Blu-ray Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service

Back in the ’80s and early ’90s was a time when Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films were something you read about in sophisticated movie magazines and only could see if you were lucky at an international film festival with a chance that they weren’t subtitled. How could this be? There were several reasons. Take for instance Kiki’s Delivery Service. The movie premiered in Japan in the summer of 1989 and didn’t reach America until 1998. Why the lag? First off animation from Japan seemed limited to science fiction. Anime was starting to sell on VHS. Akira had a fine run in art houses. But animation aimed at kids and not boys was a hard sell in 1989. Disney’s animation arm was considered a losing proposition. The Little Mermaid didn’t come out until late Fall that year. There were probably a few distributors that were impressed by the film and depressed by the prospects of it coming up short at the box office. Thus it remained a secret for nearly a decade until it was released with an allstar vocal cast that included Phil Hartman. Luckily now you can enjoy Kiki’s Delivery Service without just staring at a still in a magazine and wishing it will animate itself.

Kiki (Bring It On‘s Kirsten Dunst) is a witch that’s just turned 13. Turns out there’s a tradition where the girls leave home at 13 to refine their skills on the night of a full moon. She quickly informs her parents that the time has come and off she zooms with her sarcastic black cat Jiji (Saturday Night Live‘s Phil Hartman) to the great unknown. She’s not quite where she’s going or what she’ll do when she gets there. She gets a job at a bakery where using her broom she delivers express packages and pastry. During a botched delivery of a toy, she makes a friend in the painter Ursula (Janeane Garofalo). She has a secret admirer in Tombo (Matthew Lawrence), a boy who loves flying and wishes he could zip around on a broom like Kiki. Things get twisted for the little witch when her powers slips. She fears she’ll stop being a witch and be stuck making bread for the rest of her life.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is turned out to be the perfect follow up for Miyazaki after the hit of My Neighbor Totoro. He uses the teen girl of Eiko Kadono’s novel to explore the independence that comes from growing up. Although labor laws and the law of gravity stops most 13 year olds from flying off and getting a full time job. Kiki is such vibrant character. The ending with a runaway zeppelin ramps up the action without losing touch with the characters. This wasn’t just a film for teen girls. Even with a ten year wait, an uptight group in America protested the film’s release since they swore the film was promoting witchcraft to kids. Kiki’s Delivery Service promotes the fine animation Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli made when American viewers weren’t able to appreciate them.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p is brings out the joy of Kiki and Jiji taking flight. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 versions of both the original Japanese cast and the English dub. The sound keeps up with the flying scenes. The movie is subtitled in English.

DVD with the film and bonus features.

Feature-Length Storyboards include the finished audio so you can see how Miyazaki laid it out.

Original Theatrical Trailers (7:45) gives a sense of how a trailer looks in Japan. They really like to write on the screen.

Ursula’s Painting (2:26) is a close up view of the painting done in the film.

Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service (2:27) has Miyazaki in his apron talk about how he had to step in to direct the film instead of produce and write. He speaks of the film uses cities from around the world.

Producer’s Perspective: Collaborating with Miyazaki (1:48) is a little time with Toshio Suzuki about making things happen with Miyazaki.

Behind the Microphone (4:49) covers the American actors in the studio voicing the film. We get a few moments with the late, great Phil Hartman as he performs as the cat.

The Locations of Kiki’s Delivery Service (29:14) is part of a TV special about the locations that inspire Miyazaki movies.

Scoring Miyazaki (7:22) allows composer Joe Hisaishi to discuss his collaboration with the director over several movies.

Kiki & Jiji (3:26) lets Miyazaki expose his intended audience for the film. He talks about changes for adapting the book to the screen.

Flying with Kiki & Beyond (2:51) lets Miyazaki explain how he licked putting his characters on a broom. There’s a lot of rough drawings as he perfected the technique. He mentions the end credits are a mini-sequel.

8-page Booklet with Producer’s and Director’s Statement

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present Kiki’s Delivery Service. Directed and Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Janeane Garofalo, Phil Hartman and Debbie Reynolds. Rated: G. Running Time: 102 minutes. Released: October 17, 2017

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