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The Nikkei financial news source reports that Studio Ghibli plans to open Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, in North American theaters this summer. The film will be the first salvo in Ghibli's renewed advertising and publicity campaign to break into the North American market. Nikkei notes that Miyazaki's longtime friend and colleague, Pixar and Disney's John Lasseter (Toy Story, Cars), will produce the North American release as he had for Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki announced last June that co-producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park) are also handling the North American release.
Time magazine confirmed last September that Disney will release the film in 2009, although it did not mention the month or release format. An early screening of the film in Southern California in November revealed a partially confirmed cast list: Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, Frankie Jonas, Noah Cyrus, and Cloris Leachman. Along with previous efforts, Lasseter opened a September charity auction at Pixar's own headquarters for the Totoro Forest Project, an effort to save one of the forests that inspired Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro film.
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