The news that Disney+ has knocked a million subscribers off Netflix constitutes the first substantial flare-up in the streaming war. Amazon’s agreement with Studio Ghibli to feature their stunning collection of animated films suggests that the battle for the hearts and minds of living-room dwellers is about to switch into a higher gear; the Ghibli catalogue is as rich as Disney’s, and arguably has fewer mis-steps or changes of direction. Ghibli make beautiful films with genuine depth; sign a child up for a course of Studio Ghibli and you’re buying them a ticket for a regular Sunday-service cat-bus to a unfamiliar yet instantly relatable world of originality and imagination.
While Spirited Away is arguably the most full-realised Ghibli film, Kiki’s Delivery Service is the place to start, and the latest blu-ray incarnation, arriving just in time for Christmas, is the obvious jumping-off point. Kiki is a young witch, sent away from home by her parents to find herself in the big city; this is a coming of age story rather than an adventure, the stakes are small but have gravity.
Gigi the cat joins Kiki on her broomstick as she flies high in the night sky; voiced by Phil Hartman, Gigi’s caustic commentary grounds the sweetness of the enterprise with a more knowing sense of the real world. There’s are no villains to stereotype; Kiki’s fight is to find her place within the community as she runs erands, find a job in a bakery, observs the way that people interact. This is a film that addresses young people in a carefully drawn adult environment, and has valuable lessons to accompany lush storybook visuals and a soaring score.
The voice cast here is top notch; Kirsten Dunst, Debbie Reynolds and Hartman all do great work in the English dub, and both the revised and original versions have disparate selling points. While language and characters change between the two, each conveys a fresh take on Kiki’s development. The plentiful extras on a second disk include and investigation of where the real locations are that inspired the look of the city, plus feature length storyboards that capture the essence of the look. It’s a substantial package that will also appeal to anyone interested in the art of animation.
Disney had recorded issues with religious groups who didn’t like the witchcraft theme featured here, and perhaps that’s why they allowed their grip on Kiki to slip. Their loss will be Amazon’s gain, but even thinking about such corporate conflict is incongruous to the simple charm that Hayao Miyazaki’s film offers. Kiki’s Delivery Service would be an ideal gift for a family or child, a gentle, subtle, magical animation that is as close as can be imagined to a perfect film.
Kiki’s Delivery Service 30th Anniversary Limited Edition is available exclusively at Amazon and is available to order here – http://po.st/KIKI30