The beloved studio behind Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro makes its most ambitious play for American audiences yet with this gentle, well-made adaptation of The Borrowers.
As the projectors warm up in U.S. theaters today, 1300 of them are being prepped to pass the latest animated release from Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli through their lenses. While that's fewer than half the number of screens that will host each of this week's other two wide releases (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and This Means War), it's a significant number: Disney, the company responsible for distributing Ghibli releases in the United States, has never opened one of the Studio Ghibli's films on nearly as many screens. While past titles like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke have been blockbusters overseas, they've been modestly successful limited releases here. With The Secret World of Arrietty, Disney appears confident this is the film that will break Studio Ghibli's distinctive style of animation beyond its niche audience.
Those high expectations are the result of a consistent flow of meticulously crafted, memorable that have reached far beyond the world of just fans of Japanese animation, dating back to 1986's Castle in the Sky. Just as with Pixar in the U.S., Studio Ghibli crafts films that are often able to compete on equal footing with live-action cinema, rising above prejudices that animation is just for kids. Its reputation reached its zenith in 2001 with Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, which won the top prize at that year's Berlin Film Festival in addition to becoming the first foreign-produced film to win an Oscar for Best Animated Picture. The film also took in $274 million dollars worldwide; big box-office returns and No. 1 openings in Japan have become routine for the studio, particularly for films directed by its co-founder, anime legend Miyazaki.