To help get you through the day,
let’s discuss someone who knows a lot about hard work and the pressure of running a delivery service,
Kiki made her film debut on July 19, 1989 in Japan. It was the fifth film written and directed by the brilliant Hayao Miyazaki. For a long time Studio Ghibli films were unavailable in America. This is due in large part to the way Nausicaä in Valley of the Wind was dubbed in English. Miyazaki was so disgusted with the poor dubbing, diluted themes and the changing of names that he was hesitant to dub anymore of his films. He would not release the distribution rights unless there were stricter Japanese to English translation as well as keeping the entire film intact, meaning the no cutting of scenes. The Walt Disney Studios agreed to Miyazaki’s terms and in 1996, Disney was allowed to distribute Studio Ghibli films internationally. And thus, Kiki was added to our Disney character line up. In 1998, Kiki’s Delivery Service was the first English dubbed Studio Ghibli film released by Disney. Disney has gone on to slowly distribute all of Miyazaki’s films and has gotten his praise for translating them so well.
Without further ado, let’s start talking about the teenage witch called Kiki. Kiki’s Delivery Service is based on Eiko Kadono‘s 1985 novel of the same name. After winning the Noma Children’s Literature Prize, she wrote four follow up books, with the most recent one in the series released in 2009. There’s even a Japanese live action adaptation based on the first two books that was released in 2014. Disney has expressed interest in creating a live action version but that’s as far as its gone. I don’t know how I would feel about a live action, but to be honest, I’m a little excited 😀
The original text was more episodic. The book consists of a series of stories that occur while Kiki is making her deliveries. In order to make the film more of a story dealing with realistic feelings, Miyazaki added more dramatic elements such as the airship incident and Kiki’s loss of her powers. A more logistical change came when the animators decided to give Kiki a haircut, which was done for the simple reason of ease.
Further changes occurred once Disney dubbed the film, all of which were approved by Miyazaki. Little things like having Kiki drink Hot Chocolate instead of Coffee and her friends teasing about “Cute Boys” instead of “the Disco”. Some of the biggest changes from the original Japanese version occurred with the music and Jiji. Extra pieces of music were composed, as well as the addition of two new songs: “Soaring” for the opening and “I’m Gonna Fly” for the ending theme.
Jiji, Kik’s black cat went through the biggest changes. In the original version, Jiji is voiced by Rei Sakuma. In Japanese culture cats are traditionally depicted as more feminine rather than being gender specific. In the American dub, Jiji is voiced by the late great comedian Phil Hartman. Jiji had a more diligent and cautious personality in the Japanese version , while Disney and Hartman added more sass, cynicism and sarcasm. He also added a lot more lines for Jiji.
In the film, when Kiki loses her powers, she loses the ability to speak with Jiji. Miyazaki has stated that he feels Jiji represents Kiki’s immaturity. Her inability to speak with Jiji is permanent in the Japanese version, hinting that Kiki has grown in maturity. I for one was happy that Disney changed this element, and gave Kiki and Jiji the ability to communicate again. But they have since deleted this in the 2010 remastered release.
According to Kiki’s Studio Ghibli wiki page her birthday is between the Spring and Summer of 1947, which would make her 13 in 1960. However, Miyazaki has stated that Kiki’s Delivery Service exists in an alternate 1950’s Europe, where WWI and WWII never occurred. Osono’s bakery is named Guchokipanya. I was always curious about the pronunciation of it but it never occurred to me that it was meant to be a joke. The name is a Japanese pun made from the words guchokipa for Rock Paper Scissors and pan’ya for bakery. Also, the painting Ursula does of Kiki was painted by students from a school for challenged children entitled “The Ship Flying Over The Rainbow”.
I don’t know how I was able to get my hands on it, but around 1998 I was able to own my very own VHS copy of Kiki’s Delivery Service. At the time, I had no idea about distribution rights and dubbing from Japanese or even who Hayao Miyazaki was. I just knew that I got my hands on an incredible movie. It was my introduction to the world of Studio Ghibli and has remained my favorite ever since.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Kiki today.
Don’t forget to take a peek at my Instagram before you go,
and I hope you enjoy the rest of your week!