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The film — described as a fantastical and contemporary thematic story of one girl’s growth in the age of social media — is an original story written and helmed by Oscar-nominated Mirai director Hosoda, whose previous features also include The Boy and the Beast, Wolf Children, Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Hosoda produced Belle with Studio Chizu co-founder Yuichiro Saito.
Belle follows Suzu, a 17-year-old high school student living in a rural village with her father. One day, she enters “U,” a virtual world of five billion members on the Internet where she becomes Belle, a world-famous singer.
The Japanese creative team worked in collaboration with a roster of international talent including character designer Jin Kim (Disney’s Moana, Frozen), who designed the titular Belle. Cartoon Saloon’s Oscar-nominated Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart (Wolfwalkers) contributed artwork for the various virtual fantasy worlds within the film. Hosoda continues his film collaborations with architects, joined by up-and-coming British architect and designer Eric Wong, who designed the virtual world of “U.” And composer Luvdig Forssell, perhaps best known for his collaborations with Hideo Kojima (Death Stranding, Metal Gear Solid V), contributed to the score.
GKIDS — which also handled North American distribution for Mirai — plans to release Belle theatrically this winter, in both its original Japanese language and a new English dubbed version, in a timeframe for which it would qualify for next season’s awards. Belle is scheduled to be released in theaters in Japan on July 16.
The deal for North America was negotiated by Eric Beckman, founder and CEO of GKIDS, and Carole Baraton of Charades, on behalf of Studio Chizu.
Since 2010, GKIDS releases have scored 12 best animated feature Oscar nominations, including earlier this year, for Wolfwalkers.
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