Pic rights ‘Spirited’ by Disney

Top-grossing Japanese hit to find U.S. screens this fall

HOLLYWOOD — The Walt Disney Studios has acquired all domestic theatrical, video and TV rights to Hayao Miyazaki’s animated Japanese film “Spirited Away,” the country’s highest-grossing film of all time.

Pic, which recently received the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival, will be released theatrically in the U.S. this fall. Director John Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life”), exec VP, creative for Pixar Animation Studios will serve as creative consultant for the newly dubbed version.

Under the terms of the deal, Disney will also acquire Japanese video distribution rights as well as all theatrical, home entertainment and TV rights in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and France.

Secret world

“Spirited Away” follows the adventures of a 10-year-old girl, Chihiro, who discovers a secret world when she and her family get lost. She must fend for herself as she encounters strange spirits, creatures and a grumpy sorceress who seeks to prevent her from returning to the human world.

“We are thrilled to be associated with the great Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli in bringing ‘Spirited Away’ to audiences around the world,” said Dick Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios. “This film has already become a box office phenomenon in Japan and its visionary story and artistry is sure to be a hit with moviegoers all over the globe.”

Pic is part of Disney’s ongoing association with filmmaker Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, the film’s producer. In 1996, Disney negotiated a deal to bring nine of the studio’s films to worldwide audiences. In 1998, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the coming-of-age family comedy “Kiki’s Delivery Service. Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke,” has been released on video and DVD and domestically theatrically by Miramax. Disney is currently preparing several other of the director’s titles for release on video and DVD later this year.

“We know the Disney team will provide the best possible release for ‘Spirited Away,’ ” said the film’s producer Toshio Suzuki, head of Studio Ghibli. “Hayao Miyazaki and John Lasseter have known each other for more than 20 years, and have been great fans of each other’s work. We’re so happy to have this opportunity to work together with old friends.”

“Spirited Away” grossed $234 million in Japan and more than 22 million admissions. Pic was released in July 2001 and is still in general release. Film surpassing the two previous record holders — “Titanic” at $208 million and Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke” at $154 million.