'Doraemon' Anime Film Scores Big in Asia with Record Hong Kong Run

Stand By Me Doraemon H 2015

20 percent of its $86 million box office has come overseas, unusually high for a Japanese film.

Japanese anime Stand by Me Doraemon has racked up $86 million at the box office, boosted by a strong overseas performance, including more than $5 million in Hong Kong and $3.2 million in Italy.

The 36th release in the series about the blue, cat-type robot Doraemon, and the first 3D CG installment, took nearly $70 million at the Japanese box office last year, before scoring $3.2 million in Italy, $3 million in Indonesia, $2.7 million in South Korea and $1.2 million in Thailand. However, its performance in the relatively small Hong Kong market has been the most remarkable, accounting for nearly a third of its overseas take.      

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Stand by Me Doraemon broke the record for the top grossing Japanese film in Hong Kong, and became the third highest grossing animated film ever in the territory, behind Pixar's Toy Story 3 and Monster's University.

The 3D animation has raked in $5.1 million since its debut on Feb. 19, breaking the record previously held by Ring (1999), with $4 million. Its opening day gross also broke the record for a Japanese film, held by Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo on a Cliff since 2008, with $428,000. It was also the highest grossing film of the Chinese New Year period in Hong Kong, from Feb. 18 to 21, ahead of fellow animated features Penguins of Madagascar and Shaun the Sheep.

Doraemon has been a cultural icon in Hong Kong since the 1970s, with a whole generation in the territory growing up reading the comics by Fujiko Fujio and watching the television series. The voice talent of the title character Doraemon, Lam Po-chuen, passed away in January. His death made the front page of Hong Kong newspapers. Stand By Me Doraemon was his last work. Many in Hong Kong went to see the film to pay a final tribute to Lam, and to reminisce about their childhood.

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Stand by Me Doraemon took the best animated feature award at last week's Japan Academy Prize; director Takashi Yamazaki also helmed The Eternal Zero, which dominated the awards.

In 2013, Doraemon overtook Godzilla as Japan's biggest cinematic series, with more than 100 million admissions. Toho is behind both franchises.   

 Twitter: @GavinJBlair