4/11/02 Disney Acquires Latest Miyazaki Smash, Spirited Away

The Walt Disney Studios has acquired all domestic theatrical, home entertainment and TV rights to Hayao Miyazaki’s latest animated blockbuster, Spirited Away, Japan’s all-time top grossing film ($234 million) from Studio Ghibli. The film, which recently won the coveted "Golden Bear Award" at the Berlin Film Festival, will be released in the fall, with Pixar’s John Lasseter serving as creative consultant for the newly dubbed version. In addition to domestic rights, Disney will also control video rights in Japan as well as all theatrical, home entertainment and TV rights in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and France.

Released in Japan last July, Spirited Away follows the fanciful adventures of a 10-year-old girl named Chihiro, who discovers a secret world when she and her family get lost and venture through a hillside tunnel. When her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, Chihiro must fend for herself as she encounters strange spirits, assorted creatures and a grumpy sorceress who seeks to prevent her from returning to the human world.

Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, commented: "Disney and Miramax have had a very successful collaboration with Studio Ghibli in the past and we are extremely proud to be extending that relationship with this truly extraordinary film. John Lasseter brings a love and respect for Miyazaki's work to his role as creative consultant and will help ensure that this film reaches the widest possible audience in its domestic release."

Added Producer and Studio Ghibli Head Toshio Suzuki: "We know the Disney team will provide the best possible release for Spirited Away. Hayao Miyazaki and John Lasseter have known each other for more than 20 years, and have been great fans of each other's work. We're so happy to have this opportunity to work together with old friends."

Lasseter noted: "Miyazaki is one of the greatest filmmakers of our time and he has been a tremendous inspiration to generations of animators. At Pixar, when we have a problem and we can't seem to solve it, we often look at one of his films in our screening room. Toy Story owes a huge debt of gratitude to the films of Mr. Miyazaki. It is a real privilege to be involved with one of his films and to help bring it to a whole new group of moviegoers. Spirited Away is a magnificent film and deserves to be seen by everyone who loves good storytelling and great characters."

Disney began its association with Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli in 1996 when Disney executive Michael O. Johnson (then president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment Worldwide) negotiated a deal to bring nine of the Studio's films to the world. In 1998, BVHE released the heart-warming coming-of-age family comedy Kiki's Delivery Service. The division next released Miyazaki's masterpiece, Princess Mononoke, on video and DVD, and is currently preparing several other Miyazaki titles for release on both video and DVD later this year. Princess Mononoke has sold four million units ($130 million) to date in Japan alone.


© 2002 Animation Magazine Inc.