For fans seeking a mind-bending new animated world to explore, GKIDS has got you covered. The North American indie distributor has released the opening scene to Oscar-nominated director Mamoru Hosoda’s acclaimed new feature Belle, produced by Studio Chizu. The sequence invites viewers into the film’s rich virtual world, as our heroine makes a stunning musical entrance to theme song “U” by millennium parade x Belle.
GKIDS will release Belle in over 1,000 theaters and IMAX screens in both the original Japanese language and all-new English dubbed version on January 14, with an exclusive IMAX preview in select markets beginning Jan. 12.
Synopsis: Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a gorgeous and globally-beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.
Belle is an original story written and helmed by celebrated director Hosoda (Mirai, The Boy and the Beast, Wolf Children, Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) with long time producing partner / Studio Chizu co-founder Yuichiro Saito as producer. The Japanese creative team worked in collaboration with a roster of international talents: Character designer Jin Kim (Moana, Tangled, Frozen) designed Belle. Cartoon Saloon’s Oscar-nominated Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart (Wolfwalkers, Song of the Sea, The Secret of Kells) contributed artwork for the various virtual fantasy worlds. Up-and-coming British architect and designer Eric Wong designed the virtual world of “U.” Rounding out the team is composer Ludvig Forssell, best known for his collaborations with video game auteur Hideo Kojima (Death Stranding, Metal Gear Solid V).
The film made its critically-acclaimed world debut at the Cannes Film Festival and its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival. It has also played in competition at the London Film Festival, Fantastic Fest and Los Angeles’ Animation Is Film festival winner: Special Jury Prize). Belle has received honors at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Chicago Film Critics Association, San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle, Austin Film Critics Association, Detroit Film Critics Society, Florida Film Critics Circle, Online Association of Female Film Critics, and Greater Western New York Film Critics Association. Last month, Belle was nominated for five Annie Awards, including Best Independent Animated Feature.
Belle was released in Japan July 16, 2021. Despite ongoing limited seating capacities and nationwide curfews, the film topped the box office for three consecutive weekends. The film marks Hosoda’s first title to have IMAX screenings, and played in 38 IMAX theatres throughout Japan. Belle has crossed over 6.53 billion yen in box office to date, and has become Hosoda’s highest-grossing film ever, beating the lifetime gross of Boy and the Beast.