• Kyodo


Japanese animation genius Hayao Miyazaki’s critically acclaimed “Spirited Away” (“Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi”) on Saturday won Annie Awards in four categories.

The big catch is seen as a boost to the films Oscar prospects.

The International Animated Film Society named the Japanese film the year’s best animated theatrical feature, also heaping the highest praise on the film’s directing, writing and music.

The awards are offered to the year’s best productions, including feature films and television productions. Individual achievements are also honored. The Annies are seen as the animation equivalent of the Oscars.

Oscar nominations will be narrowed down on Feb. 11.

Miyazaki’s film had already won the best animated film award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle last December.

The awards raise the Oscar prospects of the Japanese film because it managed to keep the awards away from 20th Century Fox’s “Ice Age” and Walt Disney Pictures’ “Lilo & Stitch.” The two animated films are considered serious contenders at the Oscars, whose nominations will be narrowed down on Feb. 11.

Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” hit North American theaters on Sept. 20, collecting accolades from more than 90 percent of American movie critics, according to a survey. It has grossed $5.5 million (660 million yen) in North America, despite its modest showing in just 151 theaters on the continent.

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