MorphToons: August 2015

From Banksy’s tragicomic Dismaland to Studio Ghibli’s vault, my birthday month was an arty head trip.

Look Inside Dismaland, Banksy’s Bleak New Theme Park

Art provocateur Banksy has transformed a derelict English seafront lido called the Tropicana into his largest art project to date, a phantasmagoric installation called Dismaland — with the help of artists including Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer.

Although Banksy’s Dismaland nakedly skewers whimsical Disney iconography and theme park culture, the artist told The Guardian that his show wasn’t a direct takedown of Disneyland. “I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site,” he said.


GKIDS Releases 25th Anniversary Edition of Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday

Despite his influence, it’s unfortunately not as easy as it should be for Americans to get ahold of Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata’s films.

But North American indie distributor GKIDS is beginning to address this disparity by at last importing Takahata’s 1991 animated drama Only Yesterday, which (believe it or not) is the only Studio Ghibli film never to have received a North American release. GKIDS and Ghibli are planning a theatrical bow in 2016, which marks Only Yesterday’s 25th anniversary.

“With this 25th anniversary release, a broad new audience will now be able to discover what passionate supporters have known for years,” said GKIDS senior vice president of distribution, David Jesteadt, about the deal, which encompasses all North American theatrical, non-theatrical, home video, and television rights. “Only Yesterday is a groundbreaking classic, and further demonstration of Isao Takahata’s incredible legacy as a filmmaker.”


Eiichi Yamamoto’s Restored Erotic Anime Belladonna of Sadness Arrives in 2016

The third film in Osamu Tezuka’s pioneering Animerama trilogy, director Eiichi Yamamoto’s 1973 cult anime Belladonna of Sadness was once too hot for America. But tastes have changed, and The Cinefamily, SpectreVision and Cinelicious feel the time is right to inject a 4K restoration of the Astro Boy director’s obscure erotic feature back into circulation.

Adapted from Jules Michelet’s sympathetic albeit inauthentic 1862 history of witchcraft La Sorciere, Yamamoto’s transgressive follow-up to 1969’s A Thousand and One Nights and 1970’s Cleopatra wasn’t made, like those films, with the participation of Osamu Tezuka. Belladonna of Sadness was never officially released in the U.S. and reportedly accelerated the bankrupty of Mushi Production, the studio founded by Tezuka a decade earlier.


Angelina Jolie Pitt Will Exec Produce Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner

Cartoon Saloon, the Irish animation studio behind Oscar-nominated wonders Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells just landed an Oscar winner for its next feature.

Angelina Jolie Pitt and her production company Jolie Pas Productions have partnered with Cartoon Saloon on The Breadwinner, directed by The Secret of Kells co-director Nora Twomey. It is adapted from the 2001 novel of the same name from antiwar activist Deborah Ellis, which is based on her experiences visiting refugee camps in geopolitically volatile Afghanistan during the 1990s. Jolie will executive produce the animated feature about Parvana, a young girl who disguises herself as a boy and struggles to feed her family beneath the Taliban.


The Brothers Quay Take Christopher Nolan’s Quay On Tour

Stop-motion influentials, and identical twin brothers, Timothy and Stephen Quay, are hitting the road with a well-deserved retrospective — courtesy of a cerebral cinema auteur.


Raman Hui Wasn’t Prepared for the Monster Success of Monster Hunt

Now the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time, Raman Hui’s live-action/CGI hybrid Monster Hunt is making waves that stretch way past Asia.

As part of our Asia coverage, Cartoon Brew has been on the Monster Hunt beat — which is hard not to do when Hui’s debut also happens to be China’s second highest-grossing film ever, behind the $391 million gross of Furious 7.

“[T]he success was a complete surprise,” the 52-year-old director Hui told the Hollywood Reporter. “Before Monster Hunt came out, the projection for total box office was going to be around RMB 400 million ($64.41 million). With the budget and the advertising costs we were looking at losing money. I was even worried that it wouldn’t make the projection. And then, on the first day it made RMB 100 million ($16 million) in half a day, I was just shocked.”