Ganked from the WEF, as usual. See the link in the previous Sprited Away entry.
USA TODAY: Disney hopes Japanese 'toon casts U.S. spell
Animé is still a foreign word to most U.S. moviegoers, even cartoon-crazy grown-ups who head off to Lilo & Stitch with nary a kid in tow. Not that we haven't been exposed to the style of Japanese animation. The first Pokémon movie collected $43.7 million in 2000, but no one confuses it with art.
You'd think publishers would come up with a common boilerplate introductory paragraph for stories about animé rather than making the writers come up with variations on a theme every time, but I guess antitrust legislation would prevent that. No, wait, Michael Powell is running the FCC. There must be some other reason.
Still, the failure of Princess Mononoke, a less-accessible and sometimes violent Miyazaki effort that was picked up by Miramax and grossed only $2.4 million in 1999, hangs heavy in the air.
But Lasseter assures that Spirited Away ''is more a true Miyazaki film. It has that sense of humor he has.''
The Disney crew was respectful about changes, with just a few explanatory lines added. At 2 hours and 5 minutes, it's at least a half-hour longer than most U.S. animated features. ''We were nervous about length,'' Coats says, ''but once it starts playing, kids are riveted.''
Daveigh Chase, 12, the voice of Lilo who also did the dubbing for Chihiro, Spirited Away's sulky heroine, agrees. ''It's so beautiful, the colors they use. It's very pretty when she runs through the flowers. I think kids will get this.''
Box office analysts say Disney is playing it smart. ''It makes sense to open it in early fall when there aren't many other family films,'' says Gitesh Pandya of boxofficeguru.com. ''It doesn't have a known subject like Pocahontas. You need to give people time to find it.''
Still, Robert Bucksbaum of Reel Source says, ''This isn't a typical happy-go-lucky Disney movie. The key is to hide the fact that it is a foreign film, like they did with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and slowly broaden its appeal.''
For "respectful about changes" read "contractually barred from unapproved alterations." Which doesn't sound nearly as complimentary towards the multinational, I admit, but it's big, it can take it.
Also, CTHD was subtitled (although the dub is actually pretty good if you rent the DVD), and pushed in a very big way by another multinational, the name of which goes unmentioned. No need giving them foreigners free press.
Y'know, like the free press for Disney this story represents.
Oh, did I say that out loud?
Still can't figure out why Disney/Miramax/Buena Vista/Touchstone/ABC/Cap. Cities (etc., etc., etc.) used Minneapolis/St. Paul for the test wide release of Princess Mononoke, seeing as the place is representative of the US in the same way Living Colour is representative of rock bands, just in the other direction, but that's why I'm broke while they've got Tall Yanqui Dollars. And failed miserably to collect more on Mononoke.
And on what planet was Pocahontas known subject matter?
Update: (because John C. effin' rules) -- Remember the old theme to Ebert & Siskel & the Movies (nee Sneak Previews, for you old-school WTTW watchers), when there's the wee sign that says "Read Gene Siskel" and then a Sun-Times truck pulls up with a huge "Trust Roger Ebert" sign on the side?
"The very first screening of 'Spirited Away' outside of Japan was at the Pixar animation studios," [Lasseter] said [I hate you, Jessica - The Mgt.], "and I was stunned at how amazing this film was. North America hasn't had a chance to discover Miyazaki's films. In the animated community, he's a hero, like he is to me."
[. . .] I told Miyazaki I love the "gratuitous motion" in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.
"We have a word for that in Japanese," he said. "It's called ma. Emptiness. It's there intentionally."
Is that like the "pillow words" that separate phrases in Japanese poetry?
"I don't think it's like the pillow words." He clapped his hands three or four times. "The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have nonstop action with no breathing space at all, it's just busyness. But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time, you just get numb."
The American term for this is Bruckheimer.