Why Princess Mononoke only made $2.3m in the U.S.

Originally published at: Why Princess Mononoke only made $2.3m in the U.S. | Boing Boing


High Quality Im Shocked GIF

I suspect that they wanted to handle distribution stateside in order to get a handle on what they considered to be a competitor. It was pretty clear that Studio Ghibli was putting out superior films that young people would embrace, compared to some of Disney’s offerings since the 50s and 60s (which some exceptions).

Neil is correct!


Fucking Weinstein.

This is one of the greatest films of all time, animated or live action, subtitled.


I’m continually flummoxed that the studio nitwits who ruin movies don’t get the ‘credit’ they deserve.


So glad Warner Bros picked up the distribution later. They have been featuring Ghibli films both broadcast in TCM and a hub devoted to them on HBO Max


Are we sure it’s not because Weinstein couldn’t figure out how to sexually assault an anime character?


I haven’t seen this movie in a while and it is high time for a rewatch!

I love all the Studio Ghibli movies, but Spirited Away I think is my favorite.


“To me, they show nothing but contempt for the audience.”

This. This is exactly how I’ve felt about everything Disney has touched recently – as in since early childhood. Good to know it’s not just me.


It’s even worse than that. Weinstein was convinced that it was too long, believed that the critics would agree, and couldn’t admit that he was wrong, so he set it up to fail.

As Gaiman recalls, Weinstein told Miyazaki and Suzuki the news while they were smoking outside. “Mr Miyazaki, and Mr Suzuki do not return,” says Gaiman. “I ask Harvey what they had said. He replies, ‘well they said no, but they’ll change their mind. Tomorrow the New York Times review is going to come out and say it’s too long. And then they will listen to me’.”

The New York Times review, written by Janet Maslin, called Princess Mononoke a “landmark feat of Japanese animation”, with images, such as plants and flowers springing to life beneath the Shishigami’s hooves, that are “simple, meaningful and ravishingly presented”. Nowhere is it mentioned that the film is too long. “And all of a sudden,” says Gaiman, "the next thing I hear is that the fancy launch and giant marketing roll-out for Princess Mononoke that had been planned was not going to happen. It was going to roll out in 10 cities with no particular advertising push behind it. Harvey didn’t even show up for the premiere in Hollywood.


I recently re-watched it (sub-titled version) and can see why someone with Weinstein’s contempt for American audiences wouldn’t give it a chance in its original form. The kids I know who’ve seen it were enraptured by the film, as they are with most Studio Ghibli pictures. They didn’t notice the running time and embraced the ambiguity and grey zones as something they could discuss with the grown-ups.


Gaiman spoke about adapting the script to English at AggieCon the year after the film was released, and shared a number of stories about it. In addition to the length of the film, Weinstein was frustrated that only 5 or 6 seconds of footage stood between the film as it stood and a PG rating. (One decapitation, seen from a distance, and one samurai who gets his arms cut off at the elbows and then flails around in panic.) He felt that an animated movie needed to be rated PG to get a wide audience.

Miyazaki had been burned – badly – by the US distribution of “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, which had been heavily cut and rearranged “for US audiences” and marketed as “Warriors of the Wind” back in the 80s. So it was only with great trepidation that he agreed to allow another of his films to be distributed in the US, and an iron-clad requirement was that no cuts whatsoever would be allowed.

When Weinstein tried to renege on that promise and asked to cut the footage necessary to get a PG rating, Miyazaki sent Weinstein a katana engraved with the words “NO CUTS”. Weinstein got the message. But he was deeply aggrieved that he couldn’t get his way, and he buried the film with a perfunctory art-house release and no promotion whatsoever.

When the movie came out in the US, I had to drive two hours to get to the nearest theater showing it – a tin art-house theater in a major city.


If you read the article you’ll get the true version of that apocryphal story.


Yep, my first thought.

That is perhaps the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. Too bad he didn’t use it.

Also, I’m betting that the bootleg vhs made more than 2.3 mm. That movie was hot when it hit the states. Well, among nerds anyway.


I went out of my way to see Mononoke in theaters, and I found it one of the most profound and moving films I have ever seen, It is still my favorite movie of all time. I am an absolute sucker for the ambiguous morality that makes none of the characters a villain in any sense western audiences might understand. Except maybe for the monk, of course. I am not shocked that Disney/Weinstein botched the release, it should have been a huge film.


Man, the exec who handled its US distribution deserves to be in jail!

Good News!


I’ve enjoyed many Miyazaki movies, but I was disappointed by Princess Mononoke. I felt it rambled and lost its focus at points. It was packed with great ideas but had let a lot of them drop on the floor. Maybe it would have done better with better promotion, but I felt it had structural problems.

(Pullman’s Golden Compass series ran into this too. He had enough material for eight books, so his first and second books were relatively well focused, but the third book tried to do too much. I kept hoping he’d do a director’s cut and turn it into three or four books to do justice to all of its themes and ideas.)

1 Like

Similar here, had to travel from the burbs to Dupont Circle in DC when it was released to see it in a sparsely-populated, 30-seat indie theater.


Wait a hot minute: did you see the AggieCon speech?
Small world. I worked security for 39 to 48.


Yep! I was there!


This was my first Miyazaki film, my first Ghibli film, and I was luckily enough to see it at the Cleveland Institute of the Arts Cinematheque during its initial theatrical run (after reading the article, I now count myself especially lucky, as a kid growing up in a Midwest suburb, that I was able to see it on the big screen).

A lot of the nuance was lost on teen me, but even so I recognized I was watching something truly special. Revisiting it as an adult, I was impressed with its moral and political complexity, and it’s probably my second favorite Miyazaki after Ponyo.