“Spirited Away” introduced millions of Americans to venerable Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki when it won the animated feature Oscar in 2003. Miyazaki’s company, Studio Ghibli, has been a fixture in the category ever since. So why won’t you see Studio Ghibli’s latest film in this year’s Oscar race?
Turns out “Tales From Earthsea” was adapted from the same Ursula K. Le Guin fantasy novel that inspired the Sci Fi Channel’s “Earthsea” miniseries, which means the new toon can’t be released in the U.S. until the mini’s rights expire.
According to Le Guin’s son Theo, Hallmark Entertainment granted a specific rights reversion in 2004 that allowed Studio Ghibli to produce the animated theatrical release, so long as the resulting feature isn’t released in the U.S. until December 2008.
That’s a long time to wait. The pic, which marks the directorial debut of Miyazaki’s son Goro, has already grossed more than $67 million abroad. But the delay could give Buena Vista, which handled domestic distribution duties on almost all of Studio Ghibli’s other features, time to prepare a topnotch English-language dub — if and when the studio decides to pick up the film.