Miyazaki, Lasseter honored at panel

Disney plans to give 'Ponyo' a major release

During Comic-Con’s Pixar/Disney panel, Pixar’s John Lasseter and Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki were honored with Inkpot Awards for “great contributions to pop culture.”

However, on August 14, Disney will release Miyazaki’s “Ponyo,” the story of a boy and his relationship with a goldfish princess who longs to be human. And that, Lasseter hopes, will become the recognition that Miyazaki has so long deserved.

“Disney had the American rights to Miyazaki’s films for a while,” said Lasseter. “I feel that the animation fans in this country would love his work.”

Lasseter has worked with Miyazaki for some time to bring his films to the American market. While Miyazaki is a household name in Japan – his “Princess Mononoke” was the the highest-grossing film in Japan before the release of “Titanic” — American acceptance has been more difficult. When Miramax Films released “Princess Mononoke” in North America in 1999, the film received a warm critical reception but less than $2.4 million at the box office.

“This country deserves these films,” said Lasseter. “This man’s work touched me.”

Part of this challenge has been met by bring in A-list celebs to the voice the English versions of the pics. Lasseter and producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall have put their weight behind “Ponyo” by bring in massive star power, including Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Tina Fey.

Over the years, Lasseter has helped bring the English versions of “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away” to U.S. moviegoers. However, both were modest releases; with “Ponyo,” he has bigger plans.

“We are going to give this a nice big release,” said Lasseter. “Disney believes that strongly in the film.”

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