Three Feature Toons to Swim in Venice

Three major animated features are set to make a big splash at the 61st Venice International Film Festival this year. DreamWorks’ Shark Tale, Hayaho Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle and Otomo Katsuhiro’s Steamboy will unspool at the prestigious Italian event (Sept. 1-11), which plays a big role as the curtain-raiser to the serious fall movie season.

Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle marks the first animated film competing at the event in 30 years. The much-anticipated feature, about a young girl trapped in an older woman’s body and her encounter with a mysterious wizard, will be released in Japan in November. Based on the popular book by Diana Wynne Jones, the film is produced by Studio Ghibli and will be distributed by Disney in the U.S. next year.

Directed by Victoria Jenson and Bibo Bergeron, DreamWorks’ Shark Tale will screen out of competition. Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie and Will Smith are expected to attend the film’s big gala celebration in Venice’s famous Piazza San Marco. Also screening out of competition are Paramount’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, starring Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, and Miramax’s Finding Neverland, about the life and times of Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie, directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) and starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. American directors Quentin Tarantino and Joe Dante will also be part of the festivities as presenters of a special retrospective titled "Italian Kings of the Bs."

Katsuhiro’s Japanese sci-fi animated feature, Steamboy, will close the festival. This well-mounted project tells the story of a 19th-Century London-based inventor named Rei who receives a mysterious invention from his grandfather in America on the eve of the first World Expo. Steamboy was released in Japan on July 17. No U.S. premiere date has been set for the film. To find out more about the Venice Festival, visit www.labienalle.org.