Princess Mononoke: The Miracle at the Harkins (Part Two)
November 6, 1999
To all you naysayers who believe Disney is the Great Evil trying to bury anime - shame on you! Disney has been just as much an inspiration for anime as anything else (just ask Miyazaki himself, or Tezuka Osamu, if he were still alive). Even now, Disney has recently produced excellent films and television projects, but most anime fans are frankly too stuck-up and bigoted to even give them a chance. Is Disney stuck in a rut these days? Well, as far as movies go, yes, but then look at Mulan and Tarzan. You can not dismiss them as simply musical kiddie fluff. They're trying to break out of their self-imposed formula, and that's a step in the right direction, as long as their fans will allow them to do so.
Frankly, I wish more animation studios would take Disney's lead. Already, we have films like The Iron Giant and South Park: The Movie. While both wildly different in subject matter and style, they're were successful box office hits without pandering to the lowest common denominator. Like say, the recent remake of The King and I, which added a stupid monkey sidekick (among others) and really unwarranted action that wasn't even hinted in the original story, while deleting whole characters and plot points in the name of "Disneyizing" the movie a la Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Despite the successes of Iron Giant and South Park, people are still stuck in the belief that all animation is either (A.) afterschool kiddie fare, (B.) musical kiddie fare, or (C.) a pair of gross-looking animals telling fart jokes. It doesn't help that anime, oh, excuse me, "Japanimation" is seen as either (A.) violent martial-arts free-for-alls, (B.) afterschool kiddie fare, or (C.) pornography. Is there some wrong here? YES. Animation has been pigeon-holed here in America for at least the last fifty years (and Japanese animation since its inception), but it's a cradle-to-grave phenomenon is Japan, and most of the rest of the world. They see it as simply another way to tell a story, just as valid as live-action. So how come we Americans, who are supposedly the "most culturally advanced society in the world" are so blind to its potential? With Princess Mononoke making the waves it is in both critical and public circles, maybe, just maybe, things will finally change.
Disney has been the frontrunner in animation since Steamboat Willy, and it's fitting that they would be the ones to bring America Princess Mononoke. They put their heart and soul into this production and treated it *better* than their own. And it shows. No cheap marketing gimmicks here - this is how animation is supposed to be done. If Disney AND American anime fandom can learn from this experience - to stop the namecalling and fingerpointing and simply enjoy the medium for what it is and treasure it as we ought, as this is the high art of our age, as surely as painting and sculpture are for our past - then we're all the better for it.
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