Disney has become one of the largest entertainment brands to ever exist, and it has done so at times in spite of others. Studio Ghibli became such a victim decades ago when Disney sought the rights to distribute the company's movies to American audiences. Despite signing a contract promising to distribute the films as is, a former executive of Studio Ghibli says Disney did not uphold its bargain.
The fact came to light after Steve Albert released a memoir detailing his career. The man led Studio Ghibli's international division between 1996 and 2011 (via Cartoon Brew). By this time, Studio Ghibli was welcome known thanks to directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. When it came time to share their works stateside, Studio Ghibli's parent company partnered with Walt Disney Studios. And it did not take long before Alpert learned unapproved edits had been made.
According to the former lead, Disney altered its dubbed release of Kiki's Delivery Service which was released in 1998. Music and sound were added to the movie as well as full-on dialogue. Alpert stressed this all occurred despite Disney signing a contract with Studio Ghibli which stated such alterations could not be made. Alpert said he was caught unaware by the change and brought it up to an executive at Disney. The producer behind this dubbed version was then given "the kind of verbal lashing that makes grown men cry."
Clearly, Disney should have been more careful when it came to ensuring no changes were made. Miyazaki and Takahata weren't the kind to take such actions lying down. In fact, the 'no cuts' rule became strictly mandatory with Studio Ghibli after the film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was horribly mangled for its dub. Disgraced Miramax executive Harvey Weinstein got belligerent with Alpert when he was denied the right to trim about 40 minutes of Princess Mononoke. But when it comes to digging their heels in, few are better than Miyazaki... even if it is Disney he happens to be standing off against.
As the decades have passed, there are few people out there who would dare ask Miyazaki to cut any of his films down. The legendary director is rightfully respected when it comes to pacing his movies, and HBO Max has ensured his films live on properly. The streaming platform recently launched in the U.S. with an exclusive catalog of Studio Ghibli's films last month.
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