The Princess Mononoke Release's Troubled History by Disney

The Princess Mononoke Release's Troubled History by Disney ...

The Walt Disney Company accepted an invitation to be the sole distributor of the Studio Ghibli catalog of classic films in 1996. They would make no changes to the music, outside changing Japanese song lyrics to English lyrics, and they would keep the scripts as close to the original as possible.

Disney originally dubbed Kikis Delivery Service a direct-to-video release, where it was a popular hit with all families who bought it. After seeing the impressive sales of Kikis Delivery Service, they decided that a theatrical release might be more lucrative. Princess Mononoke was announced in Japan, and the executives were certain that the sequel would be better.

Princess Mononoke IS ONLY SOUNDED LIKE a Disney Film

The major flaw with Disney's decision to release Princess Mononoke in theaters under the Disney umbrella was that it was based on two assumptions. The first was that the film was traditional fairy tale. The second was that most of Miyazaki's other films were family-friendly. Miramax was tasked with dubbing the film and adapting it for an American audience completely without any issues.

Eisner and other Disney producers were shocked by what they saw. Princess Mononoke was not a family-friendly fairy tale, but one that was clearly geared towards adults, and thus the film was handed back to Miramax and their CEO Harvey Weinstein to release whenever they saw fit. Weinstein had now decided to make some changes.

Miyazaki Defeats Weinstein

When Princess Mononoke received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA, Weinstein was irritated. He ordered the film to be edited so that they may release it as a PG-rated film (they may have even gotten quite far, as the American soundtrack claims that the film is rated PG).

I went to New York to meet with this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with this vexing attack, all these cuts demands. I defeated him.

If Miyazaki suggested that the film be renamed The Legend of Ashitaka, Weinstein decided to release it in a limited release with the original title intact.

Princess Mononoke Bombs in America

When Disney realized that the Princess Mononoke site was unveiled, the majority of the screen and advertising budget went away. Within a month, Pokemon: The First Movie was released in cinemas in the United States, further highlighting the fact that one of the highest-grossing films in Japan was a massive bomb in America.

It's kind of jarring, to have the most successful film in Japan's history come to the United States and not perform that well.

Disney announced that they would no longer release any more Studio Ghibli films in America. After all, they had taken one of the highest grossing films in Japan and made a chump change at worst. The corporation did not need more headlines highlighting their incompetence in selling an animated film to Americans, so they simply wouldn't release any more.

The real concern is that this might have been the end of the story, yet when Disney acquired Pixar, one of the first things they did was make Toy Story director John Lasseter the head of both Disney Feature Animation and Pixar Animation Studios. That film was a huge hit with children, made a lot of money at the box office, and even won the second Academy Award for Best Animated Film.

The whole Studio Ghiblis catalog was considered a success enough that Disney hired Lasseter to direct the rest of the catalog. Today we have the entire catalog available on BluRay and HBO Max (at the time of this writing), but one shudders to think that we barely ever got the rest of the library. All because Disney was embarrassed by the poor box office from their own botched Princess Mononoke release.