Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro anime film ranked #2 (below Aquaman) and earned US$12.9 million in its opening weekend in China. The film opened in China on December 14, and is the first Studio Ghibli film to receive a theatrical release in China. Chinese distributor SCLA released the digitally remastered version in China, and the film is available both with subtitles and with a Chinese dub.
Amusingly enough, the tagline used on much of the film’s promotional material was “It is now time to pay back Hayao Miyazaki for all the tickets we owe him”. After all, with the rise of the Internet and DVDs (pirated or otherwise), Chinese film lovers have had ample, albeit unofficial, opportunities to catch the film prior to the official release here in China.
“The difference between a Miyazaki animated film and your average animated show on TV is like the gap between a movie and a TV drama,” Li Weiran, a Chinese animation teacher, told the Global Times.
The 30-something Li first began watching Miyazaki’s works during the 1980s. He still remembers his parents playing Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986) for him as a kid, and that the first one he was able to pay attention to from start to finish was Princess Mononoke (1997).
“Hayao Miyazaki’s films have been a major part of the Japanese animated movie industry for the past 20 years,” Li said.
“‘There are Disney, Studio Ghibli and then the rest’ – this is most people’s understanding of the animation industry.”
Studio Ghibli plans to release other films in China if the My Neighbor Totoro release is successful. And considering the aforementioned results, the chances are very,very high. My Neighbor Totoro currently holds a 9.1/10 on Chinese movie review site Douban – higher than 98 percent of all animated movies reviewed on the site and, in terms of Studio Ghibli’s other films, second only to Spirited Away, which has a 9.3/10.
This year, the film is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its release in Japan in 1988.