For the First Time, Studio Ghibli’s Entire Catalog Will Soon Be Available for Digital Purchase

Some describe Studio Ghibli, the animation company founded by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, as "the Japanese Disney." That does justice to the true nature of neither Ghibli nor Disney, though both ventures have displayed an uncanny ability to produce beloved animated films — and beloved animated films that haven't always been easy to see on demand. Just this past summer we featured the release of Ghibli's Spirited Away in China, eighteen years after its premiere, but even in less politically sensitive territories, fans have had their challenges: finding a way to stream Ghibli movies, for instance, which (at least in North America) will become much easier on December 17th.

On that date, reports Variety's Dave McNary, "GKids will release the entire Studio Ghibli catalog of animated films for digital purchase." From Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and My Neighbor Totoro to From Up on Poppy Hill and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Ghibli's films "will be available to purchase in both English and Japanese languages on all major digital transactional platforms."




This marks "the first time the Studio Ghibli films will be available for digital purchase anywhere in the world," including the studio's homeland of Japan — a country, in any case, with a slightly different relationship to the internet than most, and one that tends to result in a preference for physical distribution over digital.

If you've never seriously watched Studio Ghibli's films, don't be fooled by the name GKids: the American distributor specializes in artisanal animation, mostly but not entirely Japanese (its catalog also includes Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues), and those in charge there know full well the draw of Ghibli for demographics far beyond those still in childhood. One can fairly argue, in fact, that youngsters aren't Ghibli's primary audience; whereas Disney makes animation for kids that many grown-ups can enjoy, Ghibli in some sense does the opposite. The films of Miyazaki, Takahata, and Ghibli's other stalwarts will thus make ideal material for the all-ages at-home movie marathons without which no holiday season is complete, seeing as their animated magic will arrive in the realm of on-demand not a moment too soon.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinemaand the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch a Hand-Drawn Animation of Neil Gaiman’s Poem “The Mushroom Hunters,” Narrated by Amanda Palmer

The arrival of a newborn son has inspired no few poets to compose works preserving the occasion. When Neil Gaiman wrote such a poem, he used its words to pay tribute to not just the creation of new life but to the scientific method as well. "Science, as you know, my little one, is the study / of the nature and behavior of the universe," begins Gaiman's "The Mushroom Hunters." An important thing for a child to know, certainly, but Gaiman doesn't hesitate to get into even more detail: "It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement / and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed." Go slightly over the head of a newborn as all this may, any parent of an older but still young child knows what question naturally comes next: "Why?"

As if in anticipation of that inevitable expression of curiosity, Gaiman harks back to "the old times," when "men came already fitted with brains / designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run," and with any luck to come back with a slain antelope for dinner. The women, "who did not need to run down prey / had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them," taking special note of the spots where they could find mushrooms. It was these mushroom hunters who used "the first tool of all," a sling to hold the baby but also to "put the berries and the mushrooms in / the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers. / Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break." But how to know which of the mushrooms — to say nothing of the berries, roots, and leaves — will kill you, which will "show you gods," and which will "feed the hunger in our bellies?"




"Observe everything." That's what Gaiman's poem recommends, and what it memorializes these mushroom hunters for having done: observing the conditions under which mushrooms aren't deadly to eat, observing childbirth to "discover how to bring babies safely into the world," observing everything around them in order to create "the tools we make to build our lives / our clothes, our food, our path home..." In Gaiman's poetic view, the observations and formulations made by these early mushroom-hunting women to serve only the imperative of survival lead straight (if over a long distance), to the modern scientific enterprise, with its continued gathering of facts, as well as its constant proposal and revision of laws to describe the patterns in those facts.

You can see "The Mushroom Hunters" brought to life in the video above, a hand-drawn animation by Creative Connection scored by the composer Jherek Bischoff (previously heard in the David Bowie tribute Strung Out in Heaven). You can read the poem at Brain Pickings, whose creator Maria Popova hosts "The Universe in Verse," an annual "charitable celebration of science through poetry" where "The Mushroom Hunters" made its debut in 2017. There it was read aloud by the musician Amanda Palmer, Gaiman's wife and the mother of the aforementioned son, and so it is in this more recent animated video. Young Ash will surely grow up faced with few obstacles to the appreciation of science, and even less so to the kind of imagination that science requires. As for all the other children in the world — well, it certainly wouldn't hurt to show them the mushroom hunters at work.

This reading will be added to our collection, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

via Brain Pickings

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinemaand the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912): The Truly Weird Origin of Modern Stop-Motion Animation

These days, ever more ambitions computer-animated spectacles seem to arrive in theaters every few weeks. But how many of them capture our imaginations as fully as works of the thoroughly analog art of stop-motion animation? The uncanny effect (and immediately visible labor-intensiveness) of real, physical puppets and objects made to move as if by themselves still captivates viewers young and old: just watch how the Wallace and Gromit series, Terry Gilliam's Monty Python shorts, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even the original King Kong as well as Ray Harryhausen's monsters in Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad have held up over the decades.

The filmmakers who best understand the magic of cinema still use stop-motion today, as Wes Anderson has in The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs. They all owe something to a Polish-Russian animator of the early-to-mid-20th century by the name of Ladislas Starevich. Longtime Open Culture readers may remember the works of Starevich previously featured here, including the Goethe adaptation The Tale of the Fox and the much earlier The Cameraman's Revenge, a tale of infidelity and its consequences told entirely with dead bugs for actors. Starevich, then the Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas, Lithuania, pulled off this cinematic feat "by installing wheels and strings in each insect, and occasionally replacing their legs with plastic or metal ones," says Phil Edwards in the Vox Almanac video above.

"How Stop Motion Animation Began" comes as a chapter of a miniseries called Almanac Hollywouldn't, which tells the stories of "big changes to movies that came from outside Hollywood." It would be hard indeed to find anything less Hollywood than a man installing wheels and strings into insect corpses at a Lithuanian museum in 1912, but in time The Cameraman's Revenge proved as deeply influential as it remains deeply weird. Starevich kept on making films, and singlehandedly furthering the art of stop-motion animation, until his death in France (where he'd relocated after the Russian Revolution) in 1965.

And though Starevich may not be a household name today, Edwards reveals while tracing the subsequent history of stop-motion animation that cinema hasn't entirely failed to pay him tribute: Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox is in a sense a direct homage to The Tale of the Fox, and Gilliam has called Starevich's work "absolutely breathtaking, surreal, inventive and extraordinary, encompassing everything that Jan Svankmajer, Walerian Borowczyk and the Quay Brothers would do subsequently." He suggests that, before we enter the "mind-bending worlds" of more recent animators, we "remember that it was all done years ago, by someone most of us have forgotten about now" — and with little more than a few dead bugs at that.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch 21 Animated Ideas from Big Thinkers: Steven Pinker, Carol Dweck, Philip Zimbardo, David Harvey & More

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, better known as the Royal Society for the Arts, and best known simply as the RSA, was founded in 1754. At the time, nobody could have imagined a world in which the people of every land, no matter how far-flung, could hear the same talks by well-known scholars and speakers, let alone see them animated as if on a conference-room whiteboard. Yet even back then, in an era before the invention of animation and whiteboards, let alone computers and the internet, people had an appetite for strong, often counterintuitive or even contrarian ideas to diagnose and potentially even solve social problems — an appetite for which the RSA Animate series of videos was made.

We can't understand what goes right and what goes wrong in our societies without understanding how we think. To that end the RSA has commissioned animated videos based on talks by psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist on our "divided brain," former political strategist (and current RSA Chief Executive) Matthew Taylor on how our left and right brains shape our politics, psychologist Steven Pinker on language as a window into human nature, philosopher-sociologist Renata Salecl on the paradoxical downside of choice, psychologist Philip Zimbardo on our perception of time, "social and ethical prophet" Jeremy Rifkin on empathy, philosopher Roman Krznaric on "outrospection," journalist Barbara Ehrenreich on "the darker side of positive thinking," and behavioral-economics researcher Dan Ariely on drive and dishonesty.

Economics is another field that has provided the RSA with a surfeit of animatable material — even of the kind "economists don’t want you to see," as the RSA promotes economist Ha-joon Chang's talk on "why every single person can and SHOULD get their head around basic economics" and "how easily economic myths and assumptions become gospel."




Freakonomics co-authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make an appearance to break down altruism, and "economic geographer" David Harvey attempts to envision a system beyond capitalism. And on the parts of the intellectual map where economics overlaps politics, the RSA brings us figures like Slavoj Žižek, who "investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving."

As, in essence, an educational enterprise, RSA Animate videos also look into new ways to think about education itself. Educationalist Carol Dweck examines the issues of "why kids say they’re bored at school, or why they stop trying when the work gets harder" by looking at what kind of praise helps young students, and what kind harms them.

Education and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson explains the need to change our very paradigms of education. And according to the RSA's speakers, those aren't the only paradigms we should change: Microsoft Chief Envisioning Officer Dave Coplin argues that we should re-imagine work, and technology critic Evgeny Morozov argues that we should rethink the "cyber-utopianism" that has exposed harmful side-effects of our digital world.

httvs://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&list=PL39BF9545D740ECFF&index=11&t=0s

But it is in this world that the RSA promotes "21st-century enlightenment," a concept further explored in another talk by Matthew Taylor — and one of which you can get a few doses, ten minutes at a time, on the full RSA Animate Youtube playlist. Watch the complete playlist of 21 videos, from start to finish, below.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

10 Paintings by Edward Hopper, the Most Cinematic American Painter of All, Turned into Animated GIFs

The image of America is an image bound up with the movies. That even goes for America as represented in media other than film, suggesting a certain cinematic character in American life itself. No painter understood that character more thoroughly than Edward Hopper, an avid filmgoer who worked for a time creating movie posters. He even "storyboarded" his most famous 1942 Nighthawks, whose late-night diner remains the visual definition of U.S. urban alienation. And though Hopper's America also encompasses the countryside, never would his views of it feel out of place in a work of film noir. His cinematic paintings have in turn influenced cinema itself, shaping the visual sensibilities of auteurs across countries and generations.

Nighthawks, cited as an influence on urban visions like Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, has also been faithfully recreated in films like Herbert Ross' Pennies from Heaven, Wim Wenders' The End of Violence, and Dario Argento' Deep Red. 1952's House by the Railroad has inspired directors from Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho to Terrence Malick in Days of Heaven.




A glance across the rest of Hopper's body of work reminds each of us of countless shots from throughout cinema history, American and otherwise. Perhaps even more films will be brought to mind by the Hopper-paintings-turned-animated GIFs commissioned by travel site Orbitz as "a 21st-century tribute to this titan of 20th-century art, for the younger generation who may not have been directly introduced to his work."

The ten of Hopper's works thus brought to life include, of course, Nighthawks and House by the Railroad, as well as other of his paintings both early and late, such as 1927's Automat and 1952's Morning Sun. Both paintings depict a woman alone, a motif emphasized by the notes accompanying the animations. In the nighttime of Automat, she "has an empty plate in front of her, suggesting she’s already had something to eat with her coffee," and the window's reflection of lamps extending into the darkness suggests her "possible loneliness." In the daytime of Morning Sun, the building outside the window "suggests that the woman’s view is not a particularly scenic one," and "the fact that she is sitting merely to enjoy the sun could be interpreted as her desire to be closer to the outdoors, to nature, and escape the bleakness of urban life."

Even in a more scenic setting, like the Cape Elizabeth, Maine of 1927's Lighthouse Hill, an enriching touch of bleakness nevertheless comes through. "Both the lighthouse and cottage are the focal points of the painting, yet despite the blue sky and calm scenery displayed, the shadows bring an ominous feeling to what one would assume is an inviting house." Befitting the work of a painter whose use of light and shadow still inspires artists of all kinds today, these GIFs mostly animate light sources: the blink of a neon sign, the sun's daily arc across the sky.

The GIF of 1939's New York Movie, Hopper's most overt tribute to the cinema, introduces the flickering of the film projector. Purists may not appreciate these touches, but many of us will realize that Hopper's projectors have always been flickering, his neon signs always blinking, his cups of coffee always steaming, and his suns always setting, at least in our minds. See all of the animated gifs here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

82 Animated Interviews with Living, Dead, Celebrated & Sometimes Disgraced Celebrities

Who wants to live in the present? It’s such a limiting period, compared to the past.

Roger Ebert, Playboy 1990

Were Ebert alive today would he still express himself thusly in a recorded interview? His remarks are specific to his cinematic passion, but still. As a smart Midwesterner, he would have realized that the corn has ears and the potatoes have eyes. Remarks can be taken out of context. (Witness the above.)

Recent history has shown that not everyone is keen to roll back the clock—women, people of color, and gender non-conforming individuals have been reclaiming their narratives in record numbers, airing secrets, exposing injustice, and articulating offenses that can no longer stand.

If powerful, older, white heterosexual men in the entertainment business are exercising verbal caution these days when speaking as a matter of public record, there’s some goodly cause for that.

It also makes the archival celebrity interviews excerpted for Quoted Studios' animated series, Blank on Blank, feel very vibrant and uncensored, though be forewarned that your blood may boil a bit just reviewing the celebrity line up—Michael JacksonWoody Allen, Clint Eastwood holding forth on the Pussy Generation 10 years before the Pussyhat Project legitimized common usage of that charged word….

(In full disclosure, Blank on Blank is an oft-reported favorite here at Open Culture.)

Here’s rapper Tupac Skakur, a year and a half before he was killed in a drive by shooting, casting himself as a tragic Shakespearean hero,

His musings on how differently the public would have viewed him had he been born white seem even more relevant today. Readers who are only passingly acquainted with his artistic output and legend may be surprised to hear him tracing his allegiance to “thug life” to the positive role he saw the Black Panthers playing in his single mother’s life when he was a child.




On the other hand, Shakur’s lavish and freely expressed self pity at the way the press reported on his rape charge (for which he eventually served 9 months) does not sit at all well in 2019, nor did it in 1994.

Like the majority of Blank on Blank entries, the recording was not the interview’s final form, but rather a journalistic reference. Animator Patrick Smith may add a layer of visual editorial, but in terms of narration, every subject is telling their own undiluted truth.

It is interesting to keep in mind that this was one of the first interviews the Blank on Blank team tackled, in 2013.

Six years later, it’s hard to imagine they would risk choosing that portion of the interview to animate. Had Shakur lived, would he be cancelled?

Guess who was the star of the very first Blank on Blank to air on PBS back in 2013?

Broadcaster and television host Larry King. While King has steadfastly rebutted accusations of groping, we suspect that if the Blank on Blank team was just now getting around to this subject, they’d focus on a different part of his 2001 Esquire profile than the part where he regales interviewer Cal Fussman with tales of pre-cellphone “seduction.”

It’s only been six years since the series’ debut, but it’s a different world for sure.

If you’re among the easily triggered, living legend Meryl Streep’s thoughts on beauty, harvested in 2014 from a 2008 conversation with Entertainment Weekly’s Christine Spines, won’t offer total respite, but any indignation you feel will be in support of, not because of this celebrity subject.

It’s actually pretty rousing to hear her merrily exposing Hollywood players’ piggishness, several years before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.

For even more evidence of “a different world,” check out interviewer Howard Smith’s remark to Janis Joplin in her final interview-cum-Blank-on-Blank episode, four days before here 1970 death:

A lot of women have been saying that the whole field of rock music is nothing more than a big male chauvinist rip off and when I say, “Yeah, what about Janis Joplin? She made it,” they say, “Oh…her.” It seems to bother a lot of women’s lib people that you’re kind of so up front sexually.

Joplin, stung, unleashes a string of invectives against feminists and women, in general. One has to wonder if this reaction was Smith’s goal all along. Or maybe I’m just having flashbacks to middle school, when the popular girls would always send a delegate disguised as a concerned friend to tell you why you were being shunned, preferably in a highly public gladiatorial arena such as the lunchroom.

I presume that sort of stuff occurs primarily over social media these days.

Good on the Blank on Blank staff for picking up on the tenor of this interview and titling it “Janis Joplin on Rejection.”

You can binge watch a playlist of 82 Blank on Blank episodes, featuring many thoughts few express so openly anymore, here or right below.

When you’re done with that, you’ll find even more Blank on Blank entries on the creators’ website.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Animated Leonard Cohen Offers Reflections on Death: Thought-Provoking Excerpts from His Final Interview

A month before Leonard Cohen died in November, 2016, The New Yorker's editor David Remnick traveled to the songwriter’s Los Angeles home for a lengthy interview in which Cohen looked both forward and back.

As a former Zen monk, he was also adept at inhabiting the present, one in which the shadow of death crept ever closer.

His former lover and muse, Marianne Ihlen, had succumbed to cancer earlier in the summer, two days after receiving a frank and loving email from Cohen:

Well, Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.

The New Yorker has never shied from over-the-top physical descriptions. The courteous, highly verbal young poet, who’d evinced “a kind of Michael Corleone Before the Fall look, sloe-eyed, dark, a little hunched” was now very thin, but still handsome, with the handshake of “a courtly retired capo.”

In addition to an album, You Want It Darker, to promote, Cohen had a massive backlog of unpublished poems and unfinished lyrics to tend to before the sands of time ran out.

At 82, he seemed glad to have all his mental faculties and the support of a devoted personal assistant, several close friends and his two adult children, all of which allowed him to maintain his music and language-based workaholic habits.

Time, as he noted, provides a powerful incentive for finishing up, despite the challenges posed by the weakening flesh:

At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order. It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.

He had clearly made peace with the idea that some of his projects would go unfinished.

You can hear his fondness for one of them, a “sweet little song” that he recited from memory, eyes closed, in the animated interview excerpt, above:

Listen to the hummingbird

Whose wings you cannot see

Listen to the hummingbird

Don’t listen to me.

Listen to the butterfly

Whose days but number three

Listen to the butterfly

Don’t listen to me.

Listen to the mind of God

Which doesn’t need to be

Listen to the mind of God

Don’t listen to me.

These unfinished thoughts close out Cohen's beautifully named posthumous album, Thanks for the Dance, scheduled for release later this month.

Dianne V. Lawrence, who designed Cohen’s hummingbird logo, a motif beginning with 1979's Recent Songs album, speculates that Cohen equated the hummingbird’s enormous energy usage and sustenance requirements with those of the soul.

Read Remnick’s article on Leonard Cohen in its entirety here. Hear a recording of David Remnick's interview with Cohen--his last ever--below:

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 for her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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