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Toon Thursday : Tickets for Lasseter / Miyazaki event go on sale today at 9:01 a.m.

Toon Thursday : Tickets for Lasseter / Miyazaki event go on sale today at 9:01 a.m.

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If you’re an animation fan – a SERIOUS animation fan – you’re going to want to be in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, July 28th.

Hayao Miyazaki Japanese animation master
Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki

Why For? Because on that night – and for that night only – two animation legends will be sharing a stage. John Lasseter will be hosting “A Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki” at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Where – in a rare stateside appearance -- this Japanese animation master will be showing clips from his films as well as answering Lasseter ‘s questions in regards to his career.

This extra-special event – which, truth be told, is the second edition of the Marc Davis Celebration of Animation for 2009 -- kind of took toon fans by surprise. No one knew that such an event was even in the works ‘til the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a press release back on June 15th.

“So why is Hayao coming to Hollywood next month?,” you ask. Well, the folks at the Academy would like you to believe that he’s coming to town to check out their “ANIME! High Art – Pop Culture” exhibit (Which will be on display in the Grand Lobby & Fourth Floor gallery space at their Beverly Hills facility through August 23rd). But – truth be told – Miyazaki’s actually flying in to LA to do some publicity for the North American, English-speaking version of his newest film, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.”

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises LLC. All Rights Reserved

You see, the US version of “Ponyo” is being released by Walt Disney Pictures on August 14th. And while this traditionally animated film has already proven to be a hit in Japan (“Ponyo” grossed $160 million when it was released there during the Summer of 2008) … Well, because of John’s longstanding friendship with Hayao, Pixar’s Grand Pooh-Bah would like “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” to become as big a hit as possible during its Northern American run. Which is why this feature length cartoon will be opening on over 800 screens, which is the most ever for a Miyazaki film in this part of the world.

At Lasseter’s insistence, Disney put together a top quality team to produce the English-speaking version of “Ponyo.” Which is why the Mouse tapped Frank Marshall & Kathleen Kennedy to head up this project. And they – in turn – recruited “E.T.” screenwriter Melissa Mathison to handle the English translation of this animated feature’s screenplay.

Then Marshall & Kennedy rounded up A-listers like Matt Damon, Liam Neeson and Tina Fey to do voicework for the North American version of “Ponyo.” Then – with an eye toward making this Japanese animated feature easier to promote for the Disney Channel crowd – Frank & Kathleen recruited Noah Cyrus (i.e. Miley’s younger sister) to voice the film’s title character and Frankie Jonas (i.e. The Bonus Jonas; Joe, Nick & Kevin’s younger brother) to voice Sōsuke.

John Lasseter greets Hayao Miyazaki during a 2002 visit to Pixar's Emeryville Campus
John Lasseter (L) greets Hayao Miyazaki during a 2002 visit to Pixar's Emeryville Campus

So with an increased number of theaters as well as considerable star power behind the North American, English-speaking version of “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” Miyazaki’s latest film seems poised for considerable box office success in the U.S. But to really seal the deal here, Lasseter insisted that the Mouse’s marketing staff pull out the big guns. Which is why Hayao will be doing several high profile interviews while he’s in town next month (Which is kind of a big deal. Given that this Japanese animation master is notorious for not liking to do press). Not to mention having “Ponyo” be the closing night film at the LA Film Festival on July 28th.

And then there’s that rather persistent rumor that Miyazaki will be making his first-ever appearance at Comic-Con International, where “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” will be screened at least once over the course of this four-day-long pop culture fest. (Mind you, Hayao isn’t the only associate-of-John-Lasseter who may be dropping by the San Diego Convention Center this year. There’s also been a lot of talk lately that Tim Burton may be coming to Comic Con. Better yet, Burton’s supposedly bringing his frequent collaborator Johnny Depp along with him. So that these two of them can then talk up Walt Disney Pictures’ big release for March of 2010, “Alice in Wonderland.” Or so say some folks who are in the know at the Mouse House ...)

Anyway … Long story short here: To help support the August 14th release of the North American, English-speaking version of “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” Miyazaki (who rarely travels outside of Japan) is coming to the United States. And for one night only, Hayao will be on stage at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Where he’ll then be interviewed by John Lasseter.

Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills
Copyright 2009 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All Rights Reserved

Okay. Now for the bad news: The Academy’s Beverly Hills facility has very limited capacity (just ask all of the folks who got turned away from April’s “Milt Kahl: The Animation Michelangelo” event). And once 1,012 tickets for those seats in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater are gone … That’s it, folks. Game over.

So if you really, really REALLY want to attend this tribute to animation master Hayao Miyazaki … Tickets go on sale today at 9:01 a.m Pacific Time. And they’re guaranteed to go fast. So you probably want to be online at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ website right as these tickets become available. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the chance to attend this truly once-in-a-lifetime event.

FYI: The official trailer for the North American, English-speaking version of "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" went live online yesterday. If you'd like to get some sense of how Walt Disney Pictures plans on marketing this Studio Ghibli film, you should check this trailer out.

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  • Sigh, I guess I can only WISH that something like this would be recorded for posterity...  And the internet...

  • I wonder if the Disney marketing machine will actually rally to properly market a Miyazaki film this time around or bury it the way they have in the past by opening the film in a very limited number of theaters and treating it like a small "art house" film (completely ignoring that in Japan these films are major event blockbusters).  It's an odd arrangement:  the Mouse buys up the North American distribution rights to Miyazaki's wonderful films, but then acts like they don't actually want to make money by only half-heartedly promoting these fantastic films to American audiences.  

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