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Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Why Studio Ghibli embraced streaming
ALSO: The Simpsons goes 4:3. AND: Muslims are now real people on TV.
Early this year we saw the Studio Ghibli library of animated films debut on Netflix. It was the first time that Ghibli titles were made available to stream. While Netflix have global streaming rights, the US rights are held by the just-launched HBO Max.
Because the library of Ghibli titles are now available in the US, there is an avalanche of articles around this week about Ghibli. The New York Times has a really great feature that delves into why Studio Ghibli finally decided to make their films available.
When the decision was made, it wasn’t for reasons of economics.
GKids president, David Jesteadt, had been urging Studio Ghibli to go digital for years, only to be repeatedly shut down by the three founders. Digital was antithetical to Studio Ghibli’s philosophy of care and mindfulness. “There is a strong emphasis on presentation and less focus on finances in terms of trying to maximize revenue like other film companies,” Jesteadt said.
Plus, he added, there was little need. “Ghibli’s catalog is so legendary in its own right that the home video sales have really been fantastic for 20 years,” he said. “Even as the rest of the industry was looking at declines and finding ways to offset revenue with different streams, they weren’t experiencing that same impact.”
And one more Ghibli read. There’s also this great feature about the long-running frosty relationship between Studio Ghibli and Disney.
For Spirited Away, the Pixar leader recruited Kirk Wise, co-director of Disney’s Oscar-winning Beauty and the Beast, to direct the English translation. In Japan, Spirited Away was an unquestionable hit: nearly 20 years after its release, the film is still the highest-grossing movie to ever be released in the country. In the United States, however, even with the Pixar momentum behind it, Spirited Away struggled to break through. Lasseter and Wise did what they could behind the scenes, but the larger Disney entity didn’t work too hard to market the film, or help a wide audience see what Spirited Away was. Disney’s official website all but hid the film, at a time when Internet users might have to do more investigatory work to be aware of smaller arthouse releases.
It’s one thing for a filmmaker like Martin Scorsese to make a movie for Netflix, but it’s another thing for him to keep on making movies that have streaming as its primary destination. What it confirms is this: if you want good, adult-focused movies, you need to watch them from the comfort of home. Cinema now is purely about event spectacle.
Martin Scorsese’s next movie, Killers of The Flower Moon, is being produced for Apple.
Killers of the Flower Moon is based on David Grann's book of the same name and has a script by Eric Roth. Set in 1920s Oklahoma when the Osage Nation discovered oil under their land, the Native Americans found themselves being murdered one by one. As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case and unraveled a chilling conspiracy and one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.
The film, which will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, has a budget higher than $150 million. Paramount will distribute, which indicates that it will get a theatrical run as well.
Karate Kid spin-off series Cobra Kai is being shopped around to streamers for its third season. Hulu & Netflix are in lead contention for the show. The previous two seasons will be bundled in with the sale. Source: Deadline
The UK Pluto TV digital service is launching a bunch of new themed channels. They’ll include:
Mutant X - the complete Marvel quasi X-Men series will run on loop.
Andromeda - the Gene Roddenberry(ish) series will run on loop
The Simple Life - Non-stop 24/7 Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie
Beauty and The Geek Australia - every episode of this ‘beloved’ series on loop
McLeod's Daughters - every episode of the Australian drama on loop
Pluto TV Sherlock - every episode of the TV series The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (no, not Sherlock) with occasional screenings of the 2010 film Sherlock Holmes.
People Are Awesome - the channel spotlights the awesome power of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. From physical stunts and tricks, to unique takes on art, dance and music, Pluto TV looks to uncover unconventional creativity in all forms.
As of today, The Simpsons is now available on Disney+ with a 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s how the early episodes of the show was meant to be seen.
Why is this important? Well, the show has a lot of visual jokes that are cropped out of the image if converted to Widescreen. For example, 16:9 viewers will never understand the complexities of the different Duff beer varieties.
And then there’ll be viewers who will not see Big Butt Skinner’s big butt:
Check out Variety (where I also found the above images) which explain’s the technical complexity of making the 4:3 alternative available.
So the DSS team revamped its content model to introduce the concept of multiple media “facets,” or multiple combinations of audio, video, and subtitle components. Now, components delivered under the same EIDR ID can be grouped in multiple combinations, laying the groundwork to support user-selected aspect ratio preference while maintaining existing content interaction features.
By creating the facets-based content model, DSS also was able to reuse thousands of audio and subtitle components that already existed for the 428 episodes on Disney Plus, along with episode-specific artwork and other metadata.
Meanwhile, The Verge have a helpful guide on how to flick the switch so you can watch the show in glorious 4:3. Read: The Verge
And speaking of Disney+, the service will debut in Japan on June 11. Something I’ve been curious about for a while is whether Disney will actively create any content with the beloved character Duffy.
Who’s Duffy? I’d never heard of Duffy either until a visit last year to DisneySea in Tokyo. I wrote up an article about it for ABW paid subscribers, but basically Duffy was an obscure teddy bear toy created for sale at Disneyland back in 2002. The company that runs the two Disney theme parks in Japan wanted a unique toy for their park, so they took ‘The Disney Bear’ and renamed it Duffy, giving it an outfit and, eventually, a range of companion friends.
I can’t speak for Tokyo Disney, having only visited DisneySea, but Japanese Disney park visitors are WILD about Duffy. Every store is filled exclusively with Duffy merchandise with not a single mouse ear or duck feather to be seen.
With Disney+ launching locally in Japan, will there be market demand for Duffy and friends to make their way into the stable of screen Disney stars?
Ahead of the return of season 2 of Ramy this weekend (it really is one of the best shows on TV right now. Check it out on Hulu in the US, Stan in Australia), the New York Times has an in-depth feature on the changing nature of Muslim representation on television. There’s been a shift to show Muslims dealing with more than homeland security issues. On TV they now have real relationships with people - they love, they have sex. What a radical notion.
Yes, there were the many insidious Muslim characters in series like “Homeland.” But even when Muslims had a chance to counteract that image, their roles were too often reactionary, defined by victimhood, misrepresentation and the problem of terrorism.
What resulted seemed constantly to reiterate the same sentiment: “We are more than terrorists.” It was also rarely great TV. With series like the short-lived CW sitcom “Aliens in America” (2007-2008) and the web-based “Halal in the Family” (2015), efforts to create relatable Muslims felt akin more to public service announcements than to works of art. The TLC reality show “All-American Muslim” (2011-12) was well-intentioned but unwatchable.