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MASTERING ANIMATION
StudioCanal has just released two more Hayao Miyazaki films onto Blu-ray, The Castle of Cagliostro and My Neighbour Totoro. I’ll start with the older of the two, The Castle of Cagliostro, which was originally released in 1979. This is subtitled rather than dubbed and deals with master thief Lupin and his team, who rips off a Monte Carlo casino only to discover that the money is all counterfeit. He traces the bills back to the European country of Cagliostro, ruled by an evil Count. Lupin was a very popular anime series and this is an instalment in that series. It is very spotty visually and a little bit primitive both in terms of animation and its script, which sometimes feels like a poor attempt to ape American cinema. But Miyazaki was still learning his craft so there are still a few of the visual flourishes that have become his trademark. It is nice to see that it’s on Blu-ray at last. The Castle of Cagliostro is only really for Miyazaki completists as it can be hard work in places…
My Neighbour Totoro was released in 1988 and it is far more accomplished than Cagliostro. It deals with a family who move to the country in Japan to be closer to their ailing mother. Their new house happens to be near the home of a group of friendly trolls and the two girls go on a series of adventures. It is a very sweet children’s film, displaying the depth of imagination and invention that Miyazaki has become renowned for and is able to shift tone effortlessly in its script. It’s dubbed rather than subtitled and this is less distracting for animation than subtitles and makes it a far more immersive experience than if it were subtitled. My Neighbour Totoro is unquestionably a classic and deserves a Blu-ray release. You can see why Miyazaki is called the Japanese Disney as this film matches the best of Disney. For aficionados of animation, My Neighbour Totoro is a must-buy…

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HEARTFELT

Whisper of The Heart, an animated film written by Hayao Miyazaki but directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, was first released back in 1995. Thanks to Edith at StudioCanal, I got a screener of the film and she was also generous enough to give me three copies to give away. Find out how you can win a copy after my review of the film.
Miyazaki does have a very distinctive style so that even a film that’s not directed by him still has a very unique feel to it. Whisper of The Heart is a teen drama about Shizuku, a young girl living in Tokyo who falls for a boy in her school, Seiji. Their relationship, which begins when she sees his name on all of the library books she takes out, forces her to think about her own life, sending her on a different path. Whisper of The Heart is a sweet teen romance with some of Miyazaki’s classic idiosyncratic touches like cat figure The Baron in the antique shop owned by Seiji’s grandfather, which has a tragic story attached to it, and a dreamlike feel to parts of Tokyo. The animation is very sophisticated and the voice talent is well-chosen as you’d expect from a Studio Ghibli English dubbed film. Whisper of The Heart is perhaps a little less sophisticated than Miyazaki’s more recent efforts but if you’re a fan of him and Ghibli, then this is a Blu-ray that’s worth picking up…
To win a copy of Whisper of The Heart, then just email me at joelmeadows@btinternet.com with your answer to the following question:
Q: Which university did Hayao Miyazaki go to and which course did he complete there?
Closing date is February 28th 2012. I shall pick three random correct answers from three entrants. Good luck…














COASTING PART THREE
Friday was spent mostly at the TRIPWIRE table, selling copies of the TRIPWIRE Annual 2009. I did get to do a Disney roundtable with Pixar’s John Lasseter and Japanese superstar director Hayao Miyazaki plus I also did a roundtable with Toy Story 3 director Lee Unrich. They were both very enjoyable if a little too short and I gave Lasseter a copy of Studio Space and the latest Annual. I also went to an Angel of Death roundtable in the evening with its writer Ed Brubaker, stars Zoe Bell, Ted Raimi, Doug Jones, director Paul Etheredge and producer John Norris, which was a lot of fun actually although it meant I had to sprint to avoid missing dinner. So Friday was a little bit exhausting but a pretty good day. I only did one press thing on Saturday and that was a Solomon Kane roundtable with its director Michael Bassett and star James Purefoy, Marc Anthony in HBO’s Rome. The advance word on the film is very positive and it would be great for a movie like this to do well. I also got a few photos of James Callis, aka Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica, when I went to find someone else. Weirdly, even though this was the Saturday at the show, there was no queue for Callis. So the busiest day of the show ended pretty decently…