The eagerly awaited Howl’s Moving Castle, the latest traditionally animated epic from master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, begins its limited North American theatrical run today, arriving in 36 theaters. Widely regarded as Miyazaki’s most commercial pic to date, the feature will have some competition in the family film category as Dimension releases director Robert Rodriguez’s latest kid flick, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D. Both movies will also have to contend with DreamWorks’ Madagascar, the reigning box office champ.
Howl’s Moving Castle is Miyazaki’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2002 fantasy masterpiece, Spirited Away. Based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones, the movie centers on an enchanted 18-year-old named Sophie, who is transformed into an old woman and encounters a wizard who inhabits a magical moving castle. Writer Reiko Yoshida adapted the book for the screen. Animation was completed at Studio Ghibli.
The English-language version, produced distributed by Disney, is directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) and features the voices of Christian Bale (Batman Begins, Reign of Fire), Jean Simmons (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the upcoming Thru the Moebius Strip), Lauren Bacall (Birth, the upcoming Firedog), Emily Mortimer (Disney’s The Kid, the upcoming The Pink Panther) Billy Crystal (Monsters, Inc. Analyze That) and Blythe Danner (Meet the Fockers, TV’s Huff).
After a stint in the ultra-violent, very adult, neo-noir comic-book world of Frank Miller’s Sin City, Robert Rodriguez returns to family fare with a new 3D pic in the tradition of his highly successful Spy Kids trilogy. Based on a story by the director’s young son, Racer Rodriguez, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl stars newcomers Taylor Lautner and Taylor Dooley as the title superhero kids who spring from the imagination of schoolboy Max (Cayden Boyd).
Much like Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Shark Boy features a lot of computer-generated environments and animated elements that pop out at audiences via stereoscopic 3D that requires those paper glasses with red and blue lenses. Studios that contributed to the film’s extensive visual effects work include Hybride Technologies, Hydraulx, Industrial Light & Magic, Intelligent Creatures Inc., The Orphanage, Tippett Studio and CaféFX.
Also opening in wide release today are Mr. and Mrs. Smith, 20th Century Fox’s action comedy starring "Bradgelina"; Paramount’s big-screen update of The Honeymooners with Cedric the Entertainer; and Lions Gate’s highly anticipated U.S. release of the hit French slasher flick, High Tension.
Read our cover story on the making of Howl’s Moving Castle in the July issue of Animation Magazine, available on newsstands now.