For this week’s Miyazaki Monday film, it’s the 2002 film The Cat Returns
The Cat Returns is a sequel of sorts. It has ties to Miyazaki’s 1995 classic Whisper of the Heart. The main connection is the character of the Baron. In this film, the main character is a young girl named Haru. She unknowingly has this ability to talk to cats. She finds this out when she saves a cat named Lune which turns out to be the prince of the Cat Kingdom.
Trying to get out of a marriage with Lune (proposed after saving the cat prince’s life), she runs into the Baron along with Muta (also from Whisper of the Heart). Haru and Muta are kidnapped and taken to the Cat Kingdom and it is up to the Baron along with Toto, a raven that is like the Baron in being a statue that can come to life, to rescue them.
While in the Cat Kingdom, Haru begins to take on more cat like features. The Baron warns her that she has to find her true self or she will turn into a cat. So the race is on to get back to home while also trying to find her true self and it’s up to the Baron and friends to help in that cause.
This is the first (and to date only) Miyazaki film that has had a sequel (of sorts). This story started out as a project for a theme park that was to be a 20 minute short to air at the park. The project fell through but the idea remained. So Miyazaki decided to use the project as a vehicle to help develop new directors for Studio Ghibli. He ended up using Hiroyuki Morita as the director and Miyazaki produced the film. The Cat Returns was only the third film at Studio Ghibli that was not directed by either of the founders of the company.
The film was released in Japan on July 19, 2002. Compared to previous Studio Ghibli films, it wasn’t as successful at the box office but still did pretty well by most standards. It ended up grossing $53 million dollars. The film was released in North America in 2003 through Walt Disney Pictures. The English dubbed cast included Cary Elwes, Anne Hathaway, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, Judy Greer, Kristen Bell and Andy Richter.
The Cat Returns is another great film to come out of Studio Ghibli and tells a story that will draw you into it. Miyazaki does a great job of bringing richness both in the visuals as well as the story and this is another in a long list of those films.