American media giant Disney has bought the Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, the much renowned creators of critically acclaimed films Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totorro.
Disney paid US$400 million for Studio Ghibli, which has a vast back catalogue of films and extensive merchandising opportunities.
The biggest opportunities for Disney are the cross-promotional abilities with Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Nemo.
Larry Wilson, an animation enthusiast with toys all over his house could barely contain his excitement.
“Imagine Disneyworld with the underwater world of The Little Mermaid and then just off from that is Ponyo, eating her ham!” Mr Wilson said, hyperventilating into a paper bag. “Or Mike from Monster’s Inc. mixing it up with Totorro! OMG!”
Disney has a tremendous history of buying the intellectual rights of other people’s creations as it struggles to stay relevant in the 21st century. Disney bought both Star Wars and Marvel for purported sums of US$4 billion each, as well as the animation house Pixar.
Studio Ghibli is seen as a cultural institution in Japan. People enjoy their stories’ themes of love, friendship and traditional Japanese values, as well as the focus on female characters. The Totorro character has even been used as a mascot for official environmental campaigns.
A Disney spokesman denied it was a form of US cultural imperialism.
“It’s not imperialism. We’re paying for it,” the spokesman said.