Japan: Ghibli Museum in Tokyo-A Must-Visit For Studio Ghibli Fans

[Photo Credit: Ghibli Museum Souvenir Program]

When in Japan: If you are a huge fan of Studio Ghibli or animation in general, visiting the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is a must.

The brainchild of Hayao Miyazaki, renowned Japanese animator and co-founder of animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli, the one-of-its-kind museum is dedicated to all things Ghibli and the art of animation. Being a longtime Studio Ghibli fan—from My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea to The Red Turtle—visiting Ghibli Museum was hence my top priority whilst I was in Tokyo last November.

By Advance Reservation Only
Opened in October 2001 and located in Mitaka, a short train ride from Shinjuku Station, the Ghibli Museum is so exclusive that no tickets are sold at the venue. They can only be purchased online with authorized dealers which you can find on the museum’s website. As it is a very popular destination, tickets get sold out as soon as they are available. Thus, to avoid disappointment, I simply left it to my travel planner, Joey of Atlas Travelz, to book tickets for me and my travel mate after providing her with our preferred date and time of visit. It was with joy when she confirmed the purchase prior to our leaving for Japan!

Have your passport and ticket ready whilst queuing at the museum's entrance. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

From Mitaka Station, it’s a 15-20 minute walk to the museum which is located in the west of lush Inokashira Park, but we decided to take the shuttle bus instead—which alas is not a Cat Bus but a vehicle gaily painted with Studio Ghibli characters—that goes from the station to the museum (round-trip ¥320/SGD4).

We chose the 2pm entry time slot as my BFF, who had visited before, said more than two hours will be needed to thoroughly cover every nook and corner including the museum’s exteriors. (Thus 4pm is too tight as the museum closes at 6pm). Besides tickets, a passport for identification purposes is also required for entry, so do remember to bring yours along if you have a ticket for visiting the museum.

For Your Eyes Only – No Photography Allowed Indoors

Just seeing the brightly colored, European-styled building, bedecked with leafy coverings, from the outside already made you feel like you are on the magical setting of a Studio Ghibli film. The glee of finally being there was halted somewhat when we were told at the entrance that no photography was allowed indoors. Sob! However, what awaited us within more than made up for that slight disappointment…

A Museum Where Those Seeking Enjoyment Can Enjoy

A Ghibli Museum poster showing a cross-section of the 4-story building. [Credit: Ghibli Museum]

In a museum souvenir program filled with his original concept illustrations, sketches and notes, Miyazaki stated the kind of museum that he wanted to make is one “that is interesting and relaxes the soul… where those seeking enjoyment can enjoy… and a museum that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered!” Well, it’s definitely all these and then some.

Upon entering you will be greeted by colorful flora and fauna, as well as recognizable Ghibli characters such as Totoro, Satsuki and Mei, painted on the ceiling and walls, as well as on the stained-glass windows. At the reception, a museum ticket in the form of a 35mm film strip is handed to every visitor in exchange for the ticket voucher. (Mine I think is a strip from Castle In The Sky but I have to re-watch the film to be sure!)

Fascinating Rooms and Spaces

[Credit: Ghibli Museum souvenir program]

From the reception, we went down a flight of stairs which brought us to the Central Hall in the basement, whilst its domed glass ceiling (with images of Ponyo and her sea friends) is way above the second floor. Here you will have a fish-eye view of the number of spaces you can explore – a spiral staircase, a cast-iron elevator, a bridged passage, intricately designed restrooms, etc. This floor also houses the Saturn Theater, a small but vibrantly decorated screening room that screens Studio Ghibli original short films made exclusively for the museum including Miyazaki’s last known work, Boro The Catepillar (2018).

Exclusive Screenings of Studio Ghibli Short Films

During our visit, we first got to watch Imaginary Flying Machines (2002), which features director Hayao Miyazaki himself in the form of a humanoid pig akin to the main character in 1992’s Porco Russo, narrating the history of aviation. The second was the charming and heartwarming tale of Mr Dough and the Egg Princess (2010) which tells of a tiny egg girl who decides to run away with her new dough friend, so to escape the clutches of her evil witch mistress. Both were equally delightful, well worth the 25-30 minute wait to get into the 80-seat theater.

Insightful Look Into The Art & Processes of Animation

One of the museum’s highlights are the rooms with exhibits devoted to the art of animation. In “The Beginning of Movement”, visitors get to see many original artworks from different Studio Ghibli films, including an amazing 3D Zoetrope “Bouncing Totoro” display showing how animators made Satsuki and Mei dance with a grinning Totoro in My Neighbour Totoro. In “Where a Film is Born”, rooms are bedecked with things you will find in the working spaces of an animator — from storyteller to background artist, staging to inker and painter.

There are also temporary exhibits that will change from time to time. For instance, the special exhibition we saw, “Sketch, Flash, Spark! — From the Ghibli Forest Sketchbook” —showing how the museum was designed and built—will run till May 2021 (tentative).

Other Enchanting Spaces

[Credit: Ghibli Museum souvenir program]

The museum also boasts a giant cuddly-looking Cat Bus which only young children can play with (bah!) Here’s hoping that the planned Studio Ghibli theme park in Nagoya due for completion in 2022 will have either a giant Totoro or Cat Bus that adults can play with!

Robot soldier at the museum's rooftop garden. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

As photography is allowed outdoors, needless to say, the Robot Soldier from Castle in the Sky (1986)—who many mistook for the Iron Giant from 1999’s The Iron Giant (including us)—on the rooftop garden was a very popular selfie / wefie target. To get up here, one has to climb a towering iron-cast spiral staircase located outside the Cat Bus Room.

In the premises, there’s also has a library-cum-book shop, cafe (with indoor and al fresco areas, selling ice cream, hotdogs, etc), children’s play area, garden patio and an extremely popular gift shop named Mamma Aiuto! (Italian for “Mama, help me”.) Named after the sky pirates in Porco Russo, the shop has everything Studio Ghibli you would love to own, from pins to handicraft sets to adorable plushies. As we are not super rich, we found the pricing rather expensive sadly. But if you can control your must-buy urges, there’s a store within Tokyo Station that sells official merchandise at slightly more affordable prices. But of course, the museum gift shop also have more exclusive stuff.

Ghibli Museum souvenir programs available from the museum gift shop, Mamma Aiuto! [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

In the end, I decided to go for this set of two Ghibli Museum souvenir programs which cost only ¥1000 and also came with a complimentary, almost 4-foot long poster of a cross-section illustration of the museum (pictured midway in this post). The booklet top left is filled with Miyazaki’s original concept sketches of the museum as well as his thoughts of what he wanted for it, while the one on the right is filled with well-shot photos of the museum’s key features. And oh, I also bought a key-chain with a mini Totoro plushie ‘cos you just can’t leave here without a memento of the iconic creature. (Especially when it seems we missed seeing the giant Totoro figure that was supposed to be housed in the museum’s old reception!)

All in all, it was a totally worthwhile trip to the Ghibli Museum for this animation and Studio Ghibli fan. Do consider going if you are one too and planning a trip to Tokyo, Japan in the near future. You won’t regret it!

Ghibli Museum is in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan. Closed on Tuesdays, special holidays, and often for periodic maintenance, so do check its website at http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/ for its calendar, ticketing details, and other information.

My Studio Ghibli haul (mainly plushies, socks, and towels), plus the Museum's cool film strip ticket. (Mind not my free Frozen 2 sticker sheet from a Shinjuku store...)

Read also:
* 5 Things We Want to See in Studio Ghibli’s Theme Park in 2022
* Studio Ghibli Sees First East-west Collaboration in the Wordless Wonder ‘The Red Turtle’
* 6 Great Fantasy Films That Studio Ponoc’s ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ Will Lovingly Remind You Of


'Frozen 2' Fun @ Singapore Changi Airport

Look out for a giant Olaf at Singapore Changi Airport T2!

If you or your kids are big fans of Disney’s Frozen 2, do make your way down to Singapore Changi Airport where there are loads of fun Instagram-worthy opportunities with the lovable characters from the blockbuster animated film, which has since grossed over US$1 billion (S$1.36b) at the global box office.

The main highlight of A Frozen Wonderland At Changi is located at the airport’s Terminal 3 Departure Hall (in front of Departure Immigration). Here you will find a handful of life-sized sets inspired by the enchanting film featuring key characters namely Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, Sven, and Grand Pabbie.

Every night till Jan 5, 2020, there will be an entralling light, sound and snow show at 7.30pm, 8pm, 8.30pm and 9pm, which primarily tells the story of Frozen 2, in which Queen Elsa and company go in search of a mystery voice she’s been hearing that or who may save the kingdom of Arendelle from grave danger. Needless to say, spoilers galore at the attraction (and this blog post) if you have yet to see the film!

Grand Pabbie, the wise old troll, should be the first figure you see if you approach the set from the front as he’s extremely well lit.

Over to the right, you will find Anna and Olaf in a boat, depicting the scene when Elsa sent them away for their safety.

At a lovely autumn-inspired spot, and besides four elemental pillars, you will find macho Kristoff and his faithful reindeer, Sven, in the midst of life-like looking trees and plants and in a great rush to find his beloved Anna.

Last but not least, on the biggest structure, you will find the getting-more-powerful Queen Elsa tackling Nokk, the mythical water horse spirit, in stormy seas. This set has a big part to play during the daily show, so make sure you have a good view of it during the performance!

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW

Each show will end with a dramatic snowfall scenario that everyone of all ages thoroughly enjoyed! It’s mainly soap suds in case you are wondering!

This moment lasted quite long and, have to say, my pal and I had great fun taking wefies and being covered in “snow”, as did everyone around us!

OTHER FROZEN 2 SIGHTINGS…

Elsewhere in T3 Departure Hall, you will find an Enchanted Forest as well as an Arendelle Castle, where you can pose with cardboard cut-outs of Elsa and Anna, or check out these utterly cute 1-metre-tall plushies of Olaf and Sven.

These sections have areas and activities primarily designed for kids, but you would require a pass (and probably need to spend some money on a single receipt that kind of thing.) Visit https://frozenwonderland.changiairport.com/ for more information on how one can participate.

Over at Jewel, there is also some Frozen 2 content. At the Cloud9 Piazza on Level 5, there is an Arendelle-inspired festival market with a few stalls selling Frozen 2 merchandise. But the draw is definitely these life-sized models of Princess Anna and Queen Elsa. An Olaf figure can also be found at one of the festival’s gates.

For a great shot of the lovable snowman though, you have to pop to Terminal 2 for this larger-than-life, 3-metre-tall, spinning Olaf which is easily a big draw. Don’t miss it!

A Frozen Wonderland At Changi will be at T3, T2 and Jewel until Jan 5, 2020.
For more information, visit https://frozenwonderland.changiairport.com/.

Read also:
* ‘Frozen 2’: The 20 Best Quotes from the Disney Animated Blockbuster Sequel
* ‘Frozen 2’ Leaked Image Shows Elsa and Anna in an Autumn Setting

Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ The Musical – 8 Reasons To See The Show

If you are a fan of Disney’s Aladdin, 2019 has been a good year.

On the week that the 2019 live-action adaptation of the beloved 1992 animated film crossed the magical US$1 billion (S$1.36b) mark at the global box office, the hit Broadway adaptation made its debut in Singapore and is entertaining audiences in a whole new way.

Boasting energizing song-and-dance sequences, amazing sets and effects, and stunning costumes, Aladdin the musical—which is based on the 1992 Oscar-winning film—premiered on Broadway in 2014 with book by playwright Chad Beguelin, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin. Singapore will be the only Asian stop and final run for this Aladdin tour.

Musings on the M49 was chuffed to be invited to the official opening night at Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands. Here are eight reasons why Aladdin the musical is a must-see, especially if you are a fan of the Disney films or musicals in general. (Aladdin Photos Credit: Base Entertainment Asia)

1. “Friend Like Me”

The Genie’s signature song in the treasure-hoarding Cave of Wonders is a spectacular 14-minute showstopper comprising breath-taking choreography and cool magical effects. The scene-stealer was without question Gareth Jacobs whose creative genius as the Genie made the vibrant and pulsating sequence an absolute joy to watch.

2. “A Whole New World”

The Oscar-winning song is a timeless classic and watching Aladdin (Graeme Isaako) and Princess Jasmine (Shubshri Kandiah) singing it while seemingly flying on a magic carpet for real on stage is simply a thrill – even though you know it is manoeuvred by a special albeit well-hidden contraption. Easily the show’s second top highlight, drawing lots of oohs and aahs from the audience.

3. A Genie Like No Other

He’s not blue (except for his costume) and does not appear vaporizing from a lamp, but Gareth Jacobs’ Genie totally stole the show from the word go. He sang and danced with gusto, and his wisecracking had the audiences in stitches. His shout-outs to Singapore at appropriate times was a nice touch as well.

4. Classic And New Tunes Combo
Besides the unforgettable tunes from the 1992 film such as “Arabian Nights”, “One Jump Ahead” and “Prince Ali”, fans can savor seven new songs in the musical. Menken and Beguelin wrote four tunes specially for the stage production and these are “These Palace Walls”, “A Million Miles Away”, “Diamond in the Rough” and “Somebody’s Got Your Back”. Also included are three songs by Menken and Ashman that were cut from the original film – “Proud of Your Boy”, “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” and “High Adventure”. Let’s hope for future productions, they will consider adding “Speechless”, Princess Jasmine’s empowering anthem from the 2019 megahit, too!

5. Stunning Set Design

From the colorful mythical city of Agrabah, to the Sultan and Princess Jasmine’s luxurious palace, to the gold-glittering Cave of Wonders, the show’s 500 captivating sets, props and backdrops are to be lauded. The audience is easily transported to every location in a blink of an eye, whether it is a Middle Eastern-influenced marketplace or a cave in a dark, isolated desert.

6. Shining, Shimmering, Splendid Costumes

The costumes in Aladdin have to be one of the most vibrant and sparkling set of outfits I’ve ever seen in a musical. And this is thanks to some 1000 fabrics and half a million Swarovski crystals that were used to make and decorate the 300+ costumes in the show. There was so much sparkle, they should have warned us to wear shades…

7. Incredible Special Effects
Besides a believable flying magic carpet, the show also employs a great number of whoa-inducing magical effects on stage such as slide of hand tricks, disappearing box acts, and quick change illusions, some of which were even executed effortlessly during song sequences.

8. Funny Bytes Galore
Thanks to some great one-liners and hilarious ad-libs, there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments that didn’t just materializes out of the Genie, but also from supporting characters such as Jafar (Patrick R Brown) and his scheming sidekick, Iago (Doron Chester). I would arguably say there were more laughs generated from the musical than from the cinematic version!

All in all, Aladdin the musical is great fun, a spectacular that is easily enjoyed by both young and old. Though the first half felt a tad draggy (though understandably having to introduce every key character), the show nonetheless does present a whole new world of Disney’s Aladdin that is truly worth a watch.

Rewind: At the Aladdin Red Carpet
Attending stage shows, it is always fun to see people dress up for the occasion or are game to participate in entertaining activities. Prior to the show’s start on opening night, we witnessed a few folks who shook a tail feather or two on the “purple” carpet! (Photos by Marguerita Tan)

For starters, you always want to give a thumb’s up when theatre goers take the trouble to dress up according to the theme of the show!

And from the young to the young-at-heart, a few were sporting enough to sing ‘A Whole New World’ in front of cameras!

And here’s some of the famous faces spotted: 2009 Singapore Idol Sezairi Sazali (left) and author/humor writer Sylvia Toh Paik Choo (far right)

Aladdin the Broadway musical plays at the Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore till Sept 1, 2019. Performances: Tue to Fri, 7.30pm; Sat 2pm & 7.30pm; and Sun 1pm & 6.30pm. Tickets from $68++ from www.sistic.com and www.marinabaysands.com/ticketing.

Read also:
* Top 10 Songs by Disney Princesses – From “Let It Go” to “Speechless”

April 2019 TV & Movie Highlights: From ‘Game Of Thrones’ To ‘Killing Eve’, Avengers to Anime

Being a longtime TV and movie fan, I don’t recall if ever there was a single month in a single year that touts TV returns and new film releases that have my interests at heart as much as this coming April.

From the final season of the fantasy epic series Game of Thrones, to the brilliant TV spy thriller Killing Eve, to cool anime productions from Japan, here are five highlights to look out for come April 2019:

1. Killing Eve Season 2

Will Jodie Comer’s Villanelle be hell-bent on killing Eve in Killing Eve Season 2? [Credit: BBC America]

Voted and awarded as one of 2018’s best TV shows by many big-name media outlets, Killing Eve is one of the most ingenious series to be seen on TV for quite some time. Focusing on an intriguing cat-and-mouse chase between jaded M16 agent Eve Polastri and psychopathic assassin Villanelle, performances are outstanding with Sandra Oh rightfully sweeping most of the best TV drama actress awards, although co-star Jodie Comer deserved the accolades just as much. Season 2 promises to be just as sharp and intense (and funny) as it was for Season 1, even though show-runner Phoebe Waller-Bridge did not do any writing (but a good writer friend of hers did). Can’t wait!
Killing Eve Season 2 premieres on Sunday, April 7, BBC America.

Read also:
* ‘Killing Eve’ Season 2: What to Expect When the Acclaimed Psycho Thriller Returns
* Five Behind-The-Scene Things You Should Know About ‘Killing Eve’

2. Game Of Thrones Season 8

Will it be a bittersweet victory for Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in Game of Thrones‘ final season? [Credit: HBO]

Winter seriously took a long time in coming if you are a Game of Thrones fan. With an almost 18-month gap between Season 7 and its upcoming final season, it’s arguably the second longest hiatus period in TV history (The Sopranos holds the record if I’m not mistaken; and not counting series reboots.) But David Benioff and Dan Weiss promised that the wait will be worth it, with each of the six episodes almost feature-length and with big battles galore. What most fans care about though is who dies, who lives, and most importantly, who gets to sit on the Iron Throne. George RR Martin says it will be a “bittersweet victory”, but victory for whom? The Night King? Queen Cersei? Brrrr, the thought of it.
Game of Thrones’ Season 8 premieres on Sunday, April 14, HBO.

Read also:
* 8 ‘Game of Thrones’ Fan Theories About Daenerys Targaryen’s Endgame
*  ‘Game of Thrones’ Fan Theories About the Crypts of Winterfell
* ‘Game of Thrones’: Who’s Likely to Die in Season 8?
‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8: Why Jon Snow May Use Greatsword Dawn to Slay the Night King

3. Okko’s Inn

If you are a Studio Ghibli fan like me, you’ll be glad to know that animators who have left the famed Hayao Miyazaki studio are doing their part to produce adorable Studio-Ghibli-like films for film lovers to enjoy. This year, Kitaro Kosaka, a key animator on many of Studio Ghibli’s box office hits, brings us Okko’s Inn, a story of a young girl who, while training to be the junior innkeeper of her grandma’s traditional Japanese inn, discovers that she can see the spirits that live in the building. The supernatural beings have to be put on the back-burner however as a string of guests arrive who will test Okko’s mantle to be a gracious host. Will she prevail? We bet our Totoro stuffed toys that she will!
Okko’s Inn opens in selected U.S. theaters on Monday, April 22, 2019.

Read also:
* 6 Great Fantasy Films That Studio Ponoc’s ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ Will Lovingly Remind You Of
* Why J.J. Abrams’ ‘Your Name’ Adaptation Might Not Be Such a Great Idea
* 5 Things We Want to See in Studio Ghibli’s Theme Park in 2022
* Studio Ghibli Sees First East-west Collaboration in the Wordless Wonder ‘The Red Turtle’

4. Avengers: Endgame

Half of the universe, including many of our heroes, vaporized into thin air by super villain Thanos at the end of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Can the remaining Avengers—Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, et al —do damage control? Or can they do the impossible and turn back time to before the Mad Titan snapped his fingers? Either way, Endgame marks the end of the Infinity Stones story arc in the MCU. And I’m guessing that most of our heroes who we think have bite the dust will make it back alive considering—SPOILER—young Peter Parker, to name but one, will be back for more adventures in Spider-Man: Far from Home (23rd MCU film due out July 2019), which reportedly takes place after events in Endgame…
Avengers: Endgame is in U.S. theaters from Thursday, April 26, 2019.

Read also:
* Hammer Time! Who Keeps Marvel Actors Safe Behind the Scenes of ‘Thor: Ragnarok’?

5. Attack On Titan Season 3 Part II

Based on the best-selling Japanese manga, Attack on Titan is one of the most exciting anime series in recent times thanks to its captivating animation style, intriguing plot-lines and gripping action. Story tells of a remnant of humanity who lives behind walled cities to protect themselves against giant humanoid creatures that eat humans. By Season 3, the Survey Corps, led by their charismatic captain, Levi Ackerman, has discovered that the humanoids are actually created by the ruling royal family to keep citizens in check. Part 1 sees the Corps including Eren Yeager—the only Titan helping to protect humanity—tackling these human enemies; while Part II will see them take on former comrades Reiner Braun (Armored Titan) and Bertholdt Hoover (Colossal Titan), and their “chief”, the Beast Titan, who may have a shocking secret to reveal…
Attack on Titan Season 3 returns Sunday, April 29, 2019, various anime channels.

Read also:
* ‘Attack on Titan’ Season 3: Humans Are the New Threat

5 Most Memorable Moments From ‘Star Wars Rebels’

Star Wars Rebels Season 4 Finale Mural

‘Star Wars Rebels’ is a worthy addition to the Star Wars Universe [Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney]

It wasn’t love at first sight. When Star Wars Rebels premiered in 2014, it took a while to warm up to the animated series and its motley crew of characters which includes a rogue Jedi who did not quite complete his training and a Force-sensitive kid who was not very endearing from the word go. Plus the fact that you just cannot but compare it to the just-ended and much superior Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2014; Season 7 will debut in 2019).

Thankfully, Star Wars Rebels slowly grew from strength to strength. Not only did its core characters became more compelling, the series also produced numerous intriguing story arcs (all canon) that, most often than not, are linked to beloved characters and fan favorites from the original trilogy, the prequels, Rogue One, and, yes, The Clone Wars.

With the recent release of Star Wars Rebels Season 4 on Blu-ray and DVD, here’s a look-back at five of the most memorable moments from all four seasons.

5. Darth Vader Cometh

Star-Wars-Rebels-Darth-Vader-Siege-of-Lothal-Season 2 premiere

Darth Vader in the ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season 2 premiere [Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney]

The Dark Lord’s appearance in the Season 2 premiere, “The Siege of Lothal”, shows just how scary and ruthless this iconic villain is, even in cartoon form. That we were absolutely terrified for Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger’s lives when they take on Darth Vader two-to-one – to be fair, they didn’t know who or what he was then – is an understatement. Equally memorable was the look of horror on Ahsoka Tano’s face when she, using her Force sensitivity on board the Ghost, discovers that the dude terrorizing her associates is none other than her former Master, Anakin Skywalker, who also senses her presence as he coldly murmurs, “The apprentice lives…” Shudder.

4. Sabine’s Darksaber Training

star-wars-rebels-S3E14-sabine-trials of the darksaber

Sabine trains with Kanan in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season 3 [Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney]

Kanan training Sabine Wren on how to use the Darksaber in Season 3 Episode 15, “Trials of the Darksaber”, is one of the most well-written sequences in Star Wars Rebels. Not only do we get to see how the now-blind Kanan has grown to be a more confident and matured teacher/mentor, it also reveals Sabine’s heartache of being long shunned by her own family and Mandalorian people for designing the very weapons that the Empire used against their home planet. Their fierce sparring is also one of the coolest lightsaber duels ever seen on screen.

Read also:
* How ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Expanded George Lucas’s Lightsaber Mythology for the Darksaber

3. A Whole New World

star-wars-rebels-ezra-ahsoka-a world-between-worlds-S4E13

Ezra rescues Ahsoka from the past in ‘A World Between Worlds’ in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season 4 [Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney]

Time travel (a first in Star Wars), a whole new world and Ahsoka lives! In Season 4 Episode 13, “A World Between Worlds”, Ezra finds a cosmic space behind an ancient painting in the Lothal Jedi Temple where he can hear voices including that of Yoda, Obi-wan Kenobi and Princess Leia, as well as many portals to the past. After rescuing Ahsoka from being finished off by Darth Vader in their duel (depicted in Season 2’s finale), the young Jedi wanted to rescue Kanan from dying (three episodes earlier, see #1 below), only to be reminded by Ahsoka that saving Kanan means the rest of the Ghost crew dies. Which leaves us to cry along with Ezra as we watch his Master’s demise yet again in the flashback…

2. Duel Of The Fates Part 2
star-wars-rebels-S3-twin-suns-kenobi-maul

Long before Solo: A Star Wars StoryStar Wars Rebels fans knew former Sith Lord (Darth) Maul was alive and well. Well, up until he met up with his old adversary Obi-wan in Season 3 Episode 20, “Twin Suns.” Swearing vengeance on the Jedi Master since The Clone Wars, the much anticipated duel between the two end literally in a blink of an eye. If that wasn’t artful enough, Obi-wan holding Maul in his arms compassionately as the latter lays dying – inquiring with his last breath if the one who the old Jedi is protecting is “the chosen one” – was another memorable moment.

1. Kanan’s Last Hurrah

Star Wars Rebels Season 4_Jedi Night_Kanan

Kanan’s a hero till the end in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Season 4 [Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney]

As it was long informed by series creator Dave Filoni that Star Wars Rebels’ final season will lead up to events depicted in Rogue One (2016), we kinda know Kanan, being a Jedi, won’t make it out of the series alive. Still, it was heartwrenching to see him sacrificing himself, even if he did go out in a blaze of glory, saving the people he loves in Season 4 Episode 10, “Jedi Night.”  Kanan Force-pushing Hera away to prevent her from stopping him – with his eyes seemingly becoming clear – was equally heartbreaking as the two have just openly declared their love for each other. Haiz.

Which is your favorite moment in Star Wars Rebels? Let me know in the comments below!

Read also:
Hope, There Is: 5 Highlights From ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Series Finale
Rebel Heart: Mon Mothma Finally Rallies the Troops on ‘Star Wars Rebels’
* 4 ‘Star Wars Rebels’ Easter Eggs in ‘Rogue One’
The 15 Coolest Easter Eggs in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

‘Mary & The Witch’s Flower’ Will Delight Studio Ghibli Fans

Mary-and-the-witch's-flower-clouds

‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is an enchanting animated feature that has all the trademark characteristics of a Studio Ghibli film – from lovable cherubic characters to the coming-of-age narrative, magical transformations to a stirring musical score. Except it is not by Studio Ghibli.

That another Japanese animation studio could produce a film so Ghibli-like was hardly surprising once you find out who the creative people behind it are. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the debut film of Studio Ponoc, founded by former Ghibli animator and producer Yoshiaki Nishimura (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There) and directed by another ex-Ghibli animator and director, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There fame.

Mary-and-The-Witchs-Flower-fly-by-night

Based on Mary Stewart’s 1971 children fantasy novel, The Little BroomstickMary and the Witch’s Flower tells the story of young red-haired Mary Smith who lives with her great-aunt Charlotte in the quaint British town of Redmanor. One day, she came across a mysterious flower known as Fly-by-night, or the Witch’s Flower, that blooms only once every seven years.

Mary soon finds herself embarking on a wild adventure as eccentric characters try to seize the one-night-only witching powers that she received from the magical flower. Even as she cherishes the opportunity to escape from her mundane lifestyle, Mary also learns that with power comes the responsibility to save and protect those you love.

Ghibli fans will love Mary and the Witch’s Flower as it has all the qualities of a lush, magical Ghibli film. In fact, the film pays much homage to past Studio Ghibli classics as well as other popular fantasy films that fans of the genre would recognize in an instant.

For the list of the major shout-outs, click the link below:
* 6 Great Fantasy Films That Studio Ponoc’s ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ Will Lovingly Remind You Of

Read also:
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Artistic Wonders: Animated Prequels That Provide Insightful Back Stories To Shows Such As ‘Blade Runner 2049’ And ‘Train to Busan’

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‘Blade Runner Black Out 2022’ [Credit: Warner Bros]

Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford may not have been the box office hit that its producers and diehard fans hoped for, but it is still a remarkable film in more ways than one. For instance, it is a rare recent film that has not one but three short prequels commissioned to provide back stories to events that happened between Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic, which took place in 2019, and Denis Villeneuve’s sequel, set 30 years later.

Directed by Luke Scott (son of Ridley), the first two prequels 2036: Nexus Dawn and 2048: Nowhere to Run provide background stories on the characters Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), both of whom featured in Blade Runner 2049. But it’s the third prequel, the animated short titled Blade Runner Black Out 2022, that created the most buzz.

An Animated Prequel: ‘Blade Runner Black Out 2022’

Set in Los Angeles three years after the original Blade Runner, the action-packed short tells of how after mobs of angry humans start killing replicants with natural life-spans. Two Nexus 8 replicants – military combat model Iggy and pleasure model Trixie – decide to fight back by creating a massive power outage that became known as the Great Blackout of 2022, “a darkness the humans have never seen.”

Brilliantly animated, the 15-minute prequel is written and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame. The clip also offers a few callbacks to the original Blade Runner, such as Trixie’s acrobatic skills – which is reminiscent of Daryl Hannah’s Pris – while LAPD blade runner Gaff is voiced by the original actor, Edward James Olmos.

However, Blade Runner 2049 is not the first cinematic production to have an animated prequel specifically made to provide a backstory for viewers. If you loved the concept. here are a few other fantastic animated prequels that may be of interest.

1. Snowpiercer (2013) Animated Prequel

Futuristic sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer, directed by The Host’s Bong Joon Ho and starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, focuses on the last remnants of humanity seeking refuge as an apocalyptic earth experiences a new ice age.

Its 4-minute animated prequel was produced to explain how the world turned icy cold after a disastrous attempt to end global warming triggers an ice age instead. Violence arose among the human race as they fight each other to get on board the train that runs on a special engine. The feature film picks up years later when a class system has arisen on the Snowpiercer and a revolution is about to erupt between the lower and upper classes.

The stunning short uses 3D animation albeit with static human characters, yet fear and violence is effectively portrayed through the use of light, sound and special effects. Yona (Ko Asung) narrates the short in Korean, but thankfully there are English subtitles. Effective and well-animated, the prequel helps viewers understand the chaotic scenario featured at the start of Snowpiercer.

2. 47 Ronin (2013) – ‘The Way of the Warrior’

If you can accept Keanu Reeves as a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian samurai, 47 Ronin is actually quite straightforward. Still, the producers felt a prequel was necessary to explain the film’s mythical premise. Set in 18th Century feudal Japan, the 4-minute short relates the tale of 47 great samurai whose lives turned topsy turvy when their master was killed by an evil lord. Forced to become wandering ronin (masterless samurai), the band set out to restore their master’s honor by seeking out his killers, while tackling human and mythical dangers along the way.

Employing 2D animation with splashes of bold colors, The Way of the Warrior is like watching Japanese ink paintings come to life. The short film is worth watching for the chief samurai’s fight with a fire-breathing dragon alone.

3. Train to Busan (2016) – ‘Seoul Station’

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‘Seoul Station’ [Credit: Finecut]

Train to Busan, 2016’s zombies-on-a-train hit from South Korea, was one of Asia’s biggest success stories in 2016. This even allowed director Yeon Sang-ho, who’s known for his animated works such as The King of Pigs and The Fake, to commercially release another zombie-related film titled Seoul Station.

Unlike other animated prequels mentioned in this article, Seoul Station is a full-length feature. And though it is regarded as a prequel to Train to Busanits plotline is actually quite different from its live-action counterpart, the only similarity being that the zombie uprising starts at the Seoul’s central railway terminus. However, it does give a more concise idea of how the undead pandemic started.

Whether you’ve seen Train to Busan or not (and you should if you haven’t), Seoul Station is worth watching on its own accord. It is a social commentary in the guise of a horror flick, using the premise of a zombie pandemic to highlight contemporary social issues such as misogyny, homelessness and ruthless manhandling tactics by authorities.

4. Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion – An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms (2017)

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‘Games of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion’ [Credit: HBO]

With Season 7 done and dusted and Season 8 still far on the horizon, HBO is doing all they can to keep Game of Thrones fans occupied in the meantime. Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion is a storybook-style animated history special that tells of turbulent events that took place in and outside Westeros thousands of years before the TV series started.

Part one of the 45-minute special is “Valyria’s Last Scion: House Targaryen”. It tells of the Doom of Valyria, which sees Aegon Targaryen (not Jon Snow, but his ancestor Aegon the Conqueror) sailing across to Westeros with his two sister-wives and conquering all the lands that their three dragons could breathe fire on.

Richly animated and accompanied with the familiar score from TV series, the first chapter is narrated by Harry Lloyd, who played Daenerys Targaryen’s irksome brother Viserys on the show.

The rest of the chapters, which will likely cover events all the way to Robert’s Rebellion, will only be available on exclusive Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season DVD & Blu-ray™ sets (that carry the bonus disc) due out on December 12, 2017.

5. The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003) – ‘The Animatrix’

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‘The Animatrix’ – “Final Flight of the Osiris” [Credit: Warner Home Video]

One of the earlier film franchises to produce animated prequels was the Wachowski’s ground-breaking Matrix trilogy. They weren’t the first to do so but they were certainly among the most ambitious. The Animatrix, conceived and overseen by the talented siblings, is a compilation of nine animated short films based on the Keanu Reeves-led sci-fi franchise.

The idea for the intensive animated project came about when the brothers were promoting The Matrix film in Japan and met up with anime creators who had influenced their work. The first of these shorts is the 10-minute “Final Flight of the Osiris,” a direct prequel to The Matrix Reloaded. Other shorts, such as “The Second Renaissance Part I and II,” tell of the rise of the machines and their ultimate war with man that led to the creation of the computer-generated virtual reality. Comprising different forms and styles of animation, each short film is a cinematic animated achievement in its own right.

Throughout the years, these animated prequels have served a great purpose for fans, as we eagerly seek out more information on our favorite fandoms.

From Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) – the Animatrix of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy – to Star Wars‘s Forces of Destiny series (2017) and the Transformers franchise’s upcoming animated features, these creative prequels are definitely here to stay.

Which animated prequel do you know of that should be added to the above list? Drop me a note below.