Chinese cinema-goers found out Tuesday they will have the option to swim into 2021 with Miyazaki Hayao’s 2008 animated fantasy film “Ponyo,” which is now to release on Dec. 31, a whole 12 years after its original release.
Although Miyazaki’s works and Japanese animation more broadly are well-known and beloved in China, many classic titles never got a theatrical release in the country. “Ponyo” will be the third Studio Ghibli classic to hit the Chinese big screen in the past two years. In 2019, Miyazaki’s 2001 animation “Spirited Away” grossed $69 million (RMB488 million) in what is now the world’s largest film market, while in 2018, the 1998 title “My Neighbor Totoro” grossed $25.8 million (RMB174 million).
At the time of its original release, “Ponyo” grossed $15 million in North America and $202 million worldwide, with $165 million of that coming from Japan alone. Despite missing mainland China, it grossed $1 million in Taiwan and $3 million in Hong Kong back in 2009.
The animated film tells the story of a young boy who develops a relationship with goldfish princess Ponyo, who falls in love with him and seeks to become human.
To promote the older title, Miyazaki took to the Twitter-like Chinese social media platform Weibo to post a handwritten note with a Chinese message for local readers and a cute doodle. In Chinese characters, some of which appear in written Japanese as kanji, Miyazaki wrote: “If Ponyo can bring joy, that’d be great.”
China has seen a steep rise in imports of Japanese animated films in the past two years. That’s a big change from years past when none were allowed due to political tensions between the two countries.