oriented animated features to have ever been nominated. With the adorable and delicately executed “Ernest & Celestine” Gkids earned its 4th nomination in 2014.
Read More: Why 'Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet' is a Cinematic Out-Of-Body Experience Brimming with Animated Wisdom
Last year’s frontrunner “The Lego Movie” was shut out, and while one can argue that the movie deserved to be included among that year’s achievements in the medium, when compared to what Moore and Isao Takahata did in their respective hand-drawn masterpieces “Song of the Sea” and the “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” it’s simply evident that the best films did in fact make the nominees list. the Princess Kaguya,” it’s simply evident that the best films did in fact make the nominees list. What’s unacceptable, however, is that a company with such a marvelous track record as Gkids is often only considered to be a contender at the nominations stage and has not won the award with any of their superb offers. Once winners reflect the diversity of the nominees in the category then there will finally be a level playing field.
Unfortunately, it’s true that when compared based on their domestic financial success Gkids films are miles away from reaching the large audiences that Pixar and DreamWorks do. Such fact is certainly not based on the achievements of their filmmakers, but on the system with few spaces for alternative options. What the Oscar nominations can do for films like "Boy and the World" and "When Marnie Was There" is to encourage those unaware of their existence to seek them out and allow themselves an experience that could not be provided under the pressures of a studio. At the same time, it proves that, occasionally and as it should be, making a fantastic film is enough to break through.
Read More: Carlos Aguilar's Best Films of 2015 (A Very Personal List)
For 2016, the independent company already has at least two films lined up to amuse their devout following and hopefully expose new audiences to the joys of animation from a global perspective. With French features “April and the Extraordinary World” and “Phantom Boy,” and the first-ever U.S. theatrical release of Takahata’s “Only Yesterday” Gkids will remain at the forefront of what global animation can be outside the multiplex. »
- Carlos Aguilar
Only Yesterday originally came out more than two decades ago in Japan through Studio Ghibli, but Isao Takahata’s mature, humane slice of life drama couldn’t feel more achingly relevant to the narrative concerns of this decade, and cinema’s renewed interest in the experiences of spiritually adrift young women staking their own path. And even while Only Yesterday is treading familiar emotional terrain, it feels far from programmatic.
Adapted from the manga Omoide Poro Poro, which translates to “memories trickle down,” Only Yesterday, centers on Taeko Okajima, a single, late 20-something who’s lapsed into memories of her fifth grade self in search of what’s missing from her life. Taeko is a self-professed career woman, working in a nondescript but successful job in Tokyo, but she’s not immune to the pressures of getting married, and her societal expectations as a woman. Every conversation with her family »
- Michael Snydel
This first weekend of 2016 is the second largest January weekend of all-time. The top twelve grossed an estimated $204.6 million, $4.5 million shy of the current record, set in 2009 when Avatar was king of the world. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, however, has its eye on Avatar's crown as it now sits in second place, just $20 million behind Avatar's all-time domestic record, and over $1.5 billion worldwide. Also making headlines this weekend Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight expanded nationwide, Daddy's Home and Sisters prove people want comedy and Charlie Kaufman's stop-motion animated feature hit limited theaters. Beginning with Star Wars, Disney is estimating an $88.3 million weekend, which brings the film up to $740.2 million after only 17 days in theaters. It's the fastest film to cross $700 million domestically, doing in 16 days what took Avatar 72. The film has broken 40 box office records (and those are just the records BoxOfficeMojo officially tracks at this time »
- Brad Brevet <firstname.lastname@example.org>
9 items from 2016
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