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August 13, 2009

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Miyazaki eyes US animation success

DIRECTOR Hayao Miyazaki is considered a master of animation in his native Japan, and when Disney releases his latest movie "Ponyo" tomorrow the studio hopes to score with an entirely different audience - mainstream US movie fans.

Disney has tried before with other Miyazaki films in the United States and Canada, but has found little success.

In 2003, his "Spirited Away" earned a best animated film Oscar, but only US$10 million at US and Canadian box offices. In 2005, his "Howl's Moving Castle" made only US$4.7 million in ticket sales.

Elsewhere around the world, "Spirited Away" hauled in US$265 million and "Howl's Moving Castle" drew US$230 million.

For "Ponyo," Disney went Hollywood with a Miyazaki film by enlisting star names like Tina Fey, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett to provide the voices in a bid to bolster the movie's appeal.

Moreover, the studio's chief creative office and Pixar whiz, John Lasseter, who is considered a master of computer animation having directed "Toy Story," "Cars" and other movies, signed up to produce an English-language version.

Miyazaki, 68, has been called "the Walt Disney of Japan," but he insists that the tag is unwarranted because the late Walt Disney was a "business person" and he himself is "just a director."

In "Ponyo," which was produced by Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, a fish named Ponyo wants to become a little girl, and she befriends a boy named Sosuke in a Japanese coastal town.

Boy and fish fall in love, but when Ponyo magically becomes a human girl, her transformation triggers powerful forces that threaten to upset the world's natural balance.


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