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‘Mononoke’ creator Miyazaki toons up pic

'Princess' animator back to work after hiatus

TOKYO — Famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki is back at work on a new feature film, ending a 2-1/2-year filmmaking hiatus after his last movie, “Princess Mononoke,” broke the local box office record for a Japanese film.

In the follow-up to the epic “Princess,” which took in more than $150 million at the Japanese B.O., Miyazaki’s project, titled “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi,” is a simpler tale of a 10-year-old girl whose parents are transformed into pigs.

The movie has a production budget of 2 billion yen ($19.2 million) and the same production team that was behind “Princess” — Tokuma Shoten Publishing, Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, advertising giant Dentsu Inc. and top-rated net NTV — are the producers of the pic along with Disney and Tohoku Shinsha, Studio Ghibli president Toshio Suzuki said.

Suzuki said the movie will hit Japanese theaters for the summer 2001 holiday, and that talk swirling around the local movie industry that Miyazaki had retired from the movie business “was a misunderstanding.”

Miyazaki started work on his new movie earlier this year and was waiting until another film from Studio Ghibli, “My Neighbors the Yamadas,” had made its way through theaters before announcing his return, industry sources said.

The new fantasy movie of a young girl facing an unlikely new world is reminiscent of earlier Miyazaki films and is all but certain to be one of the highest-grossing films of the summer season.

Disney teamed up in 1996 with Tokuma Shoten, parent company of Studio Ghibli, and agreed to distribute eight animated features made by Miyazaki worldwide, along with taking “Princess” to theaters outside of Japan, where it added a couple of million dollars to its gross through a limited release by Miramax.