Tom King's article in Friday's edition of the Wall St. Journal examines the Disney studio's difficulties in selling Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away to American audiences. King points out that of the anime films released theatrically in the U.S., only the first Pokemon film has made over $50 million. Disney's previous effort to release Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke to the U.S. market yielded only $2.4 million at the box office. Even though Spirited Away broke all the box office records in Japan (see 'Miyazaki Film Sets Japan Box Office Record'), it faces problems in the U.S. where the film's director is not well known, and where the film's two hour and twenty-minute running time is far longer than what Americans expect from animated feature films.
In spite of the fact that Miyazaki reportedly gave permission for his old friend, John Lasseter of Pixar Animation (Toy Story) to cut the film for the American market, Lasseter has decided to leave the film intact. Lasseter and Kirk Wise (Beauty and the Beast), who were jointly responsible for the American version of Spirited Away, also decided to keep the music score from the Japanese original intact. They also brought in an all-star cast for the English dubbing, including Suzanne Pleshette, John Ratzenberger, and Daveigh Chase (Lilo, from Lilo & Stitch). Disney's approach remains hardheaded and realistic -- Disney's Dick Cook told the Journal that the film's September 20 opening won't hurt because, 'While we hope that we will be able to get kids, initially our audience is going to be adults who appreciate the art of animation.'