Mononoke Hime. This film has made landmarks in animation and movie history in Japan, and chances are that it might do the same in the U.S. these coming weeks. For those who have not seen the movie, it is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who is also famous for such works as Nausicaš, Laputa, and Totoro. The following is an excerpt from his proposal for making this movie:
Title: Mononoke Hime or Ashitaka Setsuki
Purpose of the project
A period drama woven from the warp: the fight between humans and Mononoke over the head of the God animal, Shishi Shin, and the woof: the meeting and liberation of the girl who was raised by Inugami (Dog God) and hates humans and the boy who is under the curse of death.
Supposedly, this film came about because Miyazaki was unhappy with the ending to Nausicaš, which necessitated a miracle to bring about a happy ending between man and nature. Mononoke Hime, much like Nausicaš, represents that basic struggle, except this time around, the ending does not resolve the issue as readily.
For those who are clueless about this film, what is all the fuss about?
Well, for one thing, Mononoke Hime cost about $20 million to make, which makes it the most expensive animated movie ever made in Japan. Second, it earned 18.65 billion yen, breaking all box office records there to top E.T. as the #1 movie of all time in Japan (until Titanic came along and sunk that record). It also became the best-selling video of all time, selling more than 4 million copies, until... you guessed it... Titanic came along and sunk it again. So basically, Mononoke Hime, as of today, is the 2nd best-selling film of all time in Japan, not just in animation alone. Not only that, but it has won best movie in Japan's Academy Awards, the 52nd Mainichi Movie Competition, the Asahi Best Ten Film Festival, and many, many others. Better yet, it has finally come to the U.S.
The rumors began a while ago after Disney acquired the rights to the film. Soon after, they released news to the public that the film would be shown in theatres in the U.S. dubbed. Yes, folks, if you still don't know it yet, as of last weekend Mononoke Hime has already started showing in theatres in NYC, Chicago, and LA under the name Princess Mononoke (a pretty direct translation, I must say) and under the cover of an American voice cast. These voices include: Billy Crudup (Ashitaka), Claire Danes (San), Minnie Driver (Lady Eboshi), Billy Bob Thornton (Jigo), Gillian Anderson (Moro the Wolf -- don't ask me why), and Jada Pinkett-Smith (Toki). For those of you who have never been to the above three cities and/or don't plan on ever going any time soon, don't fret, because Miramax should have expanded the release to the top 20 markets on November 5, which is this weekend!
For those who have never seen the film, I think that it is definitely one of Miyazaki's best films ever, second to my own favorite, Laputa. The artwork is gorgeous, the music is wonderfully composed (by Joe Hisaishi) and really conveys the atmosphere of the setting. For an animation, it is certainly worth your money, considering that it is a whole whopping 133 minutes. This is in comparison to American animated movies, which usually don't cut past the 90-minute mark. The characters are all very well-developed; what separates this film from other animated movies in the U.S. is the attitudes of these characters. There are no true villains in this film -- you cannot sit there watching the film and siding with one character, because at some point you will start to sympathize for the other characters who appeared to be the villains. There will be no silly talking animal as your sidekick, no happy-happy ending that seeks your applause, no ear-cringing musical sung by the characters midway through the movie. In essence, a completely different movie from the Disney-dominated market of America is making its entrance, and not even the spirits may be able to correctly foretell its future. So, why not go see it for yourself to help make animation history?