By now we all know the name of Studio Ghibli, the operation responsible for such animated-feature-film-redefining productions as Grave of the Fireflies and Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. But unless we’ve paid a visit to the Ghibli Museum, seen the documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, or taken part in the close scrutiny to which Ghibli fans subject the studio’s every public move, we won’t know much about their methods for crafting such visually and emotionally captivating stories. Soon, though, we’ll be able to use their tools ourselves. On March 26, you will be able to download OpenToonz, an open source version of the Toonz software used by Studio Ghibli.
“Included in the OpenToonz are many of Ghibli’s custom tools, specially designed to capture trees waving in the breeze, food that looks too delicious to eat, and the constant running Miyazaki’s films are known for,” writes The Creators Project’s Beckett , who quotes Ghibli’s Executive Imaging Director Atsushi Okui on why they started using the Italian-developed package in the first place: “We needed a software enabling us to create a certain section of the animation digitally. Our requirement was that in order to continue producing theatre-quality animation without additional stress, the software must have the ability to combine the hand-drawn animation with the digitally painted ones seamlessly.” Toonz, evidently, could pull it off.
Ghibli began using the software in 1995, during the production of Princess Mononoke, and has kept using it since. In fact, reports Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew, “the new OpenToonz is dubbed ‘Toonz Ghibli Edition’ because of all the custom-features that Toonz has developed over the years for the legendary Japanese studio.” With Miyazaki retired, at least from feature-film animation, and nobody quite sure whether 2014’s When Marnie Was There will be the studio’s last picture, as good a time as any has come for successors to the Ghibli tradition. If you’d like to throw your own hat into that enormous ring, you can download OpenToonz for free on March 26 (or, for a price, buy Toonz Premium) from the official Toonz web site.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.