Studio Ghibli is celebrating a monumental success this week by releasing The Boy and the Heron (2023) to Western audiences. The film’s shattered records might have The Walt Disney Company clenching its fists in frustration.
The Boy and the Heron Hits Theaters
Hayao Miyazaki, the wizard of animation who was supposed to retire after his film The Wind Rises (2014), is back with a bang! His latest gem, The Boy and the Heron (or How Do You Live? in Japan) isn’t just breaking records – it’s rewriting the box office narrative. And guess what? Disney is watching from the sidelines, probably wishing it hadn’t let this one slip through its fingers.
The Boy and the Heron tells the story of Mahito, a 12-year-old child navigating the storm of life after losing his mom. In his grief, he stumbles upon a talking heron that seems to know more than it lets on. Cue an adventure into an abandoned tower, and you’ve got yourself a ticket to another world. It’s a tale of heart, courage, and a dash of Miyazaki magic.
Studio Ghibli Breaks Records
Now, let’s talk numbers. The Boy and the Heron soared to the top of last weekend’s box office, cashing in a significant $12.8 million in its opening week. That’s not just Miyazaki’s personal best; it’s also the all-time high for any anime film in North America.
The film was such a surprise success that its distributor, GKIDS, will release it in an additional 2,300 theaters this coming weekend.
‘THE BOY AND THE HERON’ and ‘GODZILLA MINUS ONE’ will both expand into over 2,300+ theatres in the U.S. this weekend. pic.twitter.com/Cmcm0lhsSp
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) December 15, 2023
Disney’s History with Studio Ghibli
Here’s where it gets interesting. Disney owned the distribution rights for Studio Ghibli films up until 2017. During its time as a distributor, it released many other beloved films in Studio Ghibli’s lineup, including Ponyo (2009) and Spirited Away (2002).
Rumor has it that Miyazaki decided to seek a new distributor when the deal between him and Disney ended. While it has never been said outright, many reports have stressed the decision to change distributors was because Studio Ghibli felt Disney didn’t appreciate or prioritize its films. Ultimately, the Japanese studio signed with GKIDS over continuing with Disney.
With such a tough year, this decision might haunt The Walt Disney Company now. It’s missing out on a notable film that has made records at the box office, a place the once-adored studio struggled to conquer in 2023.
The Boy and the Heron also has critics singing its praises. With a stellar 96% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and a solid 90% from the audience, it’s safe to say Miyazaki has again struck gold. And let’s not forget the Golden Globes nod for Best Animated Picture – that’s a stamp of approval and rare for an anime film.
The movie also has a stellar English voice cast. A-list celebrities such as Robert Pattinson, Florence Pugh, Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Hamil all lend their talent to the English dub.
So, while Disney’s scratching its head, wondering why its box office numbers are slumping, Miyazaki’s laughing all the way to the bank with The Boy and the Heron. It’s more than just a film; it’s a testament to the enduring magic of Miyazaki and a reminder that some decisions in the movie biz are worth a second thought.