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SPIRITED AWAY

Creating The English Language Version
Heading the effort to bring "Spirited Away" to English-speaking moviegoers were several of today's top animation filmmakers –executive producer John Lasseter, director Kirk Wise and producer Don Ernst. Together this trio was responsible for crafting an English language script that would be faithful to the Miyazaki original, and casting an ensemble of vocal talents that would retain the flavor and entertainment of the Japanese version. 

Lasseter explains, "When Disney decided to bring ‘Spirited Away' to America, they got the absolute best people to help with the English language version. Don Ernst, the producer of ‘Fantasia/2000,' did a great job of bringing the fantastic team together. I worked closely with my good friend and colleague, Kirk Wise, who was in charge of directing the English voice cast and supervising the writers to get the words to fit with the mouth movements that were animated. Kirk directed them in such a beautiful way and the result is perfectly natural. 

"We all had the same goal: to protect Miyazaki's vision and bring it, in its complete intact form, to the American audiences," adds Lasseter. "We're really proud of the results. We didn't cut it; we didn't change anything about it. We just translated the script from Japanese to English, made sure that it was all in a language we could understand, and cast the right actors." 

Disney Feature Animation creative affairs executive Pam Coats adds, "When you watch a subtitled movie, you're really focused on following the dialogue. With this English language version, the audience is able to listen to the dialogue and not have to focus on the bottom of the screen. And with a Miyazaki film, it's important to see everything because he does visual things that fill up the screen. John, Kirk and their entire team lent their expertise to creating a version of the film that protected the intent of Miyazaki's story and translated it in a way that English-speaking audiences could fully appreciate." 

Kirk Wise, a veteran Disney filmmaker who directed (with partner Gary Trousdale) "Beauty and the Beast," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," recalls, "Casting is half your battle. If you cast right, everything falls into place. I think the casting choices really made the process easy and we ended up with a great ensemble of actors. 

"We compiled lots of lists of actors and ended up casting the film the same way we would a traditional animated film shot in the States," adds Wise. "Usually we would take a tape of the actors we were interested in and play it with footage of the character. You have to be able to hear and see if the marriage of voice and picture is going to work. It's a very instinctual thing and when you work in animation long enough, you start to develop a feel for it. Don (Ernst) and I did the same thing when we worked together on the Disney live action feature ‘Homeward Bound.' We'd show footage of the cat and listen to a track of Sally Field from ‘Soapdish.' That really clued us in as to whether this voice would be a match for what you saw on-screen. 

"Daveigh Chase was so wonderful as Lilo in ‘Lilo & Stitch' that she kind of shot to the top of the list for Chihiro," he observes. "We played her tracks against the picture and it just fit. She seemed the right age and she had a real handle on the character. Daveigh is a terrific actress and she was able to match the mouth movements quickly. She took to it like a duck to water. 

"Suzanne Pleshette had this wonderful throaty quality and a great sense of humor. She brought a great theatricality to the twin roles of Yubaba, the greedy sorceress, and her infinitely more compassionate sorceress sister, Zeniba. Susan Egan, who had voiced the character of Meg in ‘Hercules,' provided a very natu

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