I love me some Disney but, please, if you're going to hoist their banner alongside yours, give Studio Ghibli the treatment their works deserve! While I'm ecstatic that visually gorgeous though plot-muddled Tales from Earthsea gets a slick, English-dubbed (featuring Willem Dafoe, no less) U.S. release today (on DVD/Blu-ray), it comes with the sinking feeling that some of the works included in the famed Disney-Tokuma (Ghibli's parent company Tokuma Shoten Publications) deal struck in the mid-80's will never see the light of the silver screen stateside. [*sigh*]
However, Tales from Earthsea, originally released in Japan in 2007 and the directorial debut of Goro Miyazaki --- son of acclaimed Ghibli auteur Hayao Miyazaki, is a tepid mess of thrilling animation that could take the edge off the recent disappointing news that Disney will be delaying the U.S. theatrical release of Arrietty the Borrower (Studio Ghibli's most recent work, currently enjoying top billing in France with DVD release expected soon in Japan, Europe and elsewhere) until February 2012 --- that is, if Disney decides to release it here at all. What an incredible understanding these two studios have!
Still this magical fantasy about the once-embattled relationship between humans and dragons and wizardfolk, whether clad in humble Gandalf garb (the good) or androgynous drag (the bad and the ugly), should leave fans of DreamWorks' How To Train Your Dragon feeling pants'd, in a good way. I've always felt that when comparing Disney and Studio Ghibli the difference is as much in the impression as it is in the message received; watching Disney reminds me of how rotten it used to feel when grown-ups talked down to me as a child, whereas watching Ghibli makes me recall those childhood instances when I was as excited as I was afraid of "growing up." Disney makes me want to stay in, but watching a great Ghibli film, and Tales from Earthsea is nowhere near the greatest, yet still pretty good, makes me want to go out afterwards and drink in the sweetness of existence. And not even the culture-washing power of Disney, what with their sometimes sub-sub-par English translations that carry over in to the dubbing and subtitles and wonky promotional trailers (see below), can bleed the beast of Studio Ghibli dry. In any case, if you're dying to get your Ghibli fix ASAP, you can bet your bottom-self "Chinatown special" that Amoeba will likely have bargain Arrietty the Borrower DVDs on sale soon after the rest of the world does, just like we did with Tales from Earthsea three years ago. In your face, Magic Kingdom!