Japanese director Miyazaki seeks breakout U.S. film

Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:22pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Director Hayao Miyazaki is considered a master of animation in his native Japan, and when Disney releases his latest movie "Ponyo" on Friday the studio hopes to score with an entirely different audience -- mainstream U.S. 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 $10 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices. In 2005, his "Howl's Moving Castle" made only $4.7 million in ticket sales.

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

For "Ponyo," Disney went Hollywood with a Miyazaki film by enlisting stars 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.

"I've wanted Disney to distribute all of his films," Lasseter told Reuters. "I want everybody to see all his films, because they're so inventive and fantastic."

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

<p>Japan's animation movie director Hayao Miyazaki speaks at a news conference in Tokyo November 20, 2008. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>