We talk a lot about Disney around here–not just Disney-proper, but also its more recent acquisitions like The Muppets, Marvel Comics, and Star Wars. Because of this we sometimes overlook its other big secondary properties, for example its international distribution rights to the famed productions of Japan’s Studio Ghibli. Thankfully, a pair of recent home media releases provides an excellent opportunity for me to expound upon that particular flavor of Disneyana.
Spirited Away was already a family favorite in my house, and the new two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Walt Disney Studios only solidifies its position. You likely already know the story, so I’ll keep my abstract brief:
This 2001 Hayao Miyazaki classic sees 10-year-old Chihiro and her parents make a wrong turn into a dangerous world of dragons, river spirits, and witches–not to mention the infamous No-Face. It’s a classic for a reason, and, if you don’t own a copy (or are looking to upgrade to the Blu-ray), now is the time to pick it up.
In addition to sporting an amazing DVD transfer and the (unsurprisingly) gorgeous Blu-ray version, this two-disc collection also packs in the bonus features. A “Behind The Microphone” featurette, a collection of original Japanese storyboards, a Nippon Television Special, and more make this the definitive version of one of the finest animated features ever produced.
The Cat Returns is similarly a story of a young girl, a hidden magical world, and an unexpected transformation. With a significantly shorter running time and a more realistic–at times almost bordering on a rotoscoped look–visual style, this Hiroyuki Morita-directed film is enjoyable, even if it lacks the epic scope of Spirited Away.
Haru is a listless schoolgirl who can talk to cats, but when she saves the life of Lune, the Cat Prince, she is offered his hand in marriage–whether she wants it or not. Will the feline problem solvers of the Cat Bureau be able to help her escape the Cat Kingdom before it’s too late?
Well, obviously, but along the way we’re treated to another fun fantasy romp, complete with a stellar English language voice cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle, and Tim Curry.
Another dual-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, this one boasts many of the same bonus features (storyboards, trailers, “Behind The Microphone,” etc.) as well as its own making-of featurette. Again, while it’s not exactly on par with many of Ghibli’s better-known works, it’s still a fine feature that the whole family will love.
My recommendation? Pick up both. They’re a solid bet for some quality indoor summer entertainment, and at the current sub-$20 Amazon price? Well, suffice it to say it’s a pittance to pay to add a little magic to your life.