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  • Jeremy Sheffield

Dark Hidden Image Found in Studio Ghibli's Kiki's Delivery Service

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I had the pleasure of being able to introduce Kiki’s Delivery Service before showing it in front of an audience filled with people who had never seen the film. I sang the praises of this underrated classic anime and talked about how it continues to be a fan favorite even thirty years later. It balances a magical surrealism with the everyday world that creates a light hearted coming of age tale that is as relatable as it is fantastical. I then took my seat, ordered some food, and sat back to take in Kiki’s Delivery Service on the big screen.

About an hour and seventeen minutes into the film, I noticed something on the screen that I had never seen before in my previous viewings of Kiki’s Delivery Service. The scene is Tombo calling Kiki after he has just waived to Kiki from the airship to ask if she saw him waiving. It cuts to Kiki on the phone upset that she has lost her powers, but in the background there are several shelves of bottled juices. There appears to be a strawberry juice, a lemon juice, and a grape juice. The problem I noticed is that the grape juice bottles are turned just enough to the side that the “G” nowhere to be found, leaving you with a purple bottle of juice that is completely unmarketable.

I could not concentrate anymore on the film. I was completely engrossed with this error and could not think of anything else. “Did they do this on purpose? Who let this error slide? Is this a Disney hidden message situation? A translation error? Why is the bottle not written in Japanese?” It was the hardest I have ever wanted to pull out my phone during a theater screening, but I resisted the urge.

I started researching this animated issue when I went home, but the internet came up dry. There is a lot of information about the differences between the 2003 DVD and the 2010 DVD including changes to whether or not Jiji speaks after Kiki gets her powers back and how snarky he is. I could not believe that they had made these big changes and yet left in such an egregious mistake, and also that no one was talking about it online. The Internet is usually pretty good at roasting mistakes in films that they love.

I ordered Kiki’s Delivery Service Blu Ray and DVD Combo so that I could get screenshots from the film because there were no images of it online anywhere. I started with the Blu Ray version and here is the high definition shot of that scene and the close up shot.

It is clearly grape juice that is turned enough to the side that the “G” is not showing on screen. Now on a live action set, this is an easy oversight that probably happens more often than not. However, in an animated scenario, this feels intentional.

I then put in the DVD version of the film and went to the same scene. Here is the standard definition shot of that scene and the close up.

I think that this purple drink has gone unnoticed for so many years because of the quality of the movie that we have been watching. If you watched this film on VHS or even DVD, you missed this hidden moment because it was too blurry. Now that we have high definitions of this film, we can clearly see the issue.

After watching it in the theater and seeing the juice bottle, researching it and finding nothing, and then rewatching it on Blu Ray and DVD to get the screenshots, I am torn about this movie. I like this movie and think that it has stood the test of time because it is such a relatable coming of age tale that is also fun and magical. I’m torn about whether or not to watch it on DVD or Blu Ray from now on.

Now that this screenshot is on the Internet, it’s time for all of us to revisit Kiki’s Delivery Service and answer a few questions for ourselves. We need to ask if we think this was intentional or a mistake. We should ask if it was intentional, what was the reason or the reaction the artist wanted? How did this get by not only everyone at the original studio but Disney in the rereleases? The final question is exactly what are we supposed to do with this information? I have no idea, but now that I have seen the grape juice without the “G”, I can’t ever unsee it.

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