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Still from Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, Hayao Miyazaki, director. English title: Spirited Away. (Image links to the Spirited Away page on Nausicaa.net, a site devoted to the films of Studio Ghibli.)

Hayao Miyazaki is known as Japan’s answer to Walt Disney. He is responsible for some of that country’s most amazing films in the anime style: titles like My Neighbor Totoro, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and his greatest work (thus far), Princess Mononoke. That last title was actually Japan’s highest-grossing film until it was superseded by Titanic. However, Titanic‘s record fell last year with Miyazaki’s most recent work, Spirited Away. The film is set to be released in the United States on September 20 by Disney, which owns the US distribution rights to all of Studio Ghibli’s films. (Studio Ghibli is Miyazaki’s studio.) Disney’s last release of a Miyazaki film, Princess Mononoke in 1999, was pretty much of a failure — Disney’s response to the problem of marketing a foreign film in a genre that is generally not very well known was to not market the film at all. (It didn’t even play in the town I lived in at the time.) I hope that Spirited Away is more successful, but I’m wondering if Disney isn’t making the same mistakes. No trailers have been shown theatrically that I know of. Lilo and Stitch was a presence six months before the film opened, with posters in theaters and trailers showing at the Disney Store constantly. Even the current Disney abomination, the flick based on the “Country Bear Jamboree”, had some advertising behind it. Now Disney is opening Spirited Away after Labor Day, when filmgoing drops like a rock. The film’s poster — which I have only seen on AICN — is beautiful and simple, but it also conveys little of any sense of the film’s story and suggests that it’s only a picture for girls. Disney can pretty much sell deep-freeze units to Eskimos when it wants to, so why won’t it pull out the stops for this?

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